Posted by: mdegeorge | November 2, 2010

Giants’ arms prove age-old truism

Baseball is by its very nature a boring game. It’s a four-hour processional—almost a ceremony—of pauses, of waiting, of positioning, of gamesmanship, all for around four minutes of punctuated action worthy of the highlight reels.

It may seem like a staid truism, but it informs this year’s Fall Classic. The team with the big bats—the most seductive power in the sport—seemed to be the team to beat. But they weren’t the ones popping corks in Arlington last night.

A week ago, the nation’s attention (ok, at least a small part of it) was captured by the darling Rangers, who battered their way past the Yankees into the ordination of favorite. Surely the combination of the seemingly untouchable Cliff Lee, with just enough pitching in reserve and an explosive offense to paper over the cracks, would be plenty to push them past the just-enough Giants.

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San Francisco’s pitching was certainly capable. But that offense, which toppled the Phillies by winning four games by a combined six runs, barely scraped by by the skin of their teeth and somehow lumped together offense by the seat of their pants. It seemed impossible for a group that was aging before our eyes, led by a rookie catcher and waiver-wire acquisition, to surmount a team fresh off a sound thrashing of the defending World Champs.

But the Giants proved again that tired aphorism of the game: that defense wins championships. In Arlington, they showed definitively that it isn’t the team most able to get fans out of their seats in paroxysms of joy that is the most worthy championship material, but the team capable of best keeping fans rooted to those high-priced chairs.

The Giants’ staff put together a string of masterful performances. Tim Lincecum delivered 5.2 solid innings in Game 1 to survive behind a surprisingly electric offensive outburst. Matt Cain posted zeroes over 7.2 innings—part of 21.1 consecutive innings without an earned run this postseason to start his Major League Baseball postseason career. Madison Bumgarner stymied the Rangers’ big bats for eight flawless innings of three-hit ball in Game 4. And Lincecum secured the first World Series trophy for the Giants since they went west with eight innings of dominance on the hill with only one blemish in Game 5. Couple that with Brian Wilson’s six saves in seven chances and 11.2 innings without allowing an earned run, and the Giants’ formula for a world title is clearly evident.

The Giants, as most championship teams do, also benefitted from a cavalcade of marginalized veterans stepped up in the Series as they had all postseason. Freddy Sanchez and Juan Uribe did the damage in Game 1; Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff played starring roles in Game 4. And Edgar Renteria, ever the star performer on the game’s most prominent stage in two iconic spectacles nearly a decade and a half apart, took the honors in Games 2 and 5. Even lesser lights like Aaron Rowand and Travis Ishikawa took turns playing the protagonist in the Fall Classic while NLCS heroes Buster Posey and Cody Ross took a back seat.

None of those players garnered anything resembling top billing entering the week.   The offensive discussion centered on the big bats of Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz and the legs of Elvis Andrus, not a group of four players (Huff, Renteria, Uribe, and Sanchez) who bounced around through 45 combined Major League seasons with 17 teams.

At the end of the night though, it was the Giants’ victory in the series arms race that brought the Commissioner’s Trophy home with them. It wasn’t the most impressive or most entertaining path to the title, but that hardly takes the shine off the trophy for the boys from the Bay.


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