Unheralded bats key to Giants' triumph
Veteran contributions at plate make elite pitching stand up
ARLINGTON -- The Giants rode superb homegrown pitching to their first World Series title in San Francisco, but don't shortchange their hitting.
The weak link of this juggernaut, people said? Forget it.
If this, as I predicted, is truly a team of destiny, the remarkable conquest of Texas wouldn't have happened had it not been for an underrated offense that kept hammering away with crucial hits -- many with two outs -- game after game. And against the best pitchers in the universe.
When the Giants won the National League pennant, eliminating the Phillies -- winners of four straight NL East titles -- at the expense of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, I felt certain the Commissioner's Trophy would reside in San Francisco.
The Texas Rangers led the American League in hitting en route to their first appearance in the World Series, but they were no match for the Giants' awesome trifecta of pitching, defense and timely hitting.
Edgar Renteria, almost forgotten most of the regular season, blasted a three-run homer off Cliff Lee in the seventh inning on Monday night, vaulting the Giants to their 3-1 victory in Game 5 and the franchise's first World Series championship in 56 years.
Outplayed and outpitched, Texas managed just one win in the best-of-seven set.
The deciding game, watched by a disappointed crowd of 52,045 at Rangers Ballpark, was typical of what the Giants are all about.
The notion that the Giants could beat Lee twice in the same Series was absurd. But that's exactly what they did.
Millions of viewers were able to see for the first time why Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and '09. Lee, who entered the Fall Classic with a 7-0 career postseason record, was supposed to be unbeatable.
The Giants thrashed Lee en route to an 11-7 win in Game 1, then won Monday night's tense duel thanks to Renteria's blast to left-center. It trailed sparks.
If Giants general manager Brian Sabean isn't executive of the year, there should be an investigation. Sabean kept adding parts to the team, mostly players discarded by other franchises. Any resemblance to the team that left Spring Training in April and the champagne-doused team on Monday night is purely coincidental.
The biggest surprise was the hitting. The Giants batted .249 in the five games, while their pitchers held the Rangers to an anemic .190 average.
Before the first game, the thought was that the Rangers' young hitters were so aggressive that they'd be easy prey for San Francisco's pitching. That seemed to unfold as the Series evolved.
But the hitting, especially in the Giants' 11-7 and 9-0 victories at San Francisco, was an unexpected plus, especially when close, low-scoring games were predicted.
"It amazes me," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "When you look back at the pitching we had to beat -- Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe in Atlanta, the Phillies' pitching with Halladay and Hamels and Oswalt -- they found a way to get a big hit.
Most World Series wins
|1.||New York Yankees||134|
|2.||St. Louis Cardinals||52|
|3.||New York/San Francisco Giants||49|
|4.||Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers||45|
"The key was that we got contribution from everybody, up and down the lineup. It seemed like it was somebody different in each game. Tonight, Edgar [Renteria] saved us. and that's what it takes to win. Look, we had to beat Lee twice to [win the World Series]. I'm sure a lot of people didn't think that was going to happen."
Rangers manager Ron Washington insists he wasn't surprised by San Francisco's hitting.
"No, not at all," Washington said. "I don't know if I ever thought their hitting was bad. You look at the lineup they put out there; they're pretty good. They put a ton of runs up on us. I thought our pitching staff was pretty good, too.
"When you look at them -- Juan Uribe has done it before. Aubrey Huff may have been in his first World Series, but he certainly got plenty of hits before, so he wasn't surprising. And that [Buster] Posey kid is somebody you're going to have to deal with for a long time to come. And Cody Ross, this guy is a gamer."
The seventh inning on Monday night followed a pattern seen during the Giants' entire postseason run.
Lee had allowed just three singles when Ross singled to left-center. Uribe followed with a single to center, and both runners moved up on Huff's sacrifice. Pat Burrell, who struck out 11 times in the Series, fanned on a seven-pitch at-bat.
The 35-year-old Renteria, whose 11th-inning single lifted the Florida Marlins over the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series, looked at two balls from Lee. He sent the next pitch, a cutter, to the seats for a 3-0 Giants lead. They repeatedly came up with key two-out hits.
"I was able to see more of Lee's pitches," Renteria said of Burrell's ability to work the count. "When he threw me two balls, I said, 'I'm looking for one pitch.' He threw a cutter and the ball didn't cut. I was lucky."
As a couple of thousand Giants fans watched the celebration on the field, chanting "Thank you, Giants," I thought back to 1958, the year the team moved from New York to San Francisco.
I was in Seals Stadium one night that summer covering a game, and as I watched the Giants, who'd won the 1954 World Series, more titles seemed inevitable in the near future. But they lost in 1962, there was the nightmarish World Series of 1989 which was interrupted by the earthquake before Oakland swept and the 2002 loss to the Angels.
It took decades for the San Francisco Giants to add the sixth championship to the five the franchise won in New York.
It was worth the wait.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.