By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 29, 2010; 12:45 AM
SAN FRANCISCO - Whatever type of baseball it is that the San Francisco Giants have trotted out in the first two games of the World Series, with their big, breakout innings and their coasting-home, late-inning romps, it is not who they really are. Fans of this team come to AT&T Park expecting torture - the self-deprecating label the Giants have given to their unique brand of ball - and those fans might be asking for a refund if this other brand of ball, the one on display the past two nights, wasn't so much ridiculous fun.
Who are these Giants, and what are they on the verge of doing? On Thursday in Game 2, for the second night in a row, they flat-out crushed the Texas Rangers, proud champions of the American League - this time by a score of 9-0 - and are now, amazingly, halfway to the city's first World Series title.
After a travel day Friday, the series resumes Saturday night in Arlington, Tex., where the reeling Rangers will try to regroup behind right-hander Colby Lewis, who will face Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez.
A Giants team that hadn't scored more than six runs in a game all postseason as the World Series dawned, has now put up a six-spot in the fifth inning of Game 1 - against Cliff Lee, no less - and on Thursday night, a seven-spot in the bottom of the eighth. An offense that scored a total of only 19 runs in a six-game NLCS has now scored 20 in two nights.
"We have a group of hitters who throughout their careers have been great hitters," said Hensley Meulens, the Giants' hitting coach. "At some point, I thought they would all get together and put some runs on the board. And there's no better time than now."
Thursday night's run-explosion, against the soft middle of the Rangers' hapless bullpen, turned a game that was beginning to feel slightly torture-esque - it was scoreless through the first half of the game, and the Giants led by only two runs entering the eighth - into a second consecutive laugher.
"It was a torture game," said Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff, "up until the bottom of the eighth."
Giants right-hander Matt Cain, for whom "torture" has come to mean "don't give up more than two runs, or you'll lose," was the beneficiary of Thursday night's offensive outburst - although he hardly needed it, tossing 72/3 shutout innings and keeping his ERA this postseason at a spotless 0.00 in three starts.
"He's such a bulldog out there," Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said.
"He's our horse," Huff said.
The taut pitchers' duel the world was expecting in Game 1 - when the juicy Cliff Lee-Tim Lincecum matchup devolved into a messy affair of battered aces and shoddy defense, with a total of 18 runs scored - revealed itself for a time in Game 2 in the persons of Cain and Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson.
The stadium lacked the crackling, sizzling atmosphere of Game 1, but the 43,622 on hand Thursday night were rewarded with a subtle, tension-packed masterpiece of a duel, at least for awhile, with Cain and Wilson trading zeroes until Edgar Renteria's tie-breaking homer off Wilson in the bottom of the fifth.
"I couldn't be happier for Edgar," Bochy said of Renteria, who had the game-winning hit in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins. "He's playing like he did 10 years ago."
Two innings after Renteria's homer, Wilson gave up a leadoff walk to San Francisco's Cody Ross - opening a blister on his left middle finger in the process, which forced him from the game. Two batters later, with Ross on second, Uribe, the Giants' latest unlikely postseason hero, hit a soft flare into shallow right to drive in the Giants' second run.
Meantime, Cain was putting the finishing touches on his third consecutive gem of these playoffs. There were elements of luck involved in Cain's night - such as when Ian Kinsler's towering drive to center bounced off the top of the wall and back into play for a double - but for the most part it was simply the classic combination of power pitching with precise command.
"I really tried to make sure that I made every pitch count," Cain said.
Cain received one standing ovation when he was allowed to bat for himself, somewhat surprisingly, in the bottom of the seventh, then another - this one louder and longer - when he came off the mound in the eighth, with two outs, a runner on second and Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, representing the tying run, coming to the plate. Javier Lopez, the Giants' lefty-slayer-of-lefties, came on to retire Hamilton on an easy fly ball, preserving the shutout.
It was the last time the Giants would feel remotely threatened.
The eighth inning began as borderline-torture and ended as a train wreck, as four Texas relievers combined to give up seven runs, with lefty Derek Holland and right-hander Mark Lowe combining at one point to issue four straight walks - the last two with the bases loaded.
"I was in auto-take mode up there until [the count] got to 3-2," said Huff, who drew one of the bases-loaded walks. "We were all in take mode for awhile there."
Through it all, Rangers Manager Ron Washington left his closer, Neftali Feliz, on the bullpen bench, seemingly preferring anyone but him on the mound.
"No, I didn't," Washington said when asked if he considered using Feliz to keep the game close. "I didn't at all."
By the end of the eighth, even long-lost Aaron Rowand, the Giants' highest-paid position player but an afterthought for much of this season, was delivering huge blows, knocking a triple into the gap in right-center to bring home a pair of runs.
A full hour after the game ended, Giants fans pressed against each other in the stands near the home dugout, cheering wildly as players emerged to conduct television interviews on the field.
Game 6 is scheduled for here next Wednesday night. But at this rate, AT&T Park may have seen the last of this remarkable, unpredictable team.