ARLINGTON, Texas – As crazy as it sounded for an American League underdog and first-time World Series entrant, the Texas Rangers crashed the Fall Classic as the favorite to win it all.
Sure, the Giants had Tim Lincecum and the National League's most dominant staff across the board, but so what? The Rangers had Cliff Lee and eccentric C.J. Wilson and steady Colby Lewis. If they could hold their own on the mound, the team that carried the majors' best batting average into the postseason and had cranked nearly twice as many postseason homers as anyone else would deliver the franchise its first-ever world championship.
And then something happened to the Rangers’ vaunted offense that poured 38 runs on the Bronx Bombers.
“Their pitching happened,” Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said of the Giants’ tremendous pitching in the World Series. “Obviously, we pride ourselves on beating anyone offensively, but in this series we couldn’t do it.”
The Giants, hitting .231 entering the World Series, did. Edgar Renteria's three-run homer off Cliff Lee in the seventh inning of a scoreless game stunned the sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark and all but ended Texas' hopes of taking the series back to the Bay. San Francisco went on to a 3-1 victory Monday night, taking the World Series, 4-1.
Michael Young’s .250 batting average in the five-game seriers tells the story. Not because it represents anything in particular, but because it serves as an eye-popping divider. Mitch Moreland, the nine-hole hitter who hit a team-best .462, is the lone Ranger to finish north of Young’s average.
Everybody else finished well south. In fact, only Nelson Cruz hit .200, and he hit exactly that. Just get a glimpse of these averages: Elvis Andrus, .176; Vladimir Guerrero, .071; Josh Hamilton, .100; Kinsler, .188; Bengie Molina, .182; David Murphy, .143. It all adds up to .190 as a team, the third-lowest batting average in World Series history. In Games 4 and 5, the Rangers scratched out just three hits in each.
"I caught those guys. I know what they're capable doing. I just thought we could hit them," said Rangers catcher Bengie Molina, a San Francisco Giant the past 3 1/2 years until traded to Texas on July1. "I just thought that this group is a great group of guys that can hit and I thought they could hit them. But, like they say, pitching beats hitting, right?"
Consider this: Those light-hitting Giants matched the Rangers' 29 hits in the series with 29 runs.
“It’s tough you know?” Cruz said. “They got great pitching and when you got pitching the offense shuts down. It’s simple.”
Simple, yet still utterly confounding. The Rangers blew an opportunity in Game 1 to open a four- or five-run lead on Lincecum, but settled for a 2-0 lead after two innings. Lee couldn’t hold it and by the time the fifth inning was over, the Giants led, 8-2.
In Games 2 through 5, the Rangers’ offense managed five runs. They were shut out twice, once by Matt Cain, which is not a terrible crime since he finished the postseason without allowing a run. But insult came against 21-year-old lefty Madison Bumgarner and his poised Game 4 shutout.
Cruz’s solo home run in the seventh inning of Monday’s finale ended an 18-inning scoreless skid that went all the way back to the sixth inning of Game 3.
“We feel that we can hit anybody at any time,” Hamilton said. “Their pitchers threw well, I’ll give them credit, even though I don’t like to. They threw well, but we just weren’t swinging the bats well. But they beat us, fair and square.”
Hamilton had come off a poor ALDS to win the ALCS MVP a monster performance that led the Yankees to intentionally walk him three times in the Game 6 clincher. Later this month, he could very likely take home the AL MVP. But, in the World Series, he vanished, save for a solo shot in the Game 3 victory.
In Game 5, he didn’t get the ball out of the infield. Hamilton, who hit .359 in the regular season, tapped one to first in the first. After Young reached to lead off the fourth, Hamilton struck out swinging. He ended a 1-2-3 sixth inning with a dribbler to second and started the 1-2-3 silent ninth looking at Brian Wilson’s 95 mph fastball.
“I felt great. It would be different if I felt terrible, felt lost, didn’t know what I was doing up there. I felt good,” Hamilton said. “That’s just the way baseball works. Sometimes you feel good and you just don’t get hits. You hate for it to happen in the World Series, but it did. I’m not going to be disappointed or be upset about it because I didn’t have bad at-bats.”
Guerrero, the cleanup hitter who a week ago was voted the AL Comeback Player of the Year by his peers, produced almost nothing during the playoffs. Manager Ron Washington stuck by his prized free-agent pickup and refused to move him out of the four-hole in favor of Cruz, who swung perhaps the hottest bat of the playoffs, up until the World Series.
Guerrero produced one hit against the Giants and two RBIs. He struck out three times in Game 4, the first time he’d done that all season and the first time ever in his playoff career. In Game 5, he reached once on a fielder’s chance and was quietly retired three other times.
For one of the game’s great free swingers, the first World Series of his Hall of Fame-caliber career did not go as planned.
“I feel happy because in 14 years I haven’t been able to get to the World Series. But, of course, being my first World Series and waiting so long I was a little anxious when I was at the plate,” Guerrero said through a translator. “I think that is the reason why I couldn’t produce like I usually do during my career.”
In the end, great pitching beat good hitting. Good might be too complimentary to describe the Rangers’ plate performance.
“I can’t put my finger on one particular thing. Fact is we didn’t play how the Rangers play,” Hamilton said. “They’re pretty good, but baseball is baseball. Even the best pitcher can have a bad day or a pitcher that’s not so hot can I have great day. Say they had the best staff in the league, they still can be beat.
“I give them credit, they threw the ball well,” Hamilton continued. “I just don’t like giving pitchers a lot of credit. I just don’t.”
After these five games, the Rangers have little choice.