The Giants tug on Superman's cape, and Cliff Lee is brought down
SAN FRANCISCO -- Cliff Lee's earned run average in eight postseason games over the past two years was 1.26 heading into this World Series. As such, he was quite rightly the focal point, the fulcrum and the fascination of everyone who analyzed this battle between San Francisco's "misfits and castoffs" and the Claws and Antlers of Texas.
After Game 1 of this 106th Series, Lee's ERA is 11.57.
Put that in your MIT baseball simulation formula, make the computer whir through a million permutations and tell me how that changes your seam-head view of who's going to win this Series.
San Francisco didn't just bash Lee for seven runs in 42/3 innings in an 11-7 victory. They bashed him for five ringing doubles, three singles, a walk and a hit batter. One run was unearned, but the evening's cumulative effect was conclusive - the Giants' lineup, full of right-handed batters and low on macho free swingers - seems as well suited as any team to dealing with the superb lefty.
They don't own him. But they might hold a lease.
"Baseball, it's a crazy game," said little Freddy Sanchez, a former batting champion and punch-hitting pest personified who doubled to right, doubled to left, then doubled to center in his three at-bats against Lee.
How on earth did the Giants manage to rout a pitcher who had dominated the Yankees (three times), as well as the Rockies, Dodgers and Rays in the last 13 months? How could Lee need 104 pitches to get just 14 outs when, in some postseason games, that's all he's needed for 27 outs.
For starters, Lee couldn't control his slow curveball, constantly leaving it high. So, that one mechanical glitch limited his ability to establish a speed differential of more than 15 mph between his fastest and slowest pitches. But, for a man with a six-pitch arsenal, that's like complaining about a hangnail.
Otherwise, everything was lined up for Lee. He didn't get squeezed on ball-strike calls, had little if any bad luck, was staked to a 2-0 lead over Tim Lincecum and was working on a balmy Bay night in a vast park that eats hitters alive.
Yet the Giants well and truly bashed him. How?
Most teams, especially those full of high-priced sluggers and free swingers, seldom force Lee to throw many pitches. He feasts on their greed. But the Giants are humble. Not one of them had more than 26 homers or 86 RBI. Some, like Sanchez are pesky all-fields slap hitters. Buster Posey, a rookie, hits to all fields, stays back on off-speed pitches and got a crucial RBI single on an almost perfect Lee change-up. Inning after inning, Lee found himself needing five, six or even more pitches to get a single out.
"We've added a lot of patient hitters as the season has gone on. It adds up. Now [we have] Pat Burrell, Posey, [Aubrey] Huff, Sanchez, Andres Torres," said Giant Manager Bruce Bochy.