SAN FRANCISCO -- Before Game 5 of the ALCS, when Matt Treanor would get behind the plate to catch C.J. Wilson for a chance to clinch the American League pennant, he was asked if this was the biggest game of his career.
He quickly responded, no.
"To be honest, every game this year has been the biggest game of my career," the 34-year-old Treanor said. "I started the year in the minors."
The Rangers' secondary catcher hit his first career postseason home run in the game and also knocked in the Texas Rangers' only other run in the loss, but his performance further illustrated just how valuable the unheralded catcher has been to the club this season.
Of all the trades that general manager Jon Daniels has produced to help propel Texas to its first World Series, perhaps the most overlooked one is the deal that quietly and shrewdly went down on March 22: The Rangers sent infielder Ray Olmedo to the Milwaukee Brewers for a backup catcher most fans in North Texas probably had never heard of before.
And if things had went as planned, they likely still wouldn't. Treanor was sent to Triple-A Oklahoma after spring training, another dose of hard reality for a player who's had to scrap for every inning he's played in the big leagues.
"You know you what, I kind of embraced my situation this year," Treanor said. "I knew that I was going to have to battle and there might have been a situation where the club would need me. It so happened that after game one or game two [of the regular season] I was called up and asked to fill a position."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia got injured out of the chute and backup Taylor Teagardencouldn't get comfortable swinging the bat. Treanor, affable, humble and hard-working, got the call up on April 9 and was behind the plate for the Rangers on April 11. It's been a two-way love affair ever since.
Now, the career journeyman who labored 10 years in the minor leagues before getting his shot with the Florida Marlins in 2004, will catch Wilson in their first World Series against the San Francisco Giants in Thursday's Game 2 at AT&T Park. It could be one of two starts with Wilson. Bengie Molina, acquired mid-seasoin, will handle the other pitchers.
"I can’t say enough about how important he’s been to our ballclub," third baseman and captain Michael Young said. "He might not get a lot of the publicity as some of our guys get, but if you ask everyone in our organization, top to bottom, and they’ll talk about what a massive impact Matt Treanor’s had on our team. He basically bailed us out early. He bailed out our catcher situation. He played hard, played hurt, was a leader, great clubhouse guy and just played extremely well. He’s a guy that we’re all really proud to call our teammate."
Treanor hit just .211, but he had some clutch shots -- who can forget the two-out, two-run, pinch-hit game-winning triple in the top of the ninth against his former Marlins during the team's longest win streak of the season? -- and he deftly handled a pitching staff in transition.
"He didn't make our club [out of spring training], but he committed himself to us," Washington said. "And because of the way things went early in the season with Salty and Teagarden, we were very fortunate that we had a guy of his standard to step in and continue to help our young pitching staff get through the season."
Treanor went on to post career highs for games played (82) -- starting a team-high 67 at catcher -- at-bats (237), runs (22), hits (50), homers (five), RBI (27) and walks (22). As Wilson's personal catcher in the postseason, Treanor's been remarkable getting on base with a team-best .545 on-base percentage in three games.
He has three hits in seven at-bats and has walked -- or limped -- to first base four other times, twice by walks and twice by getting plunked -- in consecutive at-bats -- in Game 2 of the ALDS. Both times he got hit to lead off the inning and both led to runs in the victory.
"Personally," Treanor said, "to be with a group of guys, not just in this situation in the postseason, but to be surrounded by this group all season where we were a true unit the whole year, it showed on the field and we got the wins."
Even when the club went out and acquired the veteran Molina in mid-season, Treanor accepted it and even welcomed it.
"Absolutely. He’s a guy that’s been in postseason play and I’m pretty sure that’s why they went to go look for him," Treanor said. "I’ve watched Bengie ever since he got here; the way he calls a game, the way he goes about his business, everything."
Don't believe him? The dog pile after clinching the ALCS pennant is proof.
"I’m on the bottom of the pile with him," Treanor said. "He was the first guy I’m looking for. I’m kissing him on the forehead. He had no idea what was going on."