When Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz(notes) swung through Brian Wilson's(notes) 90 MPH slider on Monday night, it not only clinched and completed an improbable run to a World Series title for the San Francisco Giants, it also emphatically punctuated a stretch of light-outs pitching by their staff in the 2010 playoffs.
It began with Tim Lincecum(notes) two-hitting and striking out 14 Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS and it concluded with Lincecum dominating the best offense in baseball to the tune of eight innings, one earned run, three hits and 10 more strikeouts.
Talk about perfect bookend performances.
In between we confirmed that Matt Cain(notes) is the most the underrated starter in the National League. All he did was throw 20 1/3 scoreless innings in his three starts, striking out 13. I think he had his eyes closed for half of those innings, that's how easy he made it look.
We may not have known what we were getting from Jonathan Sanchez(notes) on a game-to-game basis, but no one ever doubted his ability. His uneven performances were by far the biggest issue for San Francisco pitching during these playoffs, which left 29 other general managers wishing they had Brian Sabean's problems.
Quirky closer Brian Wilson went 1-0 with three saves. And that was just in the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies. He allowed no earned runs in the postseason. Jeremy Affeldt(notes), Javier Lopez(notes), Santiago Casilla(notes) and others rounded out their unfairly strong mix of young, old, strange, but unhittable relievers.
Here are a few more numbers that describe the staff's domination all season long:
• The Giants went 18 straight games allowing three runs or less in September, which was the longest such streak in Major League Baseball since 1917.
• They continued that success by allowing three or less in nine of their 15 playoff games.
• Four of those game were shutouts — two coming in the World Series against a Rangers offense that led all of baseball in team batting average during the regular season. Their World Series average was .190. Lights. Out.
• We can also confirm their 2.47 postseason ERA is really good.
I won't take any credit away from the Giants offense. They stepped up and produced at a higher level than we anticipated throughout these playoffs, but let there be no doubt that the 2010 San Francisco Giants were built to win with the absolute best pitching in baseball.
That's exactly what they did all October and into the first day of November.