Giants wielding confidence, momentum
SAN FRANCISCO -- A seven-game World Series is a mini-marathon of sorts, but nothing is more important than Game 1. Except maybe Game 7.This World Series has a long way to go, with expected twists and turns, but if the underdog Giants go on to win it -- which I think they will -- they'll look back to Wednesday night's 11-7 thrashing of the Rangers as an enormous confidence builder. When you kayo the invincible Cliff Lee in the fifth inning during an avalanche of hits and runs, all with two outs, it speaks volumes of what these Giants are capable of. I said it once before, and I'll say it again: This is a team of destiny. It was in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series when the giddy Giants defeated the Phillies' 21-game winner, Roy Halladay, setting the stage for their unexpected trip to the 106th World Series. Halladay, much like Lee, with three superb wins this October, had pitched only the second no-hitter in postseason history to open the NL Division Series.
To the Giants, that was yesterday's news.And on Wednesday night, in front of a deliriously happy pom-pom waving AT&T crowd of 43,601, they not only handed Lee his first postseason setback, but they did it in brutal fashion. And oh, yes. The Game 1 winner has gone on to win the World Series 61 percent of the time -- six of the past seven, and 11 of the past 13. Lee walked to the mound on Wednesday night with a 7-0 postseason record and an inhuman ERA of 1.26. His ERA this postseason was a gaudy 0.75. When I asked Giants manager Bruce Bochy about the confidence angle, it was obvious his adrenalin was flowing. He tried to downplay it, but failed. "Well, it's something that hopefully the hitters can build on," he said. "You get confidence like that." Rambling a bit, he added: "It's not quite the game we thought it would be. But certainly a huge game for us, and we needed the runs." On Wednesday night, the Giants had as many hits (nine) with runners in scoring position as they had against the Phillies in the entire six-game NLCS. A firestorm of three doubles by the forgotten Freddy Sanchez led the 14-hit attack, but it was one quality at-bat after another that made the Giants so successful with two outs. None was more important than Pat Burrell's full-count walk with Sanchez on second, a run in and two down in the fifth. Cody Ross singled in the second run and when Aubrey Huff put the Giants ahead, 3-2, with another single Lee was finished. Jose Uribe's three-run homer off reliever Darren O'Day completed the six-run outburst. "We're not a team that tries to slug it with other teams," Bochy said, "but today they threw out some great at-bats." Sanchez, the 2006 NL batting champion, also chipped in with a ninth-inning single, his four hits matching the Giants' World Series single-game record. His three doubles in his first three Series at-bats was a record. "You never think you're going to have success against a pitcher like that," said Sanchez. "We knew that he throws a lot of strikes and gets ahead in the count early. I just tried to see the ball deep. I tried to attack early, swung at the first pitch of the game." Lee said "I didn't work ahead in the count aggressively. I missed up. I missed over the plate. Professional hitters take advantage of that stuff." Lee added: "It's not acceptable for me; I've got to do a better job of damage control. But you've got to give credit to the hitters." Working the count, with the game play to produce quality at-bats, boosted Lee's pitch count to 104 when he left the game. The seven earned runs he allowed were the most he'd given up in his nine previous postseason starts. Last year, pitching for the Phillies, he gave up five earned runs to the Yankees in Game 5. When he left with two out in the fifth inning, it was the shortest outing in his postseason career. Until the sloppy ninth inning, the Giants had limited the meat of the Texas batting order -- Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz -- to one infield single Normally, when Lee gets a 2-0 lead after two innings, he sails. But Tim Lincecum was able to right his ship and at one stage retired 13 of 14 Rangers in order. It was Lincecum's recovery from the shaky start that made it possible for the Giants to roar back from the 2-0 deficit. "After a couple of innings, the team gave me a chance to settle down, scored their runs and gave me a chance to just kind of get into my mode," Lincecum said. "I was just kind of battling myself, hitting spots, with balls up in the zone a lot." So, the Giants, propelled by momentum, send Matt Cain to the mound on Thursday night. San Francisco has had trouble scoring most of the season, but Wednesday night should serve to be more than an aberration. "This is a crazy game," said Sanchez. "One day, you do great things; the next day, you don't do anything right." On Wednesday night, it was everything right, which convinced the Giants it can continue.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.