In the end, torture never felt so good for Giants fans, and it never came about so smoothly as it did in the World Series.
The 2010 Giants season was defined by nail-biting moments and an expectation of things being as difficult as possible, but when it came time to clinch the ultimate prize, it was a surgical and swift end. Brian Wilson, who led the Majors in saves but managed to deliver a few doses of torture during the regular season, mowed through the ninth inning of Game 5 to finish what ace Tim Lincecum started, and the first World Series title since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958 was secured.
This was a team that earned every bit of its reputation, disseminated by the team's broadcasters, as "Giants Baseball: Torture" with month after month of close calls, lineup juggling but ultimately a lot of plain old getting it done somehow.
It's a season that made it all the way to November, and the Giants proved to be the team for all seasons -- from its Spring Training roots as a mix of tremendous homegrown talent and far-flung puzzle pieces to its summer extreme makeover to an autumn that brought a new chapter in San Francisco baseball history.
Along the way, it taught us all about Torture, it warned opponents to Fear the Beard and know they're dealing with the Freak every five days, and it even brought a bit of San Francisco's eccentric soul into the mix with the team's first baseman playing the last two months wearing a red rally thong -- and not the kind you put on your feet.
Anyone who witnessed it knows that history was made by a blend of players as eclectic and international as San Francisco itself, a group that evolved over the last few years and then especially over the last few months to become a champion.
Here are some monthly snapshots of the Giants' remarkable season, a glimpse at how a team of destiny wound up celebrating on the infield at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington:
April started well enough as the Giants first laid claim to the top spot in what by all accounts would be a wide-open National League West race, getting off to a 4-0 start. And the guy who was hottest coming out of the gate? Edgar Renteria -- he had a 5-for-5 day in the first series of the season, which made a nice bookend for his World Series MVP performance. With that strong start, they'd never once hit the .500 mark, although they came close.
May is the month when people started to worry about Timmy, as Lincecum's last three starts pumped his ERA up to 4.95 for the month. But it's also the month when Buster Posey arrived, as of May 29, and soon it would be evident how special a talent the team has in the 23-year-old from Georgia. Posey began his rookie season playing first base with Bengie Molina still around. Aubrey Huff shifted to the outfield while continuing to deliver consistent offense no matter where he played, while Pablo Sandoval's struggles truly began to grow.
June was the month Pat Burrell came on board. At the end of May, Burrell was sitting on his couch, wondering if his career was at an end after the Rays had released him. By June 5, he was playing for his hometown Giants, and by the end of his first month, he'd delivered five homers and established himself as the team's left fielder. Posey hit his first career homer in Cincinnati on June 9 and Madison Bumgarner made his 2010 debut against the Red Sox, but the month ended with a three-game sweep at home at the hands of the Dodgers -- uh, never a good thing for the Giants.
July began with Molina being shipped to Texas, putting Posey behind the plate for what would truly be the duration. Only a few days after the trade came a meeting of pitchers and the catchers in Colorado, as a losing streak ran to a season-high seven games. As for Posey, he got off to a fine start with a 21-game hitting streak during July. After the All-Star Game, in which Lincecum and orange-shoed Wilson represented the club, the Giants got on a roll, winning 15 of 19, and at the end of the month, they picked up two key pieces to their bullpen puzzle in left-hander Javier Lopez (from Pittsburgh) and right-hander Ramon Ramirez (from Boston). GM Brian Sabean's roster mixer was only starting to churn.
August would bring practically a whole new team by the end of the month, and the original team was wondering what happened to its ace and the rest of the best young starting staff in the bigs. Lincecum went 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA in August, and nobody else did a much better. Meanwhile, the Giants went about retooling their offense, adding outfielder Cody Ross -- picked up on waivers from the Marlins and two months later -- and fellow veterans Mike Fontenot and Jose Guillen to the clubhouse mix. That gave the Giants a lot of outfielders, and they'd need the help soon enough. Oh, and on Aug. 30, Huff began wearing red thong underwear, and the Giants went on to win 30 of their last 44 games. Just sayin'.
September was when the Giants took over the Year of the Pitcher, and took over the NL West when the Padres opened the door with a 10-game losing streak. With Lincecum jumping right back on track and the bullpen posting historic numbers, the Giants established a foundation for their October exploits on the mound with a 1.91 ERA for the month. Naturally, it wasn't easy. As of Sept. 9, the Giants' depth would be tested as leadoff man and center fielder Andres Torres -- already having put together a career year -- went down with an appendectomy. Ross would step into the leadoff role for a while, Renteria would be in there a bit after disappearing from the landscape for the most part since April. Somehow the Giants pieced together enough offense to win enough games to take over the division lead in the season's final week, with Juan Uribe providing homer heroics early with a stunning blow against the Dodgers and later with a six-RBI game at Wrigley Field.
October became orange right off the bat as the team clinched its first NL West title since 2003 by taking its torture to new levels, waiting until the very last day of the season to fend off the Padres. Soon thereafter, Lincecum would set the tone for the magical postseason to come with a 14-strikeout, two-hit performance against the Braves in the Division Series. The Giants then beat Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in taking the Phillies in six games and tagged Cliff Lee with his first postseason loss as the first World Series in San Francisco since 2002 began with a pair of Giants wins at AT&T Park.
November saw Renteria send a ball high into the Texas sky that then slipped behind the green padded fence for a three-run homer that all but sealed the deal with Lincecum and Wilson on the case, as the Giants won the World Series in five games.
And with a celebration in Texas, a season of torture ended in ecstasy for San Francisco and its Giants.