San Francisco gets to celebrate as the Giants hold the Rangers at bay to win World Series

By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 12:39 AM


Believe it, San Francisco. Open your eyes. Let out your breath. Watch the sun hit the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning as you rub your eyes. Those of you that went to bed anyway.

Bobby Richardson isn't going to snag Willie McCovey's line drive to end Game 7 of the World Series with the tying and winning Giant runs at second and third base. Leave that back in '62.

A tragic earthquake isn't going to strike during the same World Series when your local rivals from Oakland sweep you. Forget it, '89 is long ago.

Please, forget '02 in particular. With a 5-0 lead and eight outs to go in Game 6 of the 2002 Series, when the odds say you have a 98.5 percent chance of becoming champions, your manager Dusty Baker isn't going to hand the ball to Russ Ortiz so he can have it for his trophy case. No, this isn't that nightmare, when the Angels got fired up at a perceived insult and stole your title.

Put the ghosts away. "Not a day in my life has gone by when I didn't have to think about the '02 Series," ex-Giants owner Peter Magowan told John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times. "Now I never have to think about it again."

This time it's real, final and official. With a 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of this Series, with Tim Lincecum winning his second pitching battle from October deity Cliff Lee and with Edgar Renteria supplying the three-run homer that sent shock waves all the way to California, San Francisco is finally world champion.

That wasn't so bad was it? Just a mere 52 years after the Giants arrived from Coogan's Bluff and 56 years after the last Giant title of any kind in '54 when Willie Mays was a kid.

Actually, it was mighty bad for those who lived it. That's why the Giants signs here after the final out said, "The Torture is Over!"

On Dec. 22, 1962, the "Peanuts" comic strip had Linus and Charlie Brown sitting alone and glum on a curb for three empty panels before Charlie finally says, "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball JUST THREE FEET HIGHER?"

A couple of months later, Charles Schulz, who lived nearby and rooted for the Giants, repeated his strip, but this time Charlie Brown wailed, "JUST TWO FEET HIGHER."

Now, the answer has arrived. Renteria's homer, which made him Series MVP, cleared the left field fence by a foot at most. They like that wheel of karma stuff in San Francisco. Now they get a boat load.

This final game hinged on that one Renteria at-bat and, unfortunately, will put undue weight on Texas Manager Ron Washington. The Giants were clearly the better team, holding the Rangers, who were the leading hitting team in the American League, to a .190 team batting average.

Nevertheless, Washington blundered and it decided this game. You just don't pitch to Renteria with men on second and third, two outs and No. 9 hitter Aaron Rowand on deck, a rusty vet who has barely played in a month. With first base open, you walk him. Period. When the count gets to 2-0, it's like the gods are giving you a second chance to put up four fingers and point to first base.

Why fear Edgar? This is the same Renteria that had the game-winning walk-off single to win the '97 Series at age 22. This is the same Renteria whose homer broke a scoreless tie in Matt Cain's Game 2 win. The same Renteria who had three hits on Sunday. And, most of all, the same Renteria who has a career .333 World Series batting average (21 for 63), the 10th-best in history, and a .417 average with six RBI to become the MVP of this Series.

But Washington, who was outmanaged by Bruce Bochy throughout this Series, decided to pitch to a man who was famous for his Series deeds over a 13-year period. "Going to hit it out," Renteria told teammate Andres Torres before he went to the plate.

"I was looking for one pitch - the cutter that comes back over the plate," Renteria said. He got it. Now, he joins Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Yogi Berra as the only players in history to get the game-winning hit in two Series-deciding victories.

"It's amazing to be in that situation," Renteria said. "Maybe my focus is just better [in the postseason]. Or maybe it's because I want to be the guy."

Don't pitch to the guy who loves to be "the guy."

This Series between underdogs, with the Rangers reaching their first Series in 50 seasons of franchise history, may not have been a baseball classic or a ratings favorite outside of the regions that love these two teams.

However, it was one of the prototype Series that followed a familiar pattern that we see every few seasons: the mighty hitting team that meets a superior pitching staff and gradually, falls into a hitting coma that seems that it could last until Thanksgiving.

Once a team gets into a slump in the Series, it's the devil to pay to get out of it, even for the greatest hitters. Or, perhaps, especially for the best, because expectations on them are highest, so pressure messes with their precise timing the most. And the Rangers' heart of the order was in misery with Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero and Nelson Cruz batting .100, .071 and .200 respectively in the Series. Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, David Murphy and Bengie Molina were also under .200. The infectious hitting paralysis was almost total.

That combination of swinging too soon on curveballs, yet being behind the fastball is a key tip-off that you gripping the bat too tightly from tension and also swinging too hard - an awful combination. The tight hands slow your reflexes so you can't catch up to the heat, but the subconscious desire to hit the ball 500 feet keeps you from "staying back" on breaking balls. It's the elite hitter's idea of falling into hell.

Once you're in that pit, has any team ever climbed out? There must be one or two. But they have escaped my attention. I saw The Thing attack the Orioles in the last three games of the '79 Series, which they blew. And I saw the O's pitchers inflict the same pain on the Rose-Morgan-Perez-Schmidt Phillies in '83, holding them to a .195 team average and Mike Schmidt to a .050 mark.

Ever since, I've looked for this monster to attack supposedly mighty Series lineups and reduce them to mush. Hitting in the clutch becomes impossible and, except for a rare solo homer - "running into a pitch" - they look like they'll never score again. In fact, that's just how Texas scored on a solo Cruz homer to left.

The beneficiary of the Rangers' pain was Lincecum. Last October, he was getting arrested for possession of marijuana, boosting his already high popularity by the Bay and giving birth to thousands of "Let Timmy Smoke" T-Shirts at Game 1.

That day, he wasn't his sharpest, yet still beat Lee in an 11-7 slugfest. But in this shut-the-door contest, Timmy really was smokin'. His fastball touched 94 mph. His change-up was wicked. And he challenged Hamilton and Guerrero, who went 0 for 8, with fastballs on the fists and sliders or change-ups away.

All Lincecum needed was one Renteria swing. Unlike unlucky McCovey, his high line drive to deep left-center field was hit exactly high enough. Now, Rangers fans can say, "If Renteria's ball had just been a foot lower, maybe two runs wouldn't have been enough to beat us." But with Lincecum dealing and Brian (Fear the Beard) Wilson ready to rule the ninth, three runs seemed like a mountain.

"When the last out is over, all kinds of emotions run through you," said a delighted Bochy. But the clearest emotion of all was the gratitude he felt to his exceptional pitching staff, led by Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez and Lincecum.

"It's unbelieveable how good they've been," Bochy said. "It's great to have those guys staring at us in the future."

So, sing "San Francisco" while hanging out of a little cable car rolling down Market Street. At the end of every chorus, chant the name of a different Giant pitcher.

But, in honor of this night, start with Lincecum, now San Francisco's greatest Freak.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company