Pitched battle? Not by a long shot
Giants hitters turn Lee-Lincecum matchup into a slugfest
SAN FRANCISCO -- Had you polled the players, the coaches, the experts, the fans, the scalpers, the guy hawking panda hats and just about anybody else at AT&T Park before the game, the consensus would have echoed the expectation Cody Ross had going into Game 1 of the World Series.
"I figured it would be 2-1, something like that," Ross said after his Giants recorded a big 11-7 win Wednesday night. "You know, a typical Giants game."Indeed, you'd sooner expect Tony Bennett to come out and sing "I Left My Heart In San Mateo" than you'd figure this matchup of Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum would result in a ballgame with 18 combined runs. This one was straight out of the This Is Why They Play The Games Department, and it was loaded with the ugly (six errors) and the unexpected (pretty much any of the runs scored off Lee). For starters, consider the relievers. A combined 10 of them were used. Not what we were counting on in this pitching matchup, and the counting wound up requiring two hands. Nor were we counting on this tying for the second-highest-scoring Game 1 in Series history. Only Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, in which the Red Sox beat the Cardinals by an 11-9 count, ranks higher. With all due respect to Lincecum, who shook off early jitters and an obvious brain cramp to turn in a respectable, if not memorable, outing, the story of the night was what the Giants did to Lee. And in doing what they did to Lee, they cued some doubts that this series will be the series of duels expected in a season and a postseason defined by dominant pitching.
FAST AND FURIOUS
Because, simply put, if this is what happens with Lee and Lincecum on the mound, what's in store for the likes of C.J. Wilson, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Colby Lewis? Well, one would have to imagine the defensive effort behind each of the above will improve, because it couldn't get much worse than the slop submitted in Game 1. Vladimir Guerrero's adventurous evening in right field was only part of the larger equation. Both of these teams looked worse for the wait that preceded the start of this series. "That's a new experience for most of the people here," said Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who booted a ball in the fifth. "And those two, three days, they kind of get our timing off a little bit." With the schedule returning to some semblance of normalcy from here on out, perhaps the dithers displayed here will die down. That alone should bring the run totals down to levels more befitting of the Fall Classic. But if Game 1 taught us anything, it was that we should not discount what this San Francisco club is capable of at the plate. The Giants have reached this point, three wins shy of a title, because they always seem to play just slightly above their opponents' level of competition. If an arms race breaks out, they're certainly well equipped to outpitch the opposition. But this win proved they can slug their way to the finish line, if need be. Before this night, San Francisco hadn't scored seven runs in a game this postseason, and Lee hadn't allowed seven runs in any start since Aug. 31. Both those trends turned because the Giants' aggressiveness at the plate offset Lee's aggressiveness around it. This is a free-swinging team that was set loose against the game's most reliable strike-thrower, and the result proved disastrous for Lee and the Rangers in a six-run fifth. "We were not going to let him beat us with his fastball," San Francisco hitting coach Hensley Meulens said. "We were going to make him work. This is a resilient group of guys. Their spirit is unbelievable in the clubhouse, and they're aggressive. We showed tonight that our offense is a big part of why we've won 100 games." Lee learned that lesson the hard way. "When you think of San Francisco, you think of their starting pitching, defense and bullpen," Lee said. "That's what they've relied on to get here. But obviously, they have some pretty good hitters, too." So do the Rangers, of course, which is why this game, which could have/should have easily become a blowout, actually got a little hairy in the sixth and ninth innings. The Giants, though, stopped it short of becoming another one of their trademark one-run affairs. Neither of these lineups offers much letup. San Francisco has scored 21 runs with two out this postseason, while Texas has scored 20. Those totals are major reasons these two teams overcame underdog status in the first two rounds to get here. In Game 1, somebody had to be the favorite, and that role fell on the visiting Rangers. They had, according to many an oddsmaker and expert, the better of the two offenses on the field and the ace of October aces on the mound. But Lee was trampled, and so was the over/under. Already, this is not the series we expected, and it's hard to know what to expect from here.