SAN FRANCISCO – Divine intervention often saves itself for bigger things than a baseball team, though the San Francisco Giants pose quite the case for a dose of karmic assistance. More than five decades of losing earns a miracle or two, and the Giants cashed theirs in during a 9-0 thrashing of the Texas Rangers on Thursday in Game 2 of the World Series.
Physics was defied and old heroes were reborn and what materialized as a pitchers' duel between the Giants' Matt Cain(notes) and the Rangers' C.J. Wilson(notes) devolved into an evening of the occult, fitting for a team that wears black and orange and could well win a championship Oct. 31. The Giants – the meager-hitting, pitching-centric, keep-around-the-Nitro-pills Giants – have scored 20 runs en route to victories in the Series' first two games, and shortstop Edgar Renteria(notes) came up with as good an explanation as anyone: "It's Halloween."
Close enough. The Giants resemble the undead to Rangers pitching, which coughed up seven runs in the eighth inning to turn a close game silly. Renteria, who delivered a World Series-winning hit – unlucky number alert – 13 years ago, crushed a tie-breaking home run in the fifth inning and added a two-run single when the floodgates opened later. Aaron Rowand(notes), like Renteria benched during the majority of the Giants' late-season run, blasted a triple to tack on two insurance runs. And AT&T Park pulsated with a sense of amazement: This wasn't the team that inspired broadcaster Duane Kuiper to coin the phrase "Giants baseball: Torture."
No, this was more like "Giants baseball: Spectacular."
And the spectacle began in the fifth inning, when Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler(notes) sent Cain's belt-high fastball to dead center field. Wind propelled it over center fielder Andres Torres'(notes) head and toward the wall. The ball screamed as it hit the tippy-top of the wall, and not even Einstein's relativity theory could explain what happened next: it bounced back onto the field.
Only the game's puppeteer can explain how an object with such great force can hit the top of the fence, reverse its momentum and end up as a double instead of a home run. Because Torres, the only person within 50 feet of the ball, wasn't about to chalk it up to anything beyond the celestial.
"I believe in those kind of things," he said. "When weird things happen, sometimes you get blessed. Seriously. That happened, and you're like, 'How'd that happen?' "
He wasn't arguing then, nor was he 10 minutes later when Renteria dug in against Wilson. In the final season of a disastrous two-year contract, Renteria has been a fitting representation of the Giants' offense: He was injured much of this season, and when he wasn't, he was merely unproductive.
So to see Renteria turn around perhaps the only terrible pitch Wilson threw – a 91-mph fastball that took a healthy bite of the plate – and send it deep into the night said as much about the Giants' evening as anything. When the 35-year-old Renteria is helping win ballgames, anything is possible.
"I think everybody's a little surprised that we got 20 runs in the first two games," Rowand said. "I don't think anybody expects that to continue. We're so used to playing close ballgames and nailbiters throughout the course of the season, when something like this happens, it's nice. Don't get me wrong. We're not going to go into the next game looking or thinking we're going to throw up another 10 runs."
In 141 of their 172 games prior to the World Series – including all 10 in the division series and NLCS – the Giants scored six or fewer runs. When they book seven-plus, they're 29-4.
And they owe that, as they do the majority of their success, to their pitching staff. After his 7 2/3 scoreless innings Thursday, Cain now has thrown 21 1/3 without giving up an earned run this postseason, the fifth-best streak in a single postseason. On a night where so little went by rote, Cain, too, mixed things up. He scrapped his curveball, a pitch he relied upon often during the regular season, and opted for more sliders and changeups to exploit a Rangers offense that will chase pitches out of the strike zone.
Chase they did, pitch after pitch, mustering nothing before or after Kinsler's unlucky break. The entire night turned into a cursed affair for Texas, which after so thoroughly dominating the New York Yankees in the ALCS is experiencing a Newtonian equal-and-opposite reaction.
"There's a reason that the Texas Rangers are playing in the World Series," Rowand said, "and that's because they're a very good team."
Could've fooled the Giants, the big-swinging, muscle-flexing juggernauts of Games 1 and 2. When Rowand pulled into third base standing up, he couldn't help but look at the fans with their beards dyed black or painted on using shoe polish, at the 43,622 clad in black and orange and casting their own special voodoo spells on the Rangers, and soak in the excitement and energy.
He smiled at Tim Flannery, the Giants' third base coach, and they shared, for a moment, in the evening's thrills. A ball that should've gone out didn't, and a home run that couldn't have been hit was, and an offense that was more offensive than anything morphed into machine. Weird, man. Weird.
Outside the stadium, creepiness yielded to exhilaration, and exhilaration turned convulsive, and horns honked and people screamed and no one wanted to leave China Basin. It might've been the last look they got at their Giants. Halloween is nigh. And this, they can only hope, is no trick and all treat.