ARLINGTON, Texas – A sophisticated city by a magnificent bay parched for a baseball championship can pop corks and douse itself in bubbly. The San Francisco Giants won their first World Series with a 3-1 Game 5 victory over the Texas Rangers. It was the first title for the Giants franchise since 1954, four years before they moved from New York.
Giants shortstop Edgar Renteria(notes), in the twilight of a career highlighted by the winning hit in the 1997 World Series, smacked a three-run home run in the seventh inning Monday night after telling a teammate he would do it, and Tim Lincecum(notes) and closer Brian Wilson(notes) made the lead stand up, the last out coming on a strikeout of Nelson Cruz(notes) at 9:30 p.m. CT at Rangers Ballpark. Wilson was embraced by rookie catcher Buster Posey(notes) and engulfed by teammates seconds later.
Willie Mays must have let out a joyous “Say hey!” Juan Marichal might have approximated his signature high leg kick. Barry Bonds might have allowed himself a smile. A proud franchise that has more victories than any other – yes, including the New York Yankees – finally delivered a championship to San Francisco.
Facing Cliff Lee(notes), a pitcher who until this Series had been invincible in two consecutive postseasons, Renteria drove a 2-0 cut fastball over the fence in left-center field, silencing the sellout crowd of 52,045 and scoring Cody Ross(notes) and Juan Uribe(notes) ahead of him. Renteria, who batted .412 in the Series, was named Most Valuable Player.
The drought included Series losses in 1962, 1989 and 2002. It included the long and storied careers of Willie McCovey, Will Clark, Bobby Bonds and his more celebrated son. It included managers from Bill Rigney, Alvin Dark and Herman Franks in the 1960s to Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou in the 2000s. And it lingered through the Summer of Love, a major earthquake and the turn of a century.
[Audience participation: Giants fans sing along to Journey anthem]
“For us to win for our fans – it’s never been done there with all those great teams – that was a euphoric feeling,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “All those (former players) were in the clubhouse so many times and they were pulling for these guys to win. They helped us get here.”
[Photos: See more of the World Series champions]
The Giants won on the strength of tremendous young pitching and a collection of mostly short-term rentals around the horn, players that Bochy affectionately called “castoffs and misfits.” No Giants player ranked in the top 10 in any significant statistical category during the regular season.
But as San Francisco eliminated the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies en route to the National League pennant, a succession of unlikely postseason heroes emerged: Ross, Uribe, Aubrey Huff(notes), Freddy Sanchez(notes) and, finally, Renteria.
He told teammate Andres Torres before the seventh-inning at-bat that he was going to go deep.
“I got confidence in me, but I was joking like I’m going to get it out,” Renteria said. “But it went out. I got confident, looking for one pitch. So he threw the cutter and it came back to the middle of the plate,”
Renteria’s walk-off RBI single for the Florida Marlins won Game 7 of the 1997 Series and he became only the fourth player in history to drive home the winning run in two clinching games, joining Hall-of-Famers Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.
“This was the same emotion, the same feeling,” Renteria said.
Bochy had a talk with Renteria before the playoffs, telling the 35-year-old shortstop that he’d be counted upon even though injuries had kept him out of the lineup so much of the regular season that he was contemplating retirement. Renteria replied that he just wanted to win another World Series.
“He looked like the young Renteria I remember when he first came up,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Lincecum, who outdueled Lee for the second time in the Series, lauded Renteria’s defense as well as his bat. Then he extended the praise to the entire team, saying, “We wanted to nail it down today. You can’t say enough about so many guys coming into big games and doing their thing.”
Lincecum’s thing includes the quirky. If a black cat is bad luck, a black cap is the best luck when worn by him. Stained and shabby, the same cap has been on Lincecum’s magnificently hairy head since he broke in with the Giants in 2007. He won Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009 with it, and went eight brilliant innings against the Rangers with it.
A home run by Cruz in the seventh was the only damage against Lincecum, who struck out 10, walked two and allowed three hits. The Rangers never did figure out Giants’ pitching. They were shut out in Games 2 and 4 with young starters Matt Cain(notes) and Madison Bumgarner(notes) getting the wins. And Lincecum beat them in Games 1 and 5.
Josh Hamilton(notes), Vladimir Guerrero(notes) and Cruz – the heart of a Texas lineup that had bashed its way past the Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees in the postseason – were a combined 7 for 54 in the Series. Wilson retired those three batters in order in the ninth and a celebration began that reverberated all the way to the Pacific, all the way to San Francisco.