In a meeting of Cy Young-winning pitchers who had been brilliant this postseason, it was the offenses that stole the show at AT&T Park, headlined by San Francisco's six-run fifth inning en route to a 11-7 victory.
The Giants, who had not scored more than six runs in any of their 10 previous playoff games, pounded 14 hits. They were led by second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who had four hits, three doubles and three RBIs.
"When he gets hot, he's as hot as anybody," Giants rightfielder Cody Ross said of Sanchez. "As our No. 2 hitter, he carried us today. It was a different hero tonight. That's how our club is."
Neither starting pitcher -- Cliff Lee of the Rangers and Tim Lincecum of the Giants -- even completed the sixth inning. Lincecum gave up eight hits, two walks and four runs in 5 2/3 innings and only struck out three but improved to 39-0 in his career when receiving at least four runs of offensive support.
Lee's team had never lost a playoff game he started in eight tries, and he hadn't allowed multiple runs in an inning since Sept. 23, some 34 days and 42 innings ago. Lee, who hit a double, was less successful on the mound, allowing seven runs (six earned) in 4 2/3 innings. He was working on eight days' rest, and the rust showed in his lack of command. Sanchez doubled in all three of his plate appearances against Lee and now has nine hits in his last 13 at-bats after beginning the postseason 2-for-23.
"At the beginning of the postseason I was feeling really anxious and not comfortable," Sanchez said. "As the postseason has gone on, I've felt more comfortable and relaxed at the plate."
Though a three-time All-Star, Sanchez is rarely included in conversations about baseball's elite hitters, even though he won a batting title in 2006 with a .344 average and led the National League in doubles that year with 53. He missed the season's first 38 games while recovering from shoulder surgery but finished the year by batting .362 in his last 38 games. He became the first player in history to double in each of his first three World Series at-bats.
"For a little guy like me to go out and do that is pretty special," said Sanchez, who is listed as 5'10", 190 pounds.
In the fifth inning, Sanchez hit his third double of the game and after a strikeout, the Giants followed with a walk and two singles to chase Lee from the game. Texas summoned reliever Darren O'Day, who allowed a homer to the first batter he faced, San Francisco third baseman Juan Uribe.
"It just seemed like he got contagious there with his at-bats, and the confidence grew with the offense," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We just clicked on all cylinders tonight, and it took that because they had some good at-bats, too, and we were fighting back to get in the game."
Lincecum was similarly rocky in the first two innings but for the opposite reason as Lee -- he might have pitched too recently. Lincecum was called upon in relief in the Giants' NL Championship Series-clinching victory on Saturday and by his own admission left pitches up in the zone against the Rangers. He gave up two runs and six baserunners in the first two innings. He gave up two more runs in the sixth but only after being staked to an 8-2 lead.
"He's a good pitcher, and when you have a guy like that on the ropes, you have to try to put him away," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But you don't always put those kind of guys away. You know, they got to Cliff tonight. We didn't get to Lincecum."
The Giants used six relievers to get the final 10 outs, headlined by Santiago Casilla who got out of Lincecum's jam and pitched a scoreless seventh. San Francisco tacked on three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, before the Rangers got them all back in the top of the ninth, forcing Bochy to use three pitchers, including closer Brian Wilson, in that inning.
It was, by most measures, a sloppy game lacking in pitching-and-defense grace. There were 18 runs, 12 pitching changes and six errors even though the air was still and AT&T Park's outfield is vast -- two factors that typically depress runs.
Because the game was in an NL ballpark and teams couldn't use a designated hitter, veteran Rangers slugger Vladimir Guerrero played the outfield for only the 19th time all season and booted two balls in the eighth inning and was tentative in chasing flyballs in rightfield all night.
There were mistakes made beyond the defensive errors, too. Lincecum had a Ranger caught in what should have been an easy rundown in the second inning but chased him back to third base without throwing because he thought another Ranger already occupied the base. Later in the game Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler rounded first base wildly, thinking that Sanchez's thrown had gotten past Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff, who had in fact scooped the errant throw and quickly tagged out Kinsler before he could return safely.
Thursday's Game 2 is threatened by a chance of rain, but if it's played will feature Rangers lefthander C.J. Wilson against Giants righthander Matt Cain, as Texas attempts to shake off their series-opening disappointment.
"Cliff had a rough game tonight, that's the bottom line," Kinsler said. "But it's not going to affect how we play tomorrow night."