Skip to comments.A Bunt, and a Bomb, and There Are Giants Stalking the Earth
Posted on 11/02/2010 2:08:01 PM PDT by BluesDuke
Oh, what a feeling it must be to be Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria. Not that it feels any less marvelous to be just among the San Francisco Giants---as in, the World Series-winning, drought-breaking, first-time-living-on-the-Bay-Series-winning San Francisco Giants.
But a key retread from among the castoffs and misfits their own manager calls the Dirty (Couple of) Dozen and a broken down infielder on the possible threshold of retirement, but with the World Series' Most Valuable Player award in his hands, have a lifetime of bragging rights about which to brag to their grandchildren in due course.
All Huff did was something he'd never been called upon to do in his career until Monday night in Rangers Ballpark at Arlington to finish setting the table for all Renteria did to remind people of whence he came in the first place over a decade earlier. If Renteria was serious in his hints toward retirement before the Series began, he couldn't have picked a bigger bang with which to go out.
The man who first entered America's baseball consciousness with the 1997 Series-winning RBI hit in the eleventh inning just might be leaving it with what proved to be a Series-winning bomb. For the team he helped push to one side toward push the 1997 Florida Marlins into the Promised Land in the first place.
With one seventh-inning swing against Cliff Lee, Renteria drove an exclamation point onto the finish of what began as the pitching duel everyone expected in Game One. But it took until Game Five for the duel to materialise, and it took Huff---a man whose career until Monday showed a possible allergy to sacrifice bunts, a man who proudly bragged about wearing a red thong under his uniform for luck, saying without apology that he had to do something to "fit in with these morons"---dropping maybe the most powerful bunt in Giants' history, if not World Series history, to finish setting Renteria's podium in the first place.
Until the seventh, Lee and Tim Lincecum worked the shootout everyone thought they'd work in Game One, before the Giants chipped and clipped Lee while Lincecum served just enough to keep things close before the Giants cracked it open wide and wide again against a Texas Rangers club making its franchise-first World Series date.
Come Monday, Lee and Lincecum went at it hammer and tongs. Or so it would look if you were only reading the box score. If you were actually watching the game, Lincecum looked the way Lee was supposed to look. But Lee showed vulnerabilities enough that it might have been just a matter of time before his formerly invincible armour was vapourised.
Because you're not really going that much toe-to-toe against Lincecum when Pat Burrell lines one of your services to the back of left field for a hard hit out. You're not really Lincecum's match when Freddy Sanchez smashes one up the pipe that requires you yourself to leap for a snap to turn a likely base hit into an out. You're not really going to beat Lincecum when Buster Posey lines one of your meatiest offerings into the right field corner and foul by mere inches. Or, when Posey sends a high liner deep to right center that doesn't become an extra base hit only because Nelson Cruz can and does run it down and haul it away.
The line drives were zinging off the Giants' bats early enough and often enough that, sooner or later, they were bound to find destinations other than Ranger gloves. Which is precisely what happened in the top of the seventh. Three hard swings. Three hard swats. One ground single, one line single, one three-run bomb. Right then and there the Series was all but over.
Cody Ross opened the proceedings with a sharp grounder up the pipe on 1-2, the ball scampering just off second base and into center for a single. Juan Uribe fouled off a pair of fastballs before hitting a bullet liner, also up the pipe, for another single.
Up came Huff, attacking Lee's first service like a Great Dane attacking a steak and dragging it up the first base line, probably shocking everyone in the house. Including his own mates. Including his own manager, who had spent the postseason being remarkably unshocked at anything that transpired up to this point. The only thing that kept the Giants from loading the bases on that play was Lee himself making a diving stab at the ball and shoveling it to first baseman Mitch Moreland as he completed his dive.
"I'll be honest," Huff huffed after it was all over. "When I went up there, I didn't feel like I had a chance. So even though I got the bunt sign, I was going to do it anyway."
The only thing standing between Renteria and glory now was Burrell. He started by calling time, then lined one foul down the left field line, called time again twice with Lee taking long delays between pitches, took a low curve ball, swung and missed on a high changeup, then struck out swinging on a cutter that started away and broke right back to the middle.
It was probably the biggest strikeout of Lee's evening, and it didn't matter in the end. He threw Renteria one high cutter and one high and away changeup. Then, he threw Renteria a chest-high cutter right over the middle. And Renteria's swing sent it cutting the air right between left and center on its way over the fence.
The net result, once Lincecum shook off a solo launch by Cruz in the bottom of the seventh, then breezed through the bottom of the eighth, before handing off to The Beard to Fear for the bottom of the ninth, is that these Giants---these Morons, who refused to let any one man stand above the team and got just about every man on the roster to pitch in, swing in, and dive in---have a World Series ring coming for the first time since they landed on the Bay in the first place.
A Giants team with five future Hall of Famers on its roster couldn't pull the trigger in 1962. A Giants team with three aging future Hall of Famers on its roster couldn't get past the League Championship Series in 1971. A Giants team with spunk and funk got waylaid by an earthquake and the Bash Brothers in 1989. A Giants team with Barry Bonds and a cast of journeymen got shoved aside brutally by another star-crossed franchise who overthrew them in Game Six and then nailed down Game Seven for their first Series triumph.
This edition had maybe one or two bona-fide stars, three at most, all as yet to affirm their credentials as Hall of Famers in waiting. Two Cy Young Awards to the contrary, nobody knows yet whether Lincecum will finish his career in Juan Marichal's stratopshere, or Gaylord Perry's.
Nobody knows whether Posey---a likely Rookie of the Year---will finish his anywhere within sight of those occupied by Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, or Orlando Cepeda. Or, whether this collection of journeymen, spare parts, and spare bodies that wouldn't have raised so much as half an eyebrow on other clubs, won't be shifted around just a trifle for the races to come.
Right now, so far as San Francisco is concerned, those three entities are somewhere only Mays had ever been able to go, never mind that it happened when the Giants' home address was New York. And these Giants, whose New York history was as illustrious as their San Francisco history had heretofore been somewhere between hideous and hilarious, make Paul Bunyan resemble Tom Thumb.
And these Rangers, full of spunk in their own right but barely as colourful as the Morons By the Bay, could have shown nothing sadder than their three biggest plate threats going down meekly enough in the bottom of the ninth Monday night, even with a mere three-run deficit.
Josh Hamilton, whose resurrection from the depths made such a heartwarming story all season long---looking at strike three right down the pipe. Vladimir Guerrero, who'd come up big enough for the Rangers this season, after spending years punishing them in Los Angeles Angels silks---grounding first service to Renteria at shortstop for an out. Cruz, who'd performed no few magnificent moments earlier in the Rangers' postseason prowl---fighting Brian Wilson gamely to a full count, then helpless as Wilson smashed a high cutter right through his swinging bat.
And to think that not a week ago the entire world thought Cliff Lee was invincible. Now, the Freak stood where Lee was supposed to stand. Which was wholly fitting considering everyone thought his regular season was such a disappointment by comparison to his two Cys and others were beginning to wonder whether Matt Cain---who pitched so magnificently in Game Two while rolling up a non-existent postseason ERA---wasn't really the better pitcher.
In a way it didn't matter. The Giants' pitching depth so outclassed the Rangers', while the Rangers' solid enough offence was put to sleep early enough and often enough, that it was entirely possible the Giants could have lured Marichal out of the broadcast booth, and Marichal could have gotten the Rangers out even if trying just one of his once-legendary high kicks might have sent him flopping onto his back.
Lee's image as a postseason sheriff might have overshadowed the solidity of the Giants' staff coming into the World Series. It was almost easy to forget the Giants' major league-leading 3.36 staff ERA on the regular season; almost easy to forget that their rotation had the majors' second-best rotation ERA and their bullpen the majors' second-best bullpen ERA.
Now it won't be too difficult to remember that the Giants' Series rotation---the first all-homegrown Series rotation since the 1986 Boston Red Sox---finished the Series with a 2.36 ERA. Or that the whole Giant staff kept the Rangers to a .190 Series batting average and three-hit the Rangers twice.
These Rangers who looked so authoritative in plowing past Tampa Bay and the Empire Emeritus to get to the Series in the first place, who had only ever been shut out once at home on the season, who looked on paper like the slightly superior team, ended up looking just too badly overmatched by these Giants. The best news for Ranger fans, even if they lose Lee to another team, since he's expected to file for free agency and might not be an affordable re-hire, is that this Rangers club---with a solid farm system, a solid lineup heart, and solid enough pitching that just wasn't enough to out-pitch the Giants---looks built to contend for another few years.
But so do these Giants, even if the only thing they need to boost is their offence. Right now, however, they're going to be fitted for the rings that eluded a lot of better-on-paper Giants clubs by the Bay. And Monday night they owed a bigtime debt to a shortstop who spent most of the season fighting injuries and losing his job, only to take it back when Juan Uribe seemed to falter and Pablo (Kung Fu Panda) Sandoval seemed to lose his stroke at the plate.
What Sandoval lost, Edgar Renteria managed to regain. At precisely the points when it mattered most to the Morons By the Bay.
"I don't normally show emotion when guys hit home runs like that," said Ross, who'd hit some rather succulent home runs this postseason. "But this was a special one, especially for him. Just where he came from , not knowing if he was even going to play this year, or next year, and possibly thinking about retirement."
"Sat on the bench all year," Posey warbled. "Hits two clutch home runs and is going out a World Series champion."
And to think that Renteria before the game had kidded outfielder Andres Torres in the batting cage that he was liable to hit one out in Game Five. "I was joking," Renteria insisted. "But it went out."
It went out, and it signed the Giants' lease on the Promised Land with a bang.
You obviously don’t smoke pot.
You are way too uptight.
And yet even if they did, that 'castoff' would've then gotten the big hit. That's just how it rolled for the Giants this year...the Baseball Gods had for-ordained them to win, a washed up bum like Renteria hitting that homer was pure proof! 3 homers all year then 2 in the WS? Yeah.
Why let Lee pitch to Renteria instead of putting him on and pitching instead to an on-deck castoff hitting a measly .230?Maybe, maybe not. If I'm Ron Washington, and I see Edgar Renteria hitting .400+ in the Series to that point in the batter's box with first base open, while I see Aaron Rowand hitting .250 in the Series to that point and a lifetime .235 batting average in postseason play, I think I have a better chance of my pitcher throwing a double play ball to that .250/.235 hitter than throwing one to a guy, broken down though he was on the season, wielding the hot Series bat.
And yet even if they did, that 'castoff' would've then gotten the big hit. That's just how it rolled for the Giants this year...
If you're going to go down at least go down managing smartly. The way you usually managed to get your team to the Series in the first place.
3 homers all year then 2 in the WS? Yeah.Why not? Al Weis hit two all year in 1969 and then the one that mattered to the Miracle Mets in the World Series . . . ;)
That's baseball, too.
Or, as a one-time St. Louis Cardinal (Joaquin Andujar, pitcher/human time bomb) phrase it: In baseball there's just one word---you never know.
1) The Rangers couldn't overcome their inability to play at AT&T Park, especially that GIGANTIC center and right field areas. Vladimir Guerrero's misadventures during Game 1 made the Rangers get him out of the lineup for Game 2, and the Giants were able to shut down Josh Hamilton in Game 2.
2) The Giants' awesome pitching staff was something that put the dread in everyone if the Giants managed to get into the playoffs. Once the Giants got into the playoffs, they shut down the Braves, Phillies and Rangers hitting very quickly.
3) Losing Barry Lamar Bonds was the BEST thing to happen to the Giants. As such, it forced the Giants to build a cadre of players that could play as a team, and the whole team jelled just at the right time.
4) I'm SO happy that many members of the 1962 season Giants--who lost the World Series in that heartbreak loss--are still around to experience this season's victory.
I can’t WAIT to see the victory parade. Yikes. Two miles of freakland! ( eyes forward, eyes forward, eyes forward,.....)
The Rangers couldn't overcome their inability to play at AT&T Park, especially that GIGANTIC center and right field areas.All AT&T Park is when you think about it is an inversion of Yankee Stadium. You adjust to the park. You don't start a Vladimir Guerrero in right field when he's been ground down by injuries over several years and doesn't have the fielding range or the arm he once had. And if you're a hitter going up against that Giants pitching staff, in that park you try to make them throw the strikes you can hit to those nether regions or pull over the left field fence. Just the way opponents playing the Yankees try to make the Yankee staff throw them things they can a) lose in the nether region of left center field; or, b) pull over the right field fence.
I'm still amazed that Ron Washington let himself get so completely out-managed by Bruce Bochy that he didn't take the park factors into consideration as well. I'm not surprised the Giants won the World Series, but I wouldn't have expected this swift a conquest even given the Giants' superior pitching.
The Giants' awesome pitching staff was something that put the dread in everyone if the Giants managed to get into the playoffs. Once the Giants got into the playoffs, they shut down the Braves, Phillies and Rangers hitting very quickly.The Giants' pitchers have arms and brains together. For all the image this year's Giants had of a gang of fun-loving misfits, these guys played baseball with their brains as much as their arms or gloves or bats---just like another bunch of fun-loving fools breaking a long, long, long dry spell in 2004.
(Underrated Series factor: the Giants' defence. Those guys played the field like they took lessons from Brooks Robinson, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, and Bill Mazeroski. Even their pitchers were swift enough with the gloves when they had to be, Tim Lincecum's Game One brain vapour notwithstanding.)
They had the stuff to keep the other guys at bay (and I was thrilled to death with all the breaking stuff thrown in this Series, you don't have to live on the fastball to pitch and win and these guys have the breaking stuff to win), but to me it also looked like they did their homework on the other guys' hitters and pitched them accordingly. They went up against some terrific hitters and made them look like rookies. I've seen few more intelligently pitched World Series games than Tim Lincecum in Game Five or Matt Cain in Game Two, or even Madison Bumgarner in Game Four.
OK, who's next to break the long dry spell at last? The Rangers? The Indians? The (God help us) Cubs? And who would have thought you could look at the Baltimore Orioles as being in the middle of a long dry spell? (They haven't won a World Series or even been to one since the Reagan Administration, MK I . . . )