Wow. What a season. When I started this blog, on August 13th, the Giants were 3.5 games back of the first-place Padres in the West, with a less than 50% chance of making the postseason. A little more than a month before, they were 6.5 games back and in fourth place, ahead of only Arizona, and looking at a 12.1% shot at October action. Now, these “castoffs and misfits” are World Series champions. Think about the stars of this postseason for the Giants. Cody Ross, DFA’d by the Marlins and picked up off the scrap heap, most likely less because the Giants wanted him and more because they didn’t want the Pads to get him. Aubrey Huff, a free agent until January and a fallback plan once Adam LaRoche didn’t pan out. Edgar Renteria, series MVP, hit the DL three separate times this season, and in what is likely his last season he hits two of the biggest home runs in San Francisco’s history. Andres Torres, a career minor leaguer who spent time with the Tigers, Rangers, Twins, the Tigers again, and finally the Cubs, before being picked up off the scrap-heap and becoming one of the best players on the entire club.
And then, you have to give a shout-out to Giants’ brass for some fantastic drafting. With all the stars in this series, maybe the most important and least heralded member of the Giants’ organization was scouting director Dick Tidrow. Sure, take the shaggy-haired weed-smoking babyface every other franchise thinks is doomed to injury and won’t ever put up a 200-inning season. The country kid with a southern drawl out of Dothan, Alabama, somewhat overlooked in a draft full of high-school pitchers with tons of potential and more polished hurlers. The big lefty who, barely old enough to drink, pitched 8 shutout innings in the World Series to put the team a win away. The wild-eyed closer out of LSU with less stuff than many big leaguers but enough cajones to make him the best reliever in the game this season anyway. The shortstop-turned-catcher who became the first rookie backstop to hit cleanup in the playoffs.
This game, this series, this month, this season, and this accomplishment will never be forgotten because it was a true team effort. Pitching. Defense. Unselfish offense. The blast to left that brought it all together. But it all started with Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee, facing off for a second time after game 1 did not produce the expected pitcher’s duel. This one, however, would be all about the men on the mound, as each was dominant from the start. Through 6 innings, this game had seen seven total baserunners on five hits, one walk and an error. None had reached second base. The pitchers had combined for ten strikeouts, and both looked ready to duel long into the night.
However, that wouldn’t be necessary. In the top of the seventh, Cody Ross led off, and after fouling off three pitches, slapped a single up the middle. Juan Uribe fouled off another two pitches before singling to center on an 0-2, marking the first time two baserunners had been on base at the same time all night. With runners on first and second and nobody out, this was an obvious sacrifice bunt situation. The only problem? Coming to the plate was Aubrey Huff, who in 5505 regular-season at-bats has not one sac bunt to his name. The only active player who’s hit more without a sacrifice bunt is Texas DH Vladimir Guerrero. By some act of god, Huff laid down a beautiful bunt and Cliff Lee had to make an acrobatic play back and to his left simply to record the out at first.
So with one down, the Giants had men in scoring position and one out. Pat Burrell, who went 0 for 13 with 11 strikeouts in the World Series, came up and battled against Lee. He worked a full count before swinging through strike three for the second out of the inning. Lee’s strikeout of Burrell produced a .132 WPA, turning a situation in which the Giants expected to score into one where a base hit would be needed against a man who had allowed 3 all day before that inning. However, Renteria was feeling it. Apparently he’d told Andres Torres he was going to hit a home run before the game. Twice. After hitting three all season. Renteria saw two balls and was in the driver’s seat. Lee elevated a cutter slightly. Renteria hit it to left-center. David Murphy raced back but the ball cleared the wall by what seemed like inches, giving the Giants the three-run lead and making him only the fourth man to get the game-winning RBI in two different World Series clinchers (who can forget his game 7 11th-inning walkoff single for the Marlins in ’97?), joining Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Berra. Not bad company.
Lincecum smelled blood in the water and went in for the kill. He struck out Guerrero to lead off the next inning. Nelson Cruz, however, showed that the Rangers were not done yet by hitting a deep drive to left that would leave the yard for a solo home run. After a long at-bat, Ian Kinsler was able to work a walk to bring the tying run to the plate. From there, Lincecum went beast mode. After two straight strikeouts, the Rangers had two innings to get two runs. The Giants went down quickly in the 8th and Lincecum took the mound, recording yet another strikeout (his 10th) to begin the inning. He then got two groundouts and the Rangers were down to their final three outs.
To lock down the final frame, Brian Wilson jogged from the bullpen, beginning his evening by striking out Josh Hamilton looking after four pitches. Guerrero grounded to short and there was one out to go. Wilson got strike one with a slider on the inside corner. Ball one was a slider low and away. He got a swinging strike on a high fastball to put the Giants one strike away. He threw a fastball well outside and then a slider that broke just off of the outside corner to make it a full count. He then threw a slider high and inside. Cruz took a mighty hack and got nothing but air as Posey leaped out of his stance and ran to the mound to begin the celebration. Lincecum hurdled the dugout fence. Cody Ross and Aaron Rowand tackled each other in the outfield. Aubrey Huff tossed his glove and embraced Wilson and Posey on the mound. Bruce Bochy and Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti hugged it out. The bullpen ran in from the outfield to join the party in the center of the diamond. An extremely classy crowd applauded both a great season by their hometown Rangers and the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.
For one last time, let’s see it by the numbers.
WPA Leader: Tim Lincecum (.463)
Lincecum was dominant, going 8 3-hit innings and allowing only one baserunner (Cruz, on his solo home run) to make it past first base. While the Giants have gotten dazzling performances from other pitchers this postseason, including Cain, Bumgarner, and several members of the bullpen, Lincecum proved last night why he’s the ace. In the biggest start of his career, against the best hitting club in baseball, Lincecum never gave the Rangers’ hitters a chance. Series MVP Edgar Renteria’s .258 led all hitters, giving him a .422 total for the series.
When you hit a home run in the highest-leverage at-bat of the game, it doesn’t get much bigger than that. With the pressure on in a 3.39 LI situation, Renteria’s improbable home run produced a .355 WPA. This could be the end of Renteria’s long career in the big leagues. World Series MVP is one hell of a way to go out, and there’s no question Renteria earned it with his 7 for 17 performance in the Series. He OPS’d 1.209 and without his home runs in both games two and five this could have been a very different series. As I’ve noted, his regular-season performance obviously wasn’t worth what the Giants were paying him. However, when he does something like that, I feel like I have no choice but to take back everything I’ve ever said about Edgar Renteria and applaud him on one hell of a series.
Pat Burrell went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts, capping a miserable series for him with a -.193 WPA in the final game. Josh Hamilton, the biggest threat in the Rangers’ lineup, was almost absent from this series, posting a 2 for 20 overall and going 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts last night, as he didn’t manage to get a ball out of the infield. Burrell ended up with an atrocious -.422 WPA for the series, while Hamilton’s -.270 wasn’t much better.
So that’s it. The Giants are your World Champions. I can die in peace. I’d like to congratulate a legitimately strong and very classy Rangers’ team on their AL pennant-winning season. And thanks to you, my readers, for sticking with me through the first playoff experience for this blog. It’s been a fun ride. Check back tomorrow, when I’ll tell you my offseason plans for this site.