Five Cuts: Giants, Rangers power way to World Series showdown

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The Giants last won the pennant in 2002, while the Rangers had never won one in the franchise's 50-year history, dating to their origins as the "second" Washington Senators. That total -- 56 pennant-free campaigns -- is the highest for the World Series teams since 2005, when the Chicago White Sox (45) and Houston Astros (44) combined for an all-time record of 89 Frustration Points. It's the third-highest of all time next to 2005 and the 1948 Series between the Cleveland Indians (27 empty years) and the Boston Braves (33). With the Rangers in the World Series, the only MLB franchises to have never reached the World Series are the Seattle Mariners (34 seasons) and the Washington Nationals (born Montreal Expos, 42 seasons).

Bengie Molina opened the season as the Giants' starting catcher, but the emergence of Buster Posey made him expendable by June. GM Brian Sabean sent Molina to Texas on July 1, and while his overall line was not impressive -- .240/.279/.320 and just one in four basestealers thrown out -- Molina did hit the three-run homer in ALCS Game 4 that swung the series to the Rangers. No matter what happens over the next two weeks, Molina, per MLB custom, will earn his second World Series ring. The last player to play for both pennant winners in the same season was reliever Jim Bruske, who had cameos totaling 16 innings for the Yankees and Padres in 1998 (and appeared on neither team's World Series roster).

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Russ Hodges' chill-inducing call from the Polo Grounds nearly 60 years ago fit just perfectly in Citizens Bank Park late Saturday night, as Brian Wilson's perfect slider along the bottom of the zone caught the Phillies' Ryan Howard looking and sent the Giants to just their fourth World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958. The Giants have not won a World Series in San Francisco -- the franchise's last title came in 1954, when they were still playing games in Manhattan. They haven't been boring, though: their three trips to the Fall Classic representing the Bay Area have included two seven-game Series (1962 against the Yankees and 2002 against the Angels) and maybe the most famous sweep ever, the 1989 Bay Bridge Series versus the A's that was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake.

The World Series No One Predicted has the potential to be a classic. The two teams have excellent rotations, deep bullpens and strong defenses -- each the best in its league based on how well the teams turn balls in play into outs. The Rangers have more speed, the Giants more power, though neither team is anything special offensively, and each is very reliant on the middle of its order. The two managers get significant credit as leaders, while showing tactical weakness that can drive hardcore fans crazy. See Ron Washington's strange use of closer Neftali Feliz in the ALCS, as well as Bruce Bochy's burial of third baseman Pablo Sandoval, for two notable examples. The Rangers' higher team OBP, their better defense and their possessing the best player in the series -- probable AL MVP Josh Hamilton -- all serve to make them the small favorite in a series that is certainly too close to call.