Series matchup a study in underdogs
Ultimate glory awaits one franchise after decades-long wait
This is the what-in-the-World Series. Two teams that had losing records in 2008. Two teams that were last in their divisions in 2007.One goal: That ultimate Tiffany bling-bling, the 2010 Commissioner's Trophy, the prize awaiting the winner of a World Series that will be decidedly refreshing. Also, thrilling, breathtaking and compelling. Confusing, too: America loves the underdog, one way the nation's fans pick sides in marquee events. But what do you do when both sides are underdogs who overcame the odds and the big dogs expected to bully them from the junkyard? It's the National League champion San Francisco Giants against the American League kingpin Texas Rangers in the 106th World Series, landing in your living rooms with Wednesday night's Game 1 at AT&T Park, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Baseball fans often speculate about novelties, but this Series comes with two givens: It is the first to open in the NL park since 2001, courtesy of the Senior Circuit's overdue win in the All-Star Game; and that Commissioner's Trophy will be engraved with a name it hasn't borne in 56 years. The Giants last won the Fall Classic in 1954, in New York. The Rangers haven't even previously participated in the showcase, since being born in 1961 as the second-generation Washington Senators. Official date of birth: Oct. 26, 1960, when the AL establishment formally approved the expansion franchise. World Series-opening date circled on your calendar: Oct. 27. Happy Golden Anniversary, Texas. Celebrating it in AT&T Park will be a challenge. All time, the Rangers are 0-9 there, representing series sweeps in 2000, '06 and '09 -- a big chunk of the Interleague history between the teams, which the Giants lead overall, 15-7. Each team dispatched its league's defending champion in a six-game League Championship Series -- the Giants eliminating the Phillies, the Rangers toppling the Yankees. And now they turn their attention to each other, while the nation will turn its attention to introductions to a fresh cast under the center-stage floodlights.
The Rangers suit up just two players with World Series experience. Cliff Lee pitched in last year's Fall Classic for the team the Giants have just ousted. Catcher Bengie Molina has his second Classic date against the Giants -- he helped the Angels beat them in seven games in 2002.Lee is becoming the Waldo of the World Series, always popping up in the forefront. Different team, different league -- still the Game 1 pitcher. He'll get the ball on Wednesday from Texas manager Ron Washington, a year after accepting it from Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel. The Giants' World Series dossier is a bit thicker: Edgar Renteria was a Series walk-off hero for the Marlins 13 years ago and repeated with the 2004 Cardinals; Aaron Rowand and Juan Uribe were teammates on the '05 champion White Sox; Javier Lopez (Red Sox) and Jeremy Affeldt (Rockies) opposed each other in '07; and Pat Burrell got his ring with the '08 Phillies. So they have a shared inexperience in this biggest fishbowl, but otherwise they are teams of contrasts. Belied by their throttling of the Yankees' AL-best offense to 19 runs in the six ALCS games, the Rangers are an offensive force capable of putting up big numbers. They scored 787 runs in the regular season and put 38 more on the Yankees, with Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero the frying pan-and-fire in the middle of their lineup. Conversely, the Giants lead with their arms. Their gusher in the 6-5 victory in Game 4 of the NLCS was a 17-game high, the only time they have scored more than four runs since Sept. 25. Yet in that same stretch they have 12 wins, so it doesn't take much with Tim Lincecum -- he'll take on Lee in Game 1 -- and partners. The Giants were led by Aubrey Huff's 26 homers and 86 RBIs, making them the first team since the 1990 Reds to advance to a World Series without either a 30-homer or 90-RBI guy. The Reds swept that Series from the defending-champion A's. The Texas bullpen, used liberally by Washington, somewhat evens the playing field between the two pitching staffs. After a notable Game 1 hiccup against the Yankees, Rangers relievers gave the Bronx Bombers one more run in 14 collective innings. Mount a comeback against the Texas bullpen? Dare you; double-Darren you: O'Day and Oliver are the workhorse long men instrumental in getting the ball to kid closer Neftali Feliz. The 40-year-old Oliver really is a long man; he was the Rangers' starting pitcher on June 12, 1997, against the Giants in MLB's inaugural Interleague game. The seven shutout innings to enable Saturday night's NL pennant clincher underscored the Giants' bullpen as a weapon, chief in the chamber being Brian Wilson and Lopez. Against Wilson, Texas hitters are a collective 0-for-19. Lopez -- after a week as Ryan Howard's worst nightmare -- and Hamilton, the key left-handed hitter in the Texas lineup, will become inseparable. Bochy, of course, can always take the bat out of Hamilton's hands by simply walking him. In the ALCS, manager Joe Girardi wiggled four fingers five times, with mixed results: Indelible is Guerrero's tiebreaking double in Friday's clincher, but he followed Hamilton's other four intentional walks by going 0-for-4 without getting the ball out of the infield. Negating Guerrero may be easier for the Giants. The rules could do it, with the first two games (and the last two, if needed) being played without designated hitters. Guerrero has played some outfield this season, primarily in Interleague games, but only once in the last two months. He hasn't been nearly as productive when also playing defense (.234 in 17 games), making this a tough call for Washington. But having Guerrero on the bench just makes him a more selective dangerous weapon: He is 3-for-6 as a pinch-hitter this season (and 7-for-21 lifetime). Two teams that for long have had their noses pressed against the window are pulling up chairs at the banquet table, ready to dig in. This will be a feast, America. The Beard Bunch -- Wilson and fellow reliever Sergio Romo are only a few inches shy of being the Giants' ZZ Top -- against "The Claw" and "The Antlers." Two teams cut from the same cloth, definitely blue collar, not satin. These are teams of everymen. These teams are you, America. You are going to share the love with Molina. "I have a lot of friends and guys that I love over there," Molina said. "We were like brothers." They still are. Beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, however, they will be Cain and Abel.