ARLINGTON, Texas – The prize that eluded Willie and Barry at long last belongs to the San Francisco Giants, thanks to a band of self-described castoffs and misfits and their shaggy-haired ace.
Tim Lincecum, Edgar Renteria and Giants won the World Series on Monday night, beating the Texas Rangers 3-1 in a tense Game 5 and taking the trophy home to the city by the Bay for the first time.
It was an overdue victory — the Giants last wore the crown in 1954, four years before they moved west. So much for a franchise that never quite got it done in October despite the likes of baseball giants Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and Juan Marichal. It's November, and now new names stand tall in San Francisco.
Lincecum outdueled Cliff Lee in an every-pitch-matters matchup that was scoreless until Renteria hit a stunning three-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning. Nelson Cruz homered in the bottom half, but Lincecum returned to his wicked self and preserved the lead.
Lincecum won this game of Texas Hold 'em, beating Lee for the second time in a week. The two-time NL Cy Young winner gave up three hits over eight innings and struck out 10.
Brian Wilson closed for a save, completing a surprising romp through the postseason for a pitching-rich team that waited until the final day to clinch a playoff spot.
Manager Bruce Bochy enjoys calling his Giants a ragtag bunch. Maybe Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez fit that description. But the foundation of this club — for now, for the foreseeable future — is totally home grown, built on a deep, talented and young rotation, a rookie catcher with huge star potential and their bearded closer.
Renteria reprised his role of postseason star. His 11th-inning single ended Game 7 of the 1997 World Series and lifted Florida over Cleveland. Forget that he made the last out in the 2004 Series that finished Boston's sweep of St. Louis — this journeyman's path led to another title, helped by his go-ahead home run in Game 2.
A team seemingly free of egos did everything right to take the lead. Ross, the suprising MVP of the NL championship series, stayed square and hit a leadoff single and Juan Uribe followed with another hit up the middle.
That put a runner at second base for the first time in the game and brought up Huff, who led the Giants in home runs this year. So what did he do? He expertly put down the first sacrifice bunt of his career.
Lee struck out Pat Burrell to keep the runners put, but Ross began hopping home as soon as Renteria connected, sending a drive that kept sailing and landed over the left-center field wall.
And just like that, all the Giants' past troubles seemed like ancient history.
The Giants won their previous title when they played in New York at the Polo Grounds. That's where Mays raced back for perhaps the most famous catch of all time.
They moved west in 1958 and had tried ever since to escape a sort of big league Alcatraz — the place where teams get stuck for decades as also-rans. The Red Sox and White Sox got free, not so the Cubs and Indians.
So clang the cable car bells. Loudly, too. Baseball's best play in the Bay.
Exactly when these Giants turned into world beaters is hard to say. Trailing San Diego by 7 1/2 games in the NL West on July 4, they meandered in the wild-card race until the stretch run, winning the division and finishing 92-70.
Come the playoffs, they became dangerous. Any well-armed team is. Start with Matt Cain — three postseason starts, a 0.00 ERA. Throw in Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner. Add Madison Bumgarner, the 21-year-old rookie who helped blank Texas in Game 4.
San Francisco posted a trio of one-run wins in the opening round that sent Atlanta manager Bobby Cox into retirement, then stopped the two-time defending NL champion Phillies in the championship series. Those wins, like this came on the road.
In the Year of the Pitcher, the World Series proved the oldest adage in the game: Good pitching stops good hitting, every time. Lincecum and the team with the best ERA in the big leagues completely shut down Josh Hamilton and the club with the majors' top batting average.
Texas became the latest Series newcomer to make a quick exit. Houston (2005) and Colorado (2007) got swept in their first appearances, Tampa Bay (2008) stuck around for just five games. The AL champion Rangers became the first team since 1966 to get shut out twice in a World Series, with big hitters Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Cruz left taking half-swings or flailing wildly.
The Rangers' franchise wrapped up its 50th season overall, seemingly in good hands with Nolan Ryan as president and part-owner. If only Big Tex could teach his team to hit, too.
The Giants earned their sixth title overall, joining the likes of Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott and John McGraw as champs, and tying them for third with the Red Sox by the Yankees (27) and Cardinals (10). They also helped ease the gloating that blew from across the Bay, where the Oakland Athletics won three straight crowns in the mid-1970s and swept the Giants in the earthquake-interrupted 1989 Series.
San Francisco had come close before. Future Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Mays and Marichal lost to the Yankees 1-0 in Game 7 in 1962. In 2002, Bonds & Co. led the Angels 5-0 in the seventh inning of Game 6 before letting that edge and Game 7 slip away.
Many years ago, one swing of the bat prompted a call that resonates throughout Giants history and beyond.
"The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" announcer Russ Hodges shouted over and over after Bobby Thomson launched "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951. No matter that
Time to redo that raving, sounds like.