SAN FRANCISCO - The Giants won the pennant, but before it was official, the celebration already had begun.
Travis Ishikawa had just channeled Bobby Thomson Thursday night, sending a walk-off three-run homer into the night and lifting the Giants past the Cardinals, 6-3. But his teammates didn't wait for Ishikawa to finish rounding the bases.
His Shot Heard 'Round the Bay had just cleared the rightfield fence, and before he could touch third base, he was greeted by a teammate. And then another. And then another.
The journeyman spiked his helmet and completed his victory romp at home plate, dispatching the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.
"The home run was just icing on the cake," said Ishikawa, who would have needed only a single to drive in Joaquin Arias as the winning run from third.
With that, the Giants will play for their third world championship in the last five seasons. They will face the upstart Royals, in search of their first title since 1985.
Michael Morse turned up the drama in the eighth when he made it 3-3 with one swing. The slugging outfielder has barely played since the beginning of September, hobbled by an oblique injury. Still hurt, he was left off the roster for the wild-card game and the Division Series against the Nationals.
He made the NLCS roster as a pinch-hitting option for Bruce Bochy, who hoped for a shot in the arm when he tapped Morse in the eighth.
Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek delivered a pitch for Morse to drive, and the ball sailed over the fence in leftfield. A wide-eyed Morse circled the bases and descended into the dugout, where he was mobbed.
The Cardinals loaded the bases in the ninth but didn't score. To hold down the Giants, they sent Michael Wacha to the mound. He hadn't pitched since Sept. 26. Suddenly, he was charged with saving the season.
Pablo Sandoval singled and with one out, Brandon Belt walked on four pitches. Ishikawa took two pitches out of the strike zone and then made history.
He originally was drafted by the Giants before wandering through baseball and eventually returning this year. He signed a minor-league deal. By season's end, the career first baseman was starting in leftfield, an imperfect solution to keep his bat in the lineup.
He cost the Giants in the third inning, showing his inexperience by misplaying a drive by Jon Jay that led to the Cardinals' first run against NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner. But with one swing, he found redemption.
Ishikawa admired the ball soaring through the air. He raised his arms because he knew Arias would score. He realized he had homered only after hearing the crowd roar when his drive cleared the fence.
Only later did he realize that it was veteran pitcher Jake Peavy who was trying to bear- hug him on the way to third base. In the moment, all he could think of was not getting touched, for fear that it might violate a rule and negate the homer.
He tried shaking off the intruder. It didn't matter. Peavy bear-hugged Ishikawa anyway.
"As a ballplayer, this is what you live to do," Peavy said.
And that's when it all got fuzzy. Ishikawa didn't remember touching third base. Nor did he recall touching the plate. His next memory came after he had been thrown to the ground, hidden in the center of the dog pile, the pennant secured for the 20th time in franchise history.
He became the first Giant to send his team to the World Series on a walk-off homer since Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World in 1951. "It's incredible. It's indescribable," he said. "And it's not over yet."