Monday November 1st, 2010

ARLINGTON, Texas -- SI's Joe Lemire provides ongoing commentary and analysis throughout tonight's World Series Game 5 between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.

For complete play-by-play, click here. For an updated box score, click here. For a complete game recap, click here.

Instant analysis from the Giants 3-1 victory in Game 5 to win the World Series:

• This is the Giants' first World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958. They had won five previous championships back when they called New York home, last winning in 1954.

• By virtue of his three-run homer in the seventh -- his second game-winning RBIs of this series and second series-winning RBIs of any World Series, having won the 1997 series -- shortstop Edgar Renteria was named Series MVP. He batted 7-for-17 with two homers, six RBIs and six runs in the series.

• Tim Lincecum was brilliant, throwing 71 of his 101 pitches for strikes and getting 16 swing-and-miss strikes, 10 of them on his slider, a pitch he only fully incorporated into his arsenal over the past month. He struck out 10 while allowing only three hits, two walks and one run.

• Seven of the last eight World Series now have ended in four or five games.

Turns out Brian Wilson was a great choice for the ninth inning. He struck out Josh Hamilton, induced a harmless groundout from Vladimir Guerrero and then struck out Nelson Cruz to end the game and the World Series -- the Giants are champs.

Wow. Neftali Feliz was so dominant one has to wonder why he didn't get a chance to pitch in Game 1 or 2 of this series when the Rangers also trailed late in the game, before giving up too many insurance runs. If Texas rallies, perhaps they'll have a new game plan. But in three outs, it could be moot.

With the bottom of the eighth inning cleared, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has a three-choice question to answer for the ninth inning. Does he keep starter Tim Lincecum in the game to finish his dominant performance? Does he go to closer Brian Wilson for the final three outs? Or, with lefty Josh Hamilton leading off, does he go to left-handed specialist Javier Lopez?

The vote here is to keep Lincecum -- who's thrown only 101 pitches and against whom Hamilton is 0-for-6 this series -- on the mound but with Wilson and Lopez warming. Bring in Wilson if a runner reaches second base, and have Lopez ready just in case, maybe for lefty David Murphy, due up fifth in the inning.

Even though Cliff Lee basically made just one bad pitch in the seventh, Texas manager Ron Washington removed him from the game without even letting him start the eighth. Washington made the signal to closer Neftali Feliz, presumably to let him pitch the next two innings.

What's odd is that Feliz has only pitched two full innings three times this season, and Lee had thrown only 95 pitches. Why not let Lee start the inning with Feliz warming in the bullpen in case of trouble?

Nelson Cruz's solo home run was obviously a much-needed run for the Rangers to start to -- pun sadly intended -- claw back. (I don't know how to work "antler" into that sentence.) But the Ian Kinsler walk is also important for two reasons: A few more pitches off Tim Lincecum and another spot cycled through the lineup. That extra spot ensures that Cruz will get another at bat and, even if Texas goes 1-2-3 in the eighth, its slumping middle-of-the-order hitters (Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Cruz) will get an extra shot at redemption.

I don't even know how to look it up, but I think it's safe to say that Edgar Renteria is carving out a one-man fraternity, if this score holds up, thanks to his three-run homer: two World Series game-winning RBIs and one World Series-ending out. He famously singled home the winning run for the Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series and also made the final out in 2004 Game 4 as the Cardinals lost to the Red Sox.

It's hard to second guess pitting one's ace against an NL team's No. 8 hitter -- especially one who hit .276 with only three homers in the regular season -- but with first base open, Cliff Lee might have been smart to either intentionally walk the recently red-hot Renteria or at least nibble around the edges more carefully, with Aaron Rowand on deck. Rowand has started just seven games since Sept. 1.

The pre-Series hype was that the Rangers' big bats were their key advantage over the Giants. Yet Josh Hamilton, who grounded out with a runner on and two outs to end the sixth, is 2-for-19, while Vladimir Guerrero is 1-for-12 and Nelson Cruz is 3-for-18. Collectively, they are 6-for-49 -- a .122 average.

The second base bag looks lonely. Not as lonely as third base, of course, because at least at second some fielders have touched the bag on a fielder's choice and a double play. But no baserunner has reached second base, a fact ensured by Texas rightfielder Nelson Cruz's leaping catch against the wall to take away an extra-base hit from Giants catcher Buster Posey.

Sorry, I blinked. What happened?

(Apparently, Tim Lincecum set down the Rangers 1-2-3 on eight pitches, all strikes. Man, this game is going fast.)

Cliff Lee had a nontraditional 1-2-3 inning, thanks to first baseman Mitch Moreland's error, dropping a throw from Ian Kinsler, but the Rangers turned a double play two batters later. The game is half old in 79 minutes, a pace for a 2:22 game. The Monday Night Football game is only at the first quarter's midpoint, so perhaps this World Series game can retain its viewers through the rest of the swift game, as fans at home will know they can catch the second half of the football when this is over -- unless it's still scoreless in the 15th inning.

A leadoff single and 19 pitches of exertion out of Tim Lincecum counts as a moral victory in this game, the pitcher's duel we all thought we'd see in Game 1, especially since the base hit was Texas' first.

But Lincecum bore down late in at bats, pounding four fastballs that Josh Hamilton did his best to foul off -- one of which hit reached 94 -- before burying a slider in the dirt for a swinging strikeout. The final two pitches of the Nelson Cruz strikeout followed the same: a 93 mph fastball strike at his knees and then a slider at the ankles.

Through the seven half-innings of this game, there have been only three baserunners. None has reached with fewer than two outs in the innings, and none has passed second base.

The Rangers' Cliff Lee has allowed two singles through four innings, and the Giants Tim Lincecum has given up just one walk through three frames.

Many savvy pitchers say that strikeouts are overrated because they often require extra pitches in the song-and-dance of trying to get the hitter to chase pitches out of the zone. But if you're stuff is as filthy as Tim Lincecum's has been tonight, then it's not that taxing. He struck out the side -- but did walk one batter -- and needed only 10 pitches for the three strikeouts, getting David Murphy and Bengie Molina on three pitches each and Elvis Andrus on four pitches. Four of the nine strikes were pure swings and misses and a fifth was a foul tip into catcher Buster Posey's glove.

Overall, Lincecum threw 15 pitches in the inning and is only at 34 through three innings.

The Giants aren't exactly exhibiting patience, either. Four hitters came to the plate that inning and two saw only one pitch and the other two saw only three. But that was their plan for Game 1 against Cliff Lee because he throws 75 percent fastballs and 69.8 percent of his first pitches were strikes.

In a rapidly moving start to the game, only four of the first 17 batters have seen more than four pitches.

Do the Rangers' hitters have a tee time tomorrow? They're in a rush to make outs. Two of the three outs that inning (Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz) were on the first pitch en route to a six-pitch inning. Similarly, their leadoff hitter, Elvis Andrus, grounded out on a 1-0 pitch in the first. Lincecum has expended just 19 pitches through two innings.

Much has been made about Pat Burrell's distaste for being the designated hitter, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy revealed that there was no discussion about his comfort level at the position. Bochy told reporters, "I just said, 'You're going to DH. You've done it.' And he's excited." Burrell at DH definitely makes for the best possible San Francisco lineup tonight, and Burrell just had his best swing of the World Series, a sharply hit liner to the leftfield warning track -- an out, but only the second one of those he put in play.

En garde. Tim Lincecum sees Cliff Lee's first inning and raises him. Lincecum set the Rangers down 1-2-3, with only one reasonably hit ball, an ultimately harmless flyball off Michael Young's bat that died in front of the rightfield warning track and likely only made it that far because of the wind blowing out in that direction.

Lincecum came out amped with more life on his fastball than in Game 1, when it averaged 91.2 mph and topped out at 92.8. In the first inning of Game 5 tonight, he averaged 92.0 and reached 93.3.

While momentum can be overstated in a sport like baseball, there's some truth to that old Earl Weaver adage that "momentum is the next day's starting pitcher." For the Rangers that means Cliff Lee, the brilliant postseason starter whose only career playoff hiccup -- unfortunately for Texas -- happened in the first game of this series.

But Lee worked around a single from Buster Posey and looked much, much sharper than he did in Game 1. And by getting two swinging strikes, he already matched the work of teammate Tommy Hunter in four forgettable innings last night.

And so while it's true that any quick inning is good for the home team, a top of the first like that is especially reassuring to a fan base worried about their ace.

The timing was likely innocent, but it was curious that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels entered the official Major League Baseball interview room this afternoon and entertained a number of questions about Texas' offseason and franchise direction for the future. Though likely intended as a courtesy for the local media -- this is, no matter what, the final game of the season in Arlington -- but it almost came across as defeatist, with the Rangers facing elimination down 3-1 in the World Series.

The Rangers are trotting out most of the same lineup as the past two games, except lefty David Murphy is in the outfield against righty Giants starter Tim Lincecum, rather than right-handed hitter Jeff Francoeur.

The Giants, meanwhile, continue to reinvent their lineup on the fly. Pat Burrell makes his return as designated hitter but is batting seventh, as Cody Ross jumps to fourth, Juan Uribe to fifth and lefty-swinging Aubrey Huff back down to sixth against Texas' lefty ace, Cliff Lee.

The Game 1 pitching matchup fell flat -- in an 11-7 Giants win in which there were 18 runs, 25 hits, six errors and 12 pitchers used -- so anything would be an improvement in the Lincecum vs. Lee rematch. Champagne awaits the Giants in the locker room if only they can win one more.

The atmosphere around San Francisco is sufficiently loose that, in a lighter moment, a reporter asked manager Bruce Bochy what a child would have to do dress up as him for Halloween, much like a seven-year-old did to look like Rangers manager Ron Washington.

"Well, he'd have to blow his head up somehow," Bochy said. "I don't know how he would do it. Put a lot of air in it, and he would get close. I don't think you're going to find too many kids that could do that with me. But actually he did look like Ron. I told him it was a little scary."

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