Monday November 1st, 2010

Five cuts from Game 4 of the World Series, a 4-0 victory for the Giants.

In the spirit of the day, the Giants' Madison Bumgarner showed up dressed like Cliff Lee, spinning eight shutout innings in which he allowed just one Ranger to reach second base and none to reach third. Bumgarner allowed three singles and two walks, striking out six in becoming one of the youngest pitchers to throw eight shutout innings in the World Series. The rookie southpaw needed just 106 pitches over eight innings, in which the Rangers hit balls to the outfield just seven times. His effort put the Giants within one win of the first World Championship since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958, and the first for the franchise since 1954.

The Giants have been here before, though. They're 0-3 in Series-clinching games since that '54 team, led by Willie Mays, swept one of the great AL teams of all time, the 111-43 Indians. In 1962, they trailed 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth against the Yankees, with the tying and winning runs in scoring position, when Willie McCovey crushed a line drive right at second baseman Bobby Richardson, ending the game, the Series and the season. Fans of "Peanuts" will recall one of the strip's most famous panels, ending with Charlie Brown lamenting, "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?" Forty years later, the Giants had two chances to put away the Angels, but squandered a five-run lead in the seventh inning, then lost the next night after taking an early 1-0 lead, 4-1. The good news? No Giants team has ever blown a 3-1 lead; the only previous edition that ever had a 3-1 lead in the World Series, the 1933 Giants, ended the Series in Game Five. Maybe 77-year-old data points don't mean much to you, but it's deep into the night on Halloween, so why not call upon some ghosts?

Once again, the team that showed the most power won the game. The Giants connected with a two-run homer by Aubrey Huff, a ringing double into the right-center gap by Andres Torres, and a solo shot by Buster Posey for all of the game's runs. Of the 10 runs scored in Arlington the past two nights, nine have come on homers and the tenth on a double. That runs the big-ball count in the this series to 27 of the 38 runs, and a number of the others stem from that stathead invention, the base on balls. The Giants, by hitting for more power than their opponents for the third straight series, are one win away from being the latest shining example of the golden rule of postseason baseball: ball go far, team go far.

Game Five starters Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee would prefer that no one bring up Game One. The two combined to allow 11 runs on 16 hits in just 10 1/3 innings. Both have pitched so well this month that the disaster starts raised their respective ERAs to just 1.76 and 1.93. It's the last start of the season for both pitchers, and you can expect they'll both leave it on the mound looking to provide a better memory to take into their offseason than the non-quality starts of last Wednesday. The matchup favors Lincecum, as it did a week ago, because of the heavily right-handed nature of both teams' lineups. Look for Lee to have solved his problems locating two-strike pitches -- many of the hits he allowed last week came in pitchers' counts -- while Lincecum may take a more aggressive tack against a Rangers' team that came out very patient against him in the early innings of Game One. We didn't get it in that first game, but look for a pitchers' duel that features more zeroes than your typical statewide ballot.

Rangers' fans looking for a straw to grasp don't have much in their own team's history -- they had never won a postseason series until three weeks ago -- or in their city's. No Dallas team has ever been part of a comeback from 3-1 down. The last team to turn the trick in the World Series was the 1985 Royals, who needed arguably the worst umpiring mistake in baseball history -- Don Denkinger's blown call at first base that sparked a ninth-inning Royals rally from down 1-0 in Game Six -- to send the Series to a deciding seventh game. Since then, eight teams have been down 3-1, and all eight have lost the Series. We may be due; since the first time a team turned the trick in a best-of-seven -- the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates -- the longest we've gone without watching a team do it is 33 years, between those Pirates and the 1958 Yankees. It's been a quarter-century since those Royals made history, so maybe it's about time it happened again.

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