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November 2, 2010

World Series Prospectus

Game Five Report

by John Perrotto

ARLINGTON—There was never any cute story to go along with the Giants' inability to win a world championship in their first 52 seasons after moving west. No Bambinos or goats for this franchise.

There was no Curse of the Say Hey Kid. By the time the Giants traded Willie Mays to the Mets in 1972, his wonderful talent had faded. And no one would have dreamt of taking a goat to Candlestick Park, for fear of facing animal cruelty charges when old Billy froze to death in the whipping winds.

No, the Giants just quietly went decade after decade without a World Series title, until the streak had lasted more than a half-century. There was the sudden end to the 1962 World Series, when Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson caught the Willie McCovey liner that would have won Game Seven. The Bay Bridge Series in 1989 ended with the Giants being swept by the Athletics, though it was all reduced to triviality because of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Then there was the 2002 World Series, when the Giants were six outs away from winning it in Game Six, and wound up losing in seven.

However, today the San Francisco Giants can finally call themselves world champions, after beating the Texas Rangers 3-1 in Game Five of the World Series on Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Fifty-two years of waiting ended when closer Brian Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz swinging to complete a perfect ninth inning for the save. And no one could appreciate the wait longer than a guy who quietly stood in the clubhouse hallway outside the dressing area and watched the players raucously celebrating with tears in his eyes.

"You wondered if this day would ever come," said Mike "Murph" Murphy, who has been the Giants' equipment manager ever since Horace Stoneham brought the franchise to California from New York in 1958. "And now it's finally here."

The clubhouse was so crowded that the Arlington fire marshals stood at the entrance and counted how many people were inside, like bouncers at a nightclub. Rookie catcher Buster Posey somehow waded through the mass of bodies and champagne bottles to find Murphy in the hallway, and the two embraced.

"I can't imagine waiting 52 years," Posey said with a smile. "It's just hard to comprehend."

The Giants won five World Series while based in New York, their last title coming in 1954, when Mays was just 23 and a journeyman named Dusty Rhodes led the team to a stunning sweep of the 111-win Indians. However, the Giants had become the No. 3 team in a three-team city, and when the Dodgers decided to bolt Brooklyn for Los Angeles, Stoneham followed his rivals west.

The odd part of the story is that the Giants established their territory in the Bay Area first, as the Athletics did not make their move from Oakland from Kansas City until 1968. However, the Athletics have won four World Series in the East Bay, while the Giants had none to their name until 9:30 p.m. Central Time on Monday.

"I couldn't be happier for our fans," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "They helped us get here. Their energy and enthusiasm down the stretch and in the playoffs, it's been crazy in the ballpark and around the city. I know how bad they wanted it. The players wanted it as bad for the fans as themselves because they know how long it's been."

Shortstop Edgar Renteria and right-hander Tim Lincecum were the heroes in the clincher. Renteria hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning off loser Cliff Lee to break a scoreless tie, and Lincecum struck out 10 and allowed only one run—a solo homer by Cruz in the bottom of the seventh—and three hits in eight innings to earn the win.

"If you look at our team, nobody had what you would call a great season," Lincecum said. "The reason we won is because so many different guys stepped up from one game to the next. Tonight was Edgar's turn and my turn. What Edgar did in this series really epitomizes what we're all about. We really are a team in the true sense of the word and I'm not just saying that because it sounds like the right thing to say."

Renteria was selected as the Most Valuable Player as he went 7-for-17 with two home runs, six runs scored, and six RBI. He would have been one of the most unlikely choices when the postseason began, as he was relegated to the bench after an injury-plagued regular season in which he managed just three home runs and a .261 Total Average in 267 plate appearances, while contributing just 1.4 Wins Above Replacement Player.

Renteria did not start any of the four games in the Giants' victory over the Braves in the National League Division Series, and also sat out Game One in their National League Championship Series win over the Phillies. Before Game Two, Bochy rearranged his infield, inserting Renteria at shortstop, moving Juan Uribe from shortstop to third base, and relegating Pablo Sandoval and Mike Fontenot to the bench. Bochy knew the move made little sense from a numerical standpoint, but he felt that Renteria would have a calming effect.

"Edgar has been through it and I wanted a leader out there," Bochy said. "He's a guy all the players look up to. I know it's been a tough year with the DL and missing playing time, but what a pro he's been through all this and waiting his turn. Once we got to that point in the LCS, I knew I wanted to turn it over to him and put Juan at third base. That was our best club. I couldn't have two better guys on the left side of the infield with the way they play, their experience and their composure. It's all about winning with them and there's no fear in those guys."

Renteria hinted at retirement during the final weeks of the regular season. That decision might be made for him, as he became a free agent as soon as the final out was made. There doesn't figure to be a big market for a 35-year-old shortstop who has a combined 3.0 WARP over the last three seasons.

While Renteria admitted that the idea that he could be at the end of his 15-year career crossed his mind at various points during the World Series, he was too happy reveling in winning a championship to talk about his future plans. Regardless of whether Renteria plays another game, he will always bear the distinction of having two hits that clinched World Series. His RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game Seven of the 1997 fall classic rallied the Marlins past the Indians.

"Both are the same feeling," Renteria said when asked if one hit was more special. "It's unbelievable to be in that situation twice in my career, just unbelievable."

Lee was on top of his game after being rocked for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in a losing Game One effort, as he allowed only three runs and six hits in seven innings, with six strikeouts and no walks. However, he ran into trouble in the seventh, and couldn't quite escape.

Cody Ross and Uribe led off the inning with back-to-back singles, and Aubrey Huff bunted them to second and third despite never having had a sacrifice hit in 1,479 regular-season games. Pat Burrell then struck out swinging at a full-count pitch, and Lee seemed back in control. However, he fell behind 2-0 to Renteria, who deposited the next pitch just over the left-center-field fence to make it 3-0. With their championship-clinching victory, the Giants ran their record to 4-0 against left-handers in the postseason, beating Lee twice and C.J. Wilson once in the World Series after defeating Cole Hamels in the NLCS.

Lincecum began to wobble in the bottom of the seventh, when Cruz hit his solo homer to left with one out and Ian Kinsler followed by drawing a walk. However, Lincecum then struck out David Murphy and Bengie Molina swinging to end the inning, and, in effect, the series. Lincecum pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, then handed the ball to Wilson, who worked a perfect ninth—striking out two—to wrap up the finale in a speedy two hours and 32 minutes (the quickest game in a Fall Classic since the Braves and Blue Jays played Game Four in 1992 in 2:21).

The Rangers struggled against the Giants' pitching staff throughout the series, scoring just 12 runs in the five games—seven of them coming in Game One—and only one in the final 22 innings. Giants starters had a 2.38 ERA, allowing nine runs in 34 innings.

"They beat us soundly," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

The Rangers were attempting to end their own title drought, making their first World Series appearance since the franchise's inception in 1961 as the Washington Senators. The franchise moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 1972, and had never won a playoff series until this year.

"We made a commitment to each other in spring training, and a lot of times you say things, but it never happens," Washington said. "Well, it happened this year. You know, I'm the leader of the Texas Rangers, but I'm only as good as my followers, and my followers are pretty good, so they made me look good."

In the end, though, it turned out to be the Giants' year. The San Francisco Giants'  year.

"What was neat through all this is Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Will Clark, J.T. Snow, Shawon Dunston, all those guys that played on World Series teams, they were in the clubhouse, they were pulling for these guys," Bochy said. "They wanted them to win and the players felt that along with the fans."

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

Related Content:  Edgar Renteria,  Giants,  The Who,  2002 World Series

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