SAN FRANCISCO -- The Joe Kelly pitch was a fastball. The Hunter Pence hit was a curveball.
The result was the weirdest broken-bat double you'll ever see, a screwball hit that sliced away from Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, emptied the bases and blew Game 7 of the National League Championship Series wide open. It helped send the Giants to a 9-0 win and the World Series, and the Cardinals home for the winter, wondering what hit them.
Kelly didn't know what hit him until he saw the replay, captured by FOX in spectacular, super-slow motion. Pence's bat impacted the Kelly pitch three times, generating enough english to baffle Kozma into breaking to his right, then watching helplessly as Pence's hit took a sharp turn toward center field. It was as if the baseball was sucked into orbit around the pitcher's mound.
"I've had a lot of broken-bat hits," Pence said. "Not in a Game 7. That was nice." It wasn't nice for Kelly. "It looked like it was a Wiffle ball out there," the rookie right-hander said.
He shook his head in a quiet Cardinals clubhouse and added, "It just stinks that it went down like that."
Add Pence's magic double to the list of big hits for the Giants in the postseason. The Cardinals were already trailing in the game, 2-0, and summoned Kelly to pitch in place of Kyle Lohse with the bases loaded and nobody out.
Kelly's first hitter was Pence. His first pitch was a 95-mph fastball.
Pence jumped it.
"As the ball left the bat, I thought that was our double play," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
But looks were deceiving. The pitch shattered Pence's bat, and thanks to the magic of super-slow motion, we know that the wounded lumber made contact with the baseball on three separate occasions.
"Once to break the bat, once on the barrel, and then it rolled off the end," Kelly said. "I guess that's baseball."
Three Giants runs scored on the play -- two RBIs for Pence plus an insurance run courtesy of center fielder Jon Jay's error. San Francisco went on to score five runs in that decisive rally, and won an elimination game for the sixth time in less than two weeks.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy credited Pence's "unique style of hitting." Cardinals veteran Lance Berkman said he'd never seen anything like it.
"It hit the bat three times; it was actually an illegal hit, but there's no way that you can expect the umpire to see that," Berkman said.
Berkman was referring to Rule 6.05(h), which says, "A batter is out when after hitting or bunting a fair ball, his bat hits the ball a second time in fair territory. The ball is dead and no runners may advance."
Unfortunately for Berkman's case, there is a comment attached to that rule, specifically governing a broken bat:
"If a bat breaks and part of it is in fair territory and is hit by a batted ball or part of it hits a runner or fielder, play shall continue and no interference called."
And, technically, that's what happened to Pence.
"I guess that's just the way baseball is sometimes," said Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro, the series MVP. "When things are going your way, it seems like everything just works."