World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
It's a phrase never heard before, made possible by a rare mix of veteran rejects and budding stars.
The Giants made franchise history Monday night with a 3-1 triumph in Game 5 of the World Series, ignoring their underdog status to capture the 106th Fall Classic, four games to one.A proven yet unlikely hero combined with the team's most recognizable star to elevate San Francisco to unprecedented heights.
Edgar Renteria, who is contemplating retirement after enduring a season in which he played a career-low 72 games, belted a seventh-inning home run off Texas ace Cliff Lee to account for the Giants' scoring. Renteria was selected Most Valuable Player for the Series after hitting .412 (7-for-17) with two home runs, six RBIs and six runs scored. It was a fitting career bookend for Renteria, whose Game 7 single won the 1997 Series for the Florida Marlins."It is pretty crazy, just because he's been around so long," right-hander Tim Lincecum said. "You can see he's still got it. He comes up clutch in a clutch situation against a big pitcher." Lincecum also merited praise. The reigning two-time National League Cy Young Award winner struck out 10 in eight mostly spotless innings. He surrendered three hits, including Nelson Cruz's seventh-inning home run. Lincecum improved to 4-1 in the postseason, including 2-0 in the Series. Not only did the Giants win their first Series since relocating from New York to San Francisco in 1958, but they also earned baseball's biggest prize for the first time since 1954 -- ending the Majors' third-longest dry spell. The Cubs (102 years) and Indians (62 years) are left to look upon the Giants enviously. No longer will the Giants be regarded as a gold-plated oddity. They won more games between 1958 and 1971 than any other ballclub with rosters that included, at various times, future Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry. But they captured just one National League pennant and one NL West title during that span. San Francisco met with frustration in its three previous Series visits in 1962, 1989 and 2002. "This erased a lot of ghosts, right?" said J.T. Snow, a first baseman on the 2002 club who is now a Giants special assistant. "It's been storybook the whole year," closer Brian Wilson said. "We had to win this one because of the guys who come in our locker room all the time and never got to experience one -- Willie Mays, McCovey. This one's for them." Marichal, the marvelous right-hander who was here to provide radio commentary on ESPN Deportes, saluted these Giants who accomplished what he and his peers could not. "I tell everybody that I left my heart in San Francisco," Marichal said, happily echoing Tony Bennett. "... I don't mind. I love the Giants. I'm so happy for that bunch of kids. They're doing a wonderful job for the team, the organization and the city. ... I think they deserve a winner."
Lords of the rings
Not surprisingly, the Giants became winners primarily through their pitching. They built their 11-4 postseason record by compiling a glittering 2.47 ERA and allowing 94 hits in 135 innings.The Giants especially buckled down in the Series. They limited Texas' 2-6 hitters to a .167 batting average (15-for-90) and a .267 slugging percentage. The Rangers hit a limp .179 (5-for-28) with runners in scoring position against San Francisco.
"They just outpitched us the whole series," Lee said. "Their pitchers did an unbelievable job."For six innings, Lee and Lincecum generated the scoreless standoff everyone expected when they met in Game 1, which resulted in a surprising 11-7 Giants victory. Neither team moved a runner as far as second base. "Cliff wasn't making too many mistakes today," Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "He was hitting the corners with his cutter and his sinker. He didn't leave much over the fat part of the plate." The overflow crowd of 52,045 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington smelled a victory that would force the Series back to San Francisco. But Lincecum remained dominant.
"I felt pretty collected," he said. "I was very poised out there. From the first inning on, my adrenaline kind of just dissipated and I was able to calm down."The Giants' maligned hitters also deserve some credit. They helped beat an All-Star collection of opposing starters during the postseason, including Atlanta's Derek Lowe, Philadelphia's Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and (in relief) Roy Oswalt. Finally, they twice victimized Lee, who will be the most sought-after free agent this offseason. Lee's lapse in the seventh was brief but critical. And the collection of Giants who capitalized on it happened to be some of the "misfits" or "castoffs" who helped fuel the club's success. Cody Ross, whom the Giants claimed on waivers in August, and Juan Uribe, who has played for three teams, singled to open the inning. Uribe, who batted .149 (7-for-47) in the postseason yet seemed to deliver each of his hits when it mattered, connected with an 0-2 pitch. Aubrey Huff, the king of the misfits who finally played for a winner after spending most of 10 previous seasons with non-contenders, followed with a stunning ploy. He advanced the runners by executing the first sacrifice bunt of his Major League career. Lee edged closer to escaping the threat by whiffing the embattled Pat Burrell, who recorded 11 strikeouts in 13 hitless Series at-bats. Up came Renteria, who had made a bold prediction to teammate Andres Torres.
"He told me twice before the game he was going to hit the ball out of the park," Torres said.Said Renteria later, "I was joking." Renteria wasn't kidding around when he redirected Lee's 2-0 pitch over the left-center-field barrier.
"He tried to throw the cutter, and the cutter stayed over the middle," said the 15-year veteran, who joined Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra as the only players to record a game-winning RBI in two clinchers.After crossing home plate, Ross and Uribe virtually skipped back toward the dugout before Renteria coolly accepted his teammates' congratulations. "I didn't forget that we were playing a great offensive team like Texas," Renteria said. "That's why I told my teammates, 'Keep playing,' because we know they can tie the game right away." That didn't come close to happening. After yielding Cruz's homer, Lincecum walked Ian Kinsler but struck out David Murphy and Bengie Molina to end the seventh. He also fanned Mitch Moreland to open a perfect eighth and ended up as the third pitcher to last at least eight innings in a Series clincher, allow one or fewer runs and yield three or fewer hits. Summoned for the ninth, Wilson also controlled himself. He fired a 95-mph fastball past Josh Hamilton for a called third strike, retired Vladimir Guerrero on a first-pitch grounder to shortstop and fanned Cruz on a 90-mph cutter. "It was like any other ninth inning, except it was the final one of the year," Wilson said. And perhaps the most cherished one in San Francisco Giants history.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.