All the Giants have to do is the unprecedented: beat Cliff Lee
For anyone who thinks this is a less-than-compelling matchup, consider that the two teams involved carry the third- and fourth-longest active title droughts in baseball into this World Series, and that one of those droughts will come to an end in the next nine days. This is the first time in major league history that two teams that have each played more than 43 seasons without a world championship have faced each other in the World Series. However, it is just the third time in the last eight years that both pennant winners have played more than 40 seasons without a World Series title (also 2002, when the Angels beat the Giants, and 2005, when the White Sox beat the Astros).
If that history wasn't compelling enough, consider the history being made by the Rangers' Game 1 starter, Lee. Lee (7-0, 1.26 ERA career in the postseason) has made three starts this postseason and has allowed one run or fewer while striking out 10 or more in each of them. In doing so, he became the first man ever to have three 10-strikeout games in a single postseason and tied Bob Gibson's record of three consecutive 10-strikeout games in the postseason set over the course of the 1967 and 1968 World Series. Lee has also tied Gibson by becoming just the third man in history to compile five 10-strikeout games in the postseason (a record previously tied by Randy Johnson), accomplishing that feat in just his eighth career postseason start, again matching Gibson, while far out-pacing Johnson.
Lee walked one Yankee in Game 3 of the ALCS, but in his previous four 10-strikeout postseason games, including both of his Division Series starts this year against Tampa Bay, he didn't walk a single batter, giving him exactly half of the eight 10-strikeout/no-walk games in postseason history. No other pitcher even has two. Included among those four games was Lee's domination of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of last year's World Series while with the Phillies. Lee allowed one unearned run on six hits in that game and struck out 10. Setting aside his strikeouts, among pitchers with 60 or more career postseason innings, only closer Mariano Rivera and dead-ball-era Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson have lower ERAs than Lee's 1.26, and no one, not even Rivera, has a lower WHIP than Lee's 0.73.
Lincecum made some postseason history of his own in Game 1 of the NLDS when he posted the fourth-highest
Lee has pitched against the Giants three times in his career, most recently in his Phillies debut on July 31 of last season, in which he held San Francisco to one run on four hits in a complete-game victory at AT&T Park. Just four current Giants have more than five career plate appearances against Lee. Of those four, Aubrey Huff hasn't faced Lee since 2005, and the other three (Edgar Renteria and ex-White Sox Juan Uribe and Aaron Rowand) have faced Lee just 20 times combined since he emerged as one of the game's best starters in 2008. Eleven of those 20 plate appearances were made by Renteria, who went 2-for-10 with a double, a walk and a strikeout against Lee in 2008 and 2009.
Lincecum has never faced the Rangers before and has only faced three members of their World Series roster in his career, two of whom, righties Jeff Francoeur and Jorge Cantu, will not be in the starting lineup in Game 1. The third man on the list, Vladimir Guerrero, had a pinch-hit single off Lincecum during interleague play in 2009 in what was his only career plate appearance against the Giants' ace.
Guerrero is the Rangers' primary designated hitter and cleanup man, but Texas will have to play without a DH in Games 1 and 2 (and 6 and 7, if necessary), as those games will take place in San Francisco thanks to the National League's victory in this year's All-Star Game. Rangers manager Ron Washington has said that he will play Guerrero in the outfield in at least one of the first two games, despite the fact that the 35-year-old Guerrero made just 16 starts in the outfield during the regular season and just 18 over the past two seasons combined. With both games expected to be low-scoring, well-pitched affairs (the Giants have not scored or allowed more than six runs in a game all postseason and averaged three runs scored and 2.9 allowed in the NLDS and NLCS combined), and Guerrero hitting just .267/.283/.333 thus far this postseason, that is a decision that could come back to bite the Rangers.
It is also an unnecessary one. The right-handed Guerrero hit an unexceptional .287/.328/.482 in 476 plate appearances against right-handed pitching this season. With righties Lincecum and Matt Cain scheduled to pitch the first two games in San Francisco, Washington would be better served by sticking with lefty platoon outfielder David Murphy, who is not only younger and more spry than Guerrero and thus superior in the field and on the bases, but has out-hit him both in this postseason (.200/.333/.400) and against righties during the regular season (.298/.368/.479 in 342 PA). It's not as though the Rangers would suffer for a right-handed cleanup hitter to hit behind the left-handed Josh Hamilton. Righty Nelson Cruz, who has hit .375/.419/.875 with five home runs this postseason after hitting .318/.374/.576 during the regular season, should probably be batting behind Hamilton, anyway.