"Men, if they don't score," Bobby Bowden used to say when his team had a lead at halftime, "we win."
Things really were that simple for San Francisco in the World Series. The Giants pitched and defended brilliantly for the bulk of the Series, and as a result, they defeated the Texas Rangers in five games. It's not always that cut-and-dried, but this time around, it was all about the run prevention.
Baseball's best pitching team just kept doing what it does, even as the calendar turned to November. Lots of little things added up for the Giants, but the biggest thing of all was what they leaned on: They received three brilliant starts, one shaky one (in their only loss) and one that was good enough. In short, when they had the better starting pitching performance, they won.
"You can't say enough about guys just coming in in big games, just stepping up and just doing their thing," Tim Lincecum told FOX after Game 5. "None of us have really been here before, so it's a new thing for all of us, and for guys to step up and stay poised, collected and give us a chance to win every single game that we've been in since the postseason started, that just says a lot about our guys."
Texas' offense also helped out, it should be noted. Rangers hitters rarely put together quality approaches against the Giants' pitchers, striking out twice as many times as they walked. When Texas did get runners on base, it didn't get them over. The church of small ball can be vastly overrated, but if you're not hitting the ball out of the park, you'd better advance the runners you do get.
The Rangers didn't do either. They hit three homers in five games, slugging a collective .288 for the Series. Just as costly, they went 5-for-28 with runners in scoring position over the five games, including 1-for-16 after Game 1. And over the final two games, Texas had a combined one at-bat with a man on second or third. The Rangers got some runners on but didn't get them over or in.
More specifically, San Francisco controlled the heart of the Texas order. Though the Rangers' starting nine was deeper than that of the Giants, it was likewise dependent on performance from a few key players. Neither of these lineups is as deep as those of, say, the Yankees or even a healthy Phillies team. Texas needed performance from its sluggers, and it didn't get it.
|Game||RISP hits||RISP ABs||TEX runs||Result|
Josh Hamilton went 2-for-20 with one extra-base hit. Nelson Cruz was 4-for-20, though he did manage three long hits. Michael Young batted .250 but also slugged .250. Ian Kinsler went 3-for-16 with a double, and Vladimir Guerrero scuffled to a single in 14 at-bats.
Five boppers hit .167 combined and slugged .267. You can get away with allowing the occasional big hit to Mitch Moreland or Bengie Molina when you control the Nos. 2-6 hitters in the Texas lineup, as the Giants did just about all series long.
It wasn't just the starters, either. When the Giants handed things over to their bullpen, the bearded bunch came through. San Francisco's relievers allowed a total of three runs in 10 innings, and that's a bit misleading, since it all came in garbage time during Game 1. Texas' bullpen struggled at times, and manager Ron Washington often couldn't find the right combinations. The San Francisco 'pen, though, just steamrolled through the last four games.
On offense, meanwhile, the Giants changed their stripes for the World Series. A hack-tastic team throughout the regular season, they suddenly got more selective against the Rangers. The Giants didn't walk a lot -- because, well, they don't -- but they forced Texas pitchers to come into the strike zone. They fouled off scads of pitches and took advantage when they got pitches to hit.
When you beat Cliff Lee twice, you're doing something right.
"You look at the lineup they put out there -- they're pretty good," Washington said. "You know, they put a ton of runs up on us. I thought our pitching staff was pretty good, too. ... [Juan] Uribe has done it before. [Edgar] Renteria has done it before. Aubrey Huff -- it may have been his first World Series, but he's certainly got plenty of big hits before, so that wasn't surprising.
"That [Buster] Posey kid is someone you're going to have to deal with for a long time to come. He's one heck of a player. [Cody] Ross, I mean, this guy is a gamer. They have a bunch of gamers out there."
And then there were the little things. San Francisco played exemplary defense. The Giants made play after play in the infield, especially in a dazzling display in Game 4. Aubrey Huff got down a perfect and surprising bunt before Renteria's Game 5-winning homer. And speaking of Renteria, you can't look at these Giants without noting the number of unlikely heroes who stepped forward.
Mostly, though, it was the likeliest heroes -- the Giants' starters. Postseason series rarely stick to form, but in this case, the story made sense. The best pitchers in the game turned in their best pitching performances at the biggest point of the season. The result is the Giants' first championship in 56 years.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.