x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

San Francisco are pitch perfect to take World Series title

The Giants were not the fashionable choice to win the 105th World Series, and much of that had to do with the Rangers' formidable collection of hitters.

The San Francisco Giants celebrate their World Series victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
The San Francisco Giants celebrate their World Series victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.

It was baseball business as usual, but with an historic twist: good pitching beat good hitting - even for the famously luckless San Francisco Giants.

Tim Lincecum pitched eight strong innings and Brian Wilson added a perfect ninth as the Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 on Monday to secure the first championship in the club's 53 years in San Francisco.

The Giants were not the fashionable choice to win the 105th World Series, and much of that had to do with the Rangers' formidable collection of hitters.

Pundits, however, should have known better. The Giants had the best pitching in baseball during the regular season, and they went from strength to strength in the post-season.

"World championships are won with a good pitching staff," Aaron Rowand, the San Francisco outfielder, said.

"We say that we weren't able to play Rangers baseball, and their pitching staff played a big part in that," David Murphy, the Texas outfielder, said. "We were never able to get into the type of groove we experienced all season long."

The Giants held the Rangers to 12 runs in five games, shutting them out twice and limiting them to a .190 team batting average, the third-lowest in World Series history. Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero, the heart of the Rangers' attack, had only three hits in 34 at-bats.

The Rangers had scored 38 runs against the New York Yankees to reach the World Series for the first time in the franchise's 50-year history, a performance which impressed many of the experts who installed them as favourites.

So what happened against the Giants?

"Their pitching happened," Ian Kinsler, the Texas infielder, said. "Obviously, we pride ourselves on beating anyone offensively, but in this series we couldn't do it."

Nelson Cruz, the Rangers outfielder, added: "They got great pitching and when you've got pitching the offence shuts down. It's simple."

San Francisco's pitchers had the lowest earned-run average (3.63) in baseball during the regular season but lowered the number (to 2.47) in the play-offs.

Lincecum allowed only three hits and struck out 10 in eight innings, but into the seventh it was not clear if his efforts would be enough. The game was scoreless as Edgar Renteria stepped into the batter's box to face Cliff Lee, the Texas ace, with two outs and two runners on base. Lee meant to throw a pitch out of the strike zone, but it crossed the centre of the plate, and Renteria drove it into the left-centre-field stands for a three-run home run.

Renteria was named MVP.

"It was a classic pitchers' duel until that home run," Lee said. "Nobody in this room is more disappointed than I am."

Cruz homered against Lincecum in the bottom of the inning, but that was the last resistance from the Rangers.

Back in California, San Francisco fans celebrated as if they had been waiting, oh, a half-century.

"I think I'm going to black out," one fan told the San Francisco Chronicle. Another said: "This team is all about San Francisco - a bunch of misfits who overachieve."

The San Francisco line-up was a patchwork affair of ageing journeymen, bargain-basement free agents and cast-offs. Two of their most productive players, the outfielders Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, had been thrown on to the open market in mid-season by their previous clubs.

They played so many close games that fans branded their style of baseball "torture", and one fan at the ballpark held up a sign reading, "The torture ends tonight".

But they were good when it mattered, scoring enough in support of their pitchers to get past the Atlanta Braves in four games, the Philadelphia Phillies in six and the Rangers in five.

Lincecum, the long-haired surfer dude who arrived at the ballpark wearing a red bow tie, pitched the decisive game, but Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were also strong for the Giants, and their corps of relievers were efficient.

The championship ended the third-longest ongoing championship drought in baseball. The Giants had last won a World Series in 1954, when they still played in New York. Only the Chicago Cubs (102 years) and Cleveland Indians (62 years) have been waiting longer.

The Giants had seemed almost jinxed since their arrival in California, despite having some of the greatest players in the game, including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds and Juan Marichal.

They lost two World Series, in 1962 and 2002, by the narrowest of margins, and a third appearance (1989) was eclipsed by a deadly earthquake.

"This buried a lot of bones - '62, '89, 2002," Brian Sabean, the general manager of the Giants, said. "This group deserved it, faithful from the beginning. We're proud and humbled."

Asked Cain: "World Series champs, 2010. Can you believe this?"

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

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae