Five Cuts: Giants make history, managing flubs plague Rangers
The Giants' success is the result of a better bullpen and better management
Visiting teams have always struggled to hit home runs at AT&T Park
Matt Cain won a Series game without allowing a run and with only two strikeouts
SAN FRANCISCO -- The World Series has provided the coronation of many of the greatest offensive teams in baseball history. Murderers' Row. The '39 Yankees. The Big Red Machine. The M&M Boys. The '98 Yankees. And yet in the 106 World Series ever played, only one team has won the first two games while scoring as many as 20 runs.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that would be your 2010 San Francisco Giants, the same team whose No. 4 and 5 hitters in Game 2 were released this summer, had not scored more than six runs in 17 consecutive games entering the World Series, were outscored by more than half the teams in baseball this year and turned the frequent torturous nature of their low-scoring games into the latest counterculture movement of San Francisco. They are the Grateful Dread no more.
It makes no sense -- the Giants becoming the biggest juggernaut through two games in World Series history. It makes no sense unless you believe, as many do wearing the black and orange at AT&T Park, that the story of this postseason already has been written, that the games simply are here to verify that this, at last, is the Giants' time.
"I just said to someone, 'That has to be a record, 20 runs!''' Giants outfielder Mark DeRosa said. "It's incredible what's going on here. I don't know. I just don't know. I told my dad this morning, 'I don't know what is going on here.' It's unbelievable."
The Giants have turned the World Series into a toxic mess only a Giants fan could love: an 11-7 blunder-filled marathon followed by a 9-0 blowout, the most one-sided World Series shutout in a quarter of a century, a score otherwise reserved for official forfeits.
Technically speaking, the Giants, up and down their lineup, are spitting on pitches out of the zone and hammering mistakes. They have too many confident, hot hitters right now for Texas to hold down, a chain gang of locked-in hackers reminiscent of how the 2002 Angels tore through that postseason.
"They're playing as a team," Rangers catcher Matt Treanor said. "They've got all cylinders going. That's something we usually did the whole season. We've got to go out and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Said Texas catcher Bengie Molina, "We need to find a way to find the corners and keep them off balance."
You knew the Giants had the deeper rotation, the better bullpen and the better manager coming into this series, and each of those edges have asserted themselves with clarity in two games. But the shock of this series is that the Giants are pounding the baseball -- like nobody before in World Series history.
Don't expect the series to continue like this in Texas. For one reason, it's difficult to believe the Rangers could play much worse. For another, the series gets out of AT&T Park, where flyball-hitting teams go to die, and into the Ballpark in Arlington, where Texas can assert its offensive personality.
The Rangers are now 0-11 in AT&T Park. Just about every time in Game 2 when they had a key at-bat to get a runner over or in, they made an out in the air. They went 1-for-9 with runners on, making six of those outs in the air.
The worst offenders were David Murphy, who hit a humpback liner to shortstop after a leadoff double in the fifth -- failing to advance the runner -- and Nelson Cruz, who popped up with a runner on third and less than two outs in the sixth.
"I'm lost at the plate," Cruz said. "My timing's not there. I should have done better with that at-bat there."
Watching visiting teams come into AT&T Park and face the San Francisco pitching staff in this environment is like a spoof of a Saturday Night Live skit. Their hitters become a parody of their former selves. The Rangers came to the plate 75 times here and never hit the ball out of the park.
What else is new? The Braves, Phillies and Rangers have sent 259 batters to the plate this postseason at AT&T Canyon National Park and hit exactly two home runs off the Giants -- none with a runner on base.
"That's the thing that makes this place unique," DeRosa said. "It's a tough place to get back into the game. It's a tough park to generate offense if you fall behind."
To that end, the Giants should send thank you notes or a partial share to Brian McCann of the Braves when this is all said and done; it was McCann's double that won the All-Star Game and gave the National League champions the first two games -- and last two, if needed -- in their ballpark.
The blowup by the Texas bullpen disguised what for six innings was a 1-0 pitchers' duel between Matt Cain and C.J. Wilson. Cain was brilliant. Just as he did against Philadelphia, another team that devours fastballs, Cain kept the Rangers off balance with sliders and changeups, demonstrating his tremendous growth since he first made his mark in the big leagues as a power fastball/slider guy.
In fact, Cain pitched one of rarest types of games you will find this time of year: a dominating game without swing and miss stuff. Cain won a World Series game without allowing a run while getting only two strikeouts. Only one other pitcher managed to do that in the past 25 years: Greg Maddux, in Game 2 of the 1996 World Series.
"Ah, strikeouts are overrated anyway," Cain said. "They drive your pitch count up."
Cain has not allowed an earned run in the 21 1/3 innings he has pitched in the postseason. He has allowed just 13 hits in this run -- and struck out only 13 -- a strikeout rate (5.5 per nine innings) that is well below major league average (7.1).
Though impressive, Cain was no Babe Ruth. The best Game 2 score in World Series history (97) still belongs to the Babe, of the 1916 Red Sox -- 94 years and counting.
Where to begin with Texas manager Ron Washington? You begin with Game 1, when I said he was inviting trouble by using up his best power set-up arm, Alexi Ogando, for a second inning in a low-leverage situation (down by four runs) and by not allowing relievers Darren Oliver, Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz to get in work and shake any World Series jitters, even for a batter, while staring at too much rest the next time he really needed them.
So what happened? Washington loses Game 2 apparently without having Ogando available at all (he never got up in the bullpen) and the rusted versions of Oliver and Holland letting the game get out of hand. As for Feliz, if Washington asks him to pitch in a big spot in Game 3, the kid will go to the mound without having faced a hitter in seven straight days.
Poor Holland. The kid is 24 years old, has been primarily a starter, hadn't pitched for eight straight days, was making his first World Series appearance -- and Washington brings him into a 2-0 game in the eighth inning with a runner on. It was set up for disaster. The kid couldn't find the plate. And as he threw ball after ball -- walking three straight batters -- Washington had no one throwing behind him in the bullpen, letting a World Series game get whacked out of shape without even allowing himself another option.
And when Washington finally awoke to the urgency he turned the game over to Mark Lowe, a guy who threw three innings after May in the regular season.
At nearly every turn Washington wound up with key at-bats in which he declined the platoon advantage -- Oliver, a lefty, on Jose Uribe, a righty (result: run-scoring single) and Holland, melting on the mound, on red-hot righty Cody Ross in the eighth (result: run-scoring walk).
Here's the really weird part: as Wilson battled through a long at-bat against Ross leading off the seventh, Washington had his righty specialist, Darren O'Day, warming up. The next hitter was Aubrey Huff; O'Day wasn't coming in to face a lefty. No, the only reason to have O'Day up was to face the hitters after Huff, righthanders Uribe and Renteria. But when Uribe did come up -- with Ross on second base, mind you -- there was no O'Day. Why even bother having him ready?
"Yep, I stayed with Oliver because Oliver is not one of our guys that we bring in to face one batter and go out," Washington said. "He's about to go through the whole lineup."
Hmm. Here are the OPS splits for Oliver this year: against lefties, .529; against righties, .765.
Washington and the Rangers should be back in their comfort zone in Game 3 -- he doesn't have to trot out Vlad Guerrero for that vaudeville act in rightfield, well hit flyballs will actually carry over the wall and not just hit the top of it and bounce back (Ian Kinsler, fifth inning), and the crowd in Arlington should be as jacked as the loonies in San Francisco.
But the pressure falls squarely on one man: Colby Lewis. The Rangers starter faces a must-win situation; if Texas loses they are as good as done. And Lewis must do it against a red-hot lineup.
On the other side, Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants' Game 3 starter, can take his turn from a position of comfort. He has no pressure. Sanchez, as he did against Philadelphia, can lose the plate quickly -- but Giants manager Bruce Bochy has been on an impressive run of running games, understanding that postseason games require more urgency than regular season ones.
Sanchez led the league in walks -- continuing an odd trend in the World Series. Until last year, only three pitchers who led the league in walks made a start in the World Series: Bob Turley (1958), Early Wynn (1959) and Al Downing (1964). And suddenly it's happened three times just in seven World Series games: A.J. Burnett in Games 2 and 5 last year, Wilson in Game 2 this year and Sanchez in Game 3.
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