SAN FRANCISCO -- They ask him all the time, of course. They ask him all the time about the famous hit. Edgar Renteria was just 22 then, baby-faced and skinny, when he laced his game-winning RBI single for the Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Yes, his Giants teammates ask him all the time about the most famous hit in Marlins history -- one of the great moments in World Series history -- but when they ask, the shortstop doesn't really have much to say. That's the past, he says to them. "It was a long time ago," he said on Thursday night, standing in front of his locker in the Giants clubhouse. "Thirteen years ago. A long time ago."
Renteria is now 35, and his baseball days are numbered. He's thicker and slower, his bat speed has vanished, his Gold Glove range at shortstop is gone. His body is falling apart. He landed on the DL three times this season. He partially tore his left biceps in August, then completely tore it while swinging a bat against the Braves in the Division Series. But he has played on --- "I'm just trying to survive," he says -- and in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2 of the World Series, he delivered the biggest hit of the night for the Giants. With one out in a scoreless game, Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson delivered an 0-1 fastball to San Francisco's No. 8 hitter, who drove it over the wall in leftfield. With that improbable home run swing, Edgar Renteria became an October hero again.
Yes, Game 2 would eventually turn into a laugher. Yes, the Giants, thanks to a stunning implosion by the Rangers bullpen, would eventually score seven runs in the ugly eighth and win 9-0 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. But make no mistake: Renteria's home run was the biggest moment in a game that was the pitchers' duel everyone expected in Game 1. Both starters, Matt Cain and Wilson, were rolling and dominant through the early innings. "The way Wilson was throwing, you knew this was going to be a tight game," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "Our guy was throwing well, too, and one run could be the difference. When Edgar hit the ball out, you know there's a chance that that could be the game right there the way those two guys were throwing the ball. They both were on top of their game and certainly it did a lot for us to get that home run because we weren't doing much off of them."
In the eighth, Renteria stepped up to the plate and delivered again, with a two-run ground-ball single that broke the game open for the Giants. "He's been playing like he was 10 years ago," Bochy said after the win. Of all the Giants' great postseason stories, from Cody Ross to Juan Uribe, Renteria's is the most improbable. He has always been known as an October hero because of that night 13 years ago in South Florida, but really, most of his Octobers have been full of failure. Over seven postseasons in his 15-year career, he has played in 63 games with 266 plate appearances, and hit just .241. Until Game 2, he had homered just once --- in Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS as a Cardinal. That October, he made the final out for St. Louis in the World Series.
This season, Renteria has been talking a lot about leaving the game. "It's been a tough year for him," says Bochy. "The ups and downs, the injuries, he'd come back and reinjure something else." His body has been telling his that it's time. But it's funny what one beautiful swing in October can do. "It's a good feeling right now," he said on Thursday night with a big smile, as if he were 22 again and playing in his first postseason. "I'm enjoying it. Right now, I feel great."