The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers, 9-0, at AT&T Park last night, and thereby took a commanding 2-0 lead in the 2010 World Series.
Matt Cain, the latest "Mister October," continued his brilliant postseason run with seven and two-thirds innings of shutout, four-hit ball, holding the powerful Texas lineup 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and guarding a tight, one-run lead that exploded into a blowout only after he'd left the game in the eighth to a standing ovation. Cain now has pitched 20 and 2/3 innings in three postseason starts without surrendering an earned run, and he's inching his way into Christy Mathewson territory with this streak. He probably won't match the Giants' greatest pitcher's record accomplishment-- three consecutive shutouts in the 1905 World Series-- but that's because the way things are going, he may not even be needed again. Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves, giddy with excitement though we may be.
For seven innings it was indeed a tight one, the pitchers' duel expected but not delivered in Game One. Texas starter C.J. Wilson matched Cain almost note-for-note until the fifth, when their two paths diverged. Leading off the top of the frame, Ian Kinsler smacked a Cain fastball about as far as one could go on this cool, windy evening, a cannon shot to deepest center. It hit the very top of the wall and fortuitously caromed back onto the field of play and into Andres Torres' glove. A no-doubt-about-it homer almost anywhere else, it was a double for Kinsler, and there he remained at second base as Cain retired the side without further incident. Then with one out in the bottom of the inning, Edgar Renteria turned on an inside fastball and hammered it high and deep into the left-field seats. While it is generally accepted among baseball analysts and sabermetricians that there is no reliable measure of an ability to hit in the clutch, the anecdotal evidence of same for the veteran Renteria is compelling. He's doing in 2010 what he did in 1997, and in 2004, and time and time again over his career.
Cain's toughest test came just moments later in the top of the sixth as the Rangers bid to answer back. Michael Young and Josh Hamilton hit one-out singles, and Cain followed with a wild pitch that moved both into scoring position and eliminated the double-play possibility. Then came the 26-year-old ace's finest hour: Nelson Cruz, retired on a foul popup, and Kinsler, retired on a fly ball to right. Texas wouldn't threaten again.
Wednesday night's hero, Juan Uribe, drove in Cody Ross in the bottom of the seventh with a single to center, which looked for all the world like the insurance run Cain wanted. Little did we know. In the top of the eighth, with Elvis Andrus at second after a walk and a stolen base, two out and Hamilton at the plate, Bruce Bochy summoned the impeccable Javier Lopez. One harmless fly ball later, Cain relaxed in the dugout, the prospective winner of yet another round of "Giants torture."
Indeed he was, but with a most unexpected final act. The bottom of the eighth was every pitcher's nightmare: a two-out, nobody-on rally that turned into a full meltdown by no less than four Texas relievers, two of whom couldn't get anybody out and all of whom surrendered at least one run. The gruesome tally included four consecutive walks, two with the bases loaded, followed by RBI hits from Renteria, Aaron Rowand (a pinch-hit bases-clearing triple, no less) and Andres Torres. Seven runs in all crossed the plate as eleven men batted and eight straight Giants reached base. And Guillermo Mota, making his first postseason appearance, worked an uneventful ninth as the Giants handed the Rangers only their sixth shutout of the season.
This Series could hardly have started better for the Giants, of course. Nobody could have expected this team to score 20 runs in two games (the New York Yankees, who fell in six ALCS games, managed 19 total). It's certainly possible that last night's raucous, roaring capacity crowd will be the last one at the 'Bell this year. The Giants have not held a two-game World Series lead since 1954, when they were still the New York Giants and swept Cleveland four straight. Most Giants fans, at this moment, would be lying if they didn't admit that thoughts of a 2010 sweep are dancing in their heads.
But the Series now moves to Arlington, Texas, to the big, beautiful Ballpark that will be filled with raucous, roaring Rangers fans for at least two, and possibly three, nights. Texas came back against Tampa and against the Yankees, and they are certainly capable of coming back against the Giants. But will they?
We don't make predictions. Baseball has a way of mocking those who do. And yet, we have followed the Giants since 1965, and we have seen the ups, the downs, and everything else, and we're testifying here and now that we have never seen a San Francisco team like the 2010 Giants. We believe they are absolutely going to win this thing, whether it takes four, five, six, or seven games. We remember 1965, 1969, 1971, 1978, 1982, 1987, 1989, 1993, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004. We remember it all. It doesn't matter now. We're making the statement, loud and clear: 20-0-10, folks, IS THE YEAR.