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The Giants have held serve by winning Games 1 and 2 of the World Series at home and in convincing, albeit unorthodox (for them), fashion.
• San Francisco scored 30 runs in its first 10 playoff games; it has scored 20 runs in its past two World Series games.
• Giants starter Matt Cain hasn't allowed an earned run in 21 1/3 innings. He has now thrown the third most innings in a single postseason without allowing an earned run. He is only exceeded by Christy Mathewson in 1905 and Walter Hoyt in 1921, each of whom threw 27 innings with a 0.00 ERA.
• The Rangers' bullpen has been a major failing. They entered with an ERA of 4.36 in the playoffs, having blown two late-game leads. In Game 2 they set two records they'd rather not have: in the eighth inning, Derek Holland became the first pitcher in World Series history to throw 10 or more pitches and not throw more than one strike. Also, he and Mark Lewis walked four consecutive hitters, also a World Series first.
• Giants shortstop Edgar Renteria hit only his second career postseason home run in 63 games. His three RBIs were a single-game postseason high.
• It wasn't been all good news for the Giants tonight: Not one of their top four batters had a hit until catcher Buster Posey blooped a soft liner for a single with two outs in the eighth. Prior to that, the team's 1-4 hitters -- Andres Torres, Freddy Sanchez, Posey and Pat Burrell -- had gone a collective 0-for-13 with one walk.
• The New York Timesreported Thursday that Giants outfielder Jose Guillen was kept off San Francisco's postseason roster because he was linked to an investigation into human growth hormone shipments. It's a fascinating what-if question to wonder what would have happened had he played in the playoffs. His playing time likely would have come at the expense of at bats for Cody Ross, who has been the Giants' top hitter in October.
If you can recall the enthusiasm of the fan recognizing Enrico Palazzo in the first Naked Gun movie, that should have been the vigor in which Giants reliever Guillermo Mota was received as he entered the ninth of this inning. Mota has been on San Francisco's roster for all three rounds of the postseason, but his appearance in the ninth inning was his first. It seems to make all of the debates about whether Mota or Barry Zito should be the 25th man on the roster seem irrelevant.
And the game is officially out of hand, thanks to the Texas bullpen.
Derek Holland made the wrong kind of history for the Rangers in the eighth. Working in relief of Darren O'Day, Holland entered the game with two outs and a man on first and then threw 13 pitches -- and only one strike. His first 11 deliveries were all out of the strike zone and so was his 13th, as he walked three batters consecutively, leading to a Giants insurance run.
According to a search on baseball-reference.com, Holland is the first pitcher in postseason history to throw 10 or more pitches and throw no more than one strike.
Of course, Holland shouldn't feel too bad, as his successor on the mound, Mark Lowe, fared little better, walking the first batter he faced -- the fourth consecutive walk drawn by the Giants, a World Series record -- and then allowing a two-RBI single to Edgar Renteria.
Rangers manager Ron Washington has now gone to his bullpen nine times in this series and not yet summoned closer Neftali Feliz.
The loudest ovation of the game -- on a night when Lady Antebellum sang the national anthem and 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and Journey frontman Steve Perry were in the building -- went to San Francisco starter Matt Cain, who exited the ballgame with a 2-0 lead with two outs in the eighth.
He has now thrown 21 1/3 innings this posteason --all at home -- without allowing an earned run. Cain, a flyball pitcher, was notably better at home this year. In AT&T Park he was 8-4 with a 2.93 ERA and .208 average against; on the road he was 5-7 with a 3.35 ERA.
Also of note: Giants lefthanded specialist Javier Lopez got his first crack at Rangers MVP candidate Josh Hamilton -- and Lopez won, ending the inning and inducing a harmless flyout to centerfield. Lopez held Phillies' Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to a combined 1-for-10 with a double and four strikeouts but Hamilton was 1-for-3 with a walk off him in four prior meetings.
Nothing beats a little late-inning AFLAC: The Giants added an insurance run after Cody Ross worked a 10-pitch walk, after which Rangers starter C.J. Wilson exited the game, apparently because of a recurring blister on his pitching hand. Wilson exited after a visit from manager Ron Washington and the team trainer but walked off shaking his head, suggesting that he didn't want to leave and wanted to remain in the game.
Instead, reliever Darren Oliver entered the game, inducing a groundout from Aubrey Huff, which advanced Ross to second. Next up was righty Juan Uribe. Washington had a righthanded reliever ready in the bullpen, but it was Darren O'Day, the sidearmer whom Uribe homered off in Game 1. Washington kept Oliver in the game, and Uribe made Texas pay again, this time with an RBI single to make it a 2-0 game.
The matter-of-fact, generally stoic Matt Cain was asked on Wednesday how he'd be able to sleep before making his first career World Series start, he replied, "Close your eyes."
His Giants teammates alternately make that peace of mind easy and hard. The hard part is their lack of run support for him -- one run tonight and one run or fewer while he was on the mound in 12 of his 33 starts this season -- and the easy part is their defensive capabilities, at least late in the game. Nate Schierholtz continues to be Pat Burrell's tag-team partner in the outfield. As soon as the Giants have the lead and the game reaches the sixth or seventh inning (depending on when Burrell had his last at bat), manager Bruce Bochy pulls Burrell from left to put Schierholtz in right and push Cody Ross from right to left.
The second batter of the inning, Texas catcher Matt Treanor, sharply lined a ball into the triangle in right-centerfield, but Schierholtz tracked it down after a long run, one play after Ross ranged far to the leftfield foul line for a catch.
The slider is typically a pitch for a righthanded pitcher to get out righties and lefthanders to throw to lefties -- against hitters of the opposite side, the pitch breaks into the swing. But C. J. Wilson is using it expertly against righthanders too.
Facing righties Freddy Sanchez, Buster Posey and Pat Burrell in the sixth, Wilson threw sliders on half his pitches (9 out of 18). Posey was so fooled on a slider that his bat flew out of his hands an into the stands for a strikeout. Burrell grounded out to third on a slider.
Cody Ross is an honest guy, so he'll probably admit after the game what we all suspect: He got very luck on Josh Hamilton's single to rightfield. With Michael Young already on first base, Hamilton lined a ball just in front of Ross, who dove for the catch but failed to make the grab, but while he was practically lying prone, the ball skipped into his glove. To his credit, he recovered and quickly fired the ball into second base, holding Young there.
Giants starter Matt Cain threw a wild pitch, pushing Young and Hamilton both 90 feet closer to home, but a Nelson Cruz foul pop-up and an Ian Kinsler flyout to right preserved the shutout and the lead.
Cain has used 80 pitches to get through six innings -- nine of his outs, like the last two in the sixth, coming through the air -- and now hasn't allowed an earned run in 19 2/3 innings.
Edgar Renteria will always be identified as a postseason hero, thanks to his game-winning RBI single for the Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. He was a second-year player then and now in his 15th season, he's delivered another huge hit, starting the scoring in Game 2 by homering on an 0-1 fastball.
Renteria has played in 63 games over seven postseasons, totaling 266 plate appearances, and that was only his second playoff home run. The other -- and surely you remember -- came in a losing NLDS Game 3 effort in 2001 with the Cardinals. (Okay, I had to look it up too.)If anything, Renteria ought to have less power this postseason: He's playing with an injury to his left biceps. Maybe Popeye gave him some regenerative spinach before the game.
Teams of destiny get every break: the balls that bounce the right way and the winds that die at the right time. Ian Kinsler led off the fifth by soaring a flyball that surely would have left the playing field to left-center field had he hit it a few innings prior -- or had he eaten a slightly bigger lunch today.
But the fierce winds have died to nearly still over the past inning, just in time to prevent Kinsler's ball from getting a boost, and so it landed on the edge of the top of the wall and bounced back relatively harmlessly to waiting Giants centerfielder Andres Torres, who threw it back in, holding Kinsler to a double. San Francisco starter Matt Cain, who this season held batters to a .233 average with no one on but a .201 average with runners on base, promptly got three outs, while allowing only one additional baserunner to an intentional walk.
And there's the payoff for the Rangers' rightfield switcheroo. Giants leftfielder Pat Burrell was standing on first base with two outs when Aubrey Huff lined a C.J. Wilson fastball to the right-center gap, but Nelson Cruz ran over and made a nice play -- and a play Vladimir Guerrero surely would not have made had he been positioned there, as he was last night.
Though Huff is 0-for-2, that last ball was sharply hit, and combined with his 2-for-3 performance off Cliff Lee last night -- like Wilson, a lefty -- Huff has shown to be locked in against southpaws. Then again, he actually had a higher average against lefties (.296) than righties (.287) this season, a rare reverse split for a lefthanded hitter. It also suggests that maybe San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy was over-managing by demoting Huff from third to sixth in these first two World Series games.
Matt Cain needed just 10 pitches to retire Texas' 2-3-4 hitters in the fourth, as Game 2 is through three and a half innings in 56 minutes, a pace for a full-game time of 2:24. It's Game 3 that's starting an hour earlier to be child-friendly, but this one is on pace to be just as accommodating to youngsters.
Josh Hamilton is helping that pace, having swung at and flied out on the first pitch. He swung at 40.6 percent of first-pitches this season but has swung at the first pitch of four of his seven plate appearances this World Series, resulting in an 0-for-6 and a walk.
Cliff Lee? Tim Lincecum? Who needs them? While both teams' aces were hit hard in Game 1, the No. 2 starters, Matt Cain and C.J. Wilson, have looked very sharp through three innings. Both fit a similar profile of having performances that outshine their reputations, in part because of the men they follow in the rotation.
Wilson has thrown a wide arsenal, according to the Pitch F/X data over at brooksbaseball.net. Of his 44 pitches, he's thrown 27 fastball derivatives -- i.e. 16 four-seam fastballs, five two-seam fastballs and six cutters -- but also thrown nine sliders, four curveballs and four changeups. By velocity he's sitting right there with Cain, averaging 91.4 mph and dialing it up as high as 93.3 in the first inning.
If there's been a knock on Cain in his career and this season, it's been his occasional bouts of wildness. He's never had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.0 -- he came the closest this year at 2.9 -- and has walked upward of four batters every nine innings. Tonight, however, Cain is locked in: 22 of his first 31 pitches were strikes and, if not for two questionable balls in his last batter of the third, his rate would be even better than its current 23 strikes and 12 balls.
He's featuring his fastball predominantly early, throwing it on 25 of his 35 pitches (71.4 percent) compared to a 63.2 percent rate during the regular season. It has clocked at an average velocity of 91.6 -- much like his more celebrated teammate, Tim Lincecum, Cain's velocity has ticked down a few mph the last few years while simultaneously becoming a more effective pitcher.
Cody Ross' one-out double in the second was his fifth double and ninth extra-base hit of the postseason, putting him into a tie for 16th all-time for most extra-base hits in a single postseason.
As impressive as that it is, it's not even the most among the two rightfielders in this game, both of whom are on the verge of some postseason power-hitting history. Rangers rightfielder Nelson Cruz has 11 extra-base hits this October, which puts him in an eight-way tie for first all-time, alongside players such as Barry Bonds (in 2002), Carlos Beltran (in 2004), Alex Rodriguez (in 2009) and the most impressive of the bunch, Willie Stargell (in 1979) who did so without the benefit of the division series round.
Ian Kinsler's flyball to rightfield carried Cody Ross to the warning track for the second out, thanks to the gusting wind blowing out toward right-center, but Nelson Cruz and David Murphy made very harmless outs, extending Matt Cain's postseason streak of not having allowed an earned run in his 15 2/3 innings of work this October.
Cain did allow one unearned run in his NLDS Game 2 start against the Braves -- he departed with a 4-1 lead after 6 2/3 innings but didn't get the win after the Giants bullpen was hit hard -- and then pitched seven scoreless frames against the Phillies in NLCS Game 3. He has yet to allow an extra-base hit and has held opposing hitters to an .184 average.
On the second out of the inning, Freddy Sanchez's grounder to Ian Kinsler at second, it appeared Kinsler's throw may have drawn first baseman Mitch Moreland off the base, but it's hard to fault first-base umpire Bill Miller for possibly missing the call as it was a rare instance where the first baseman was stretching to the right-field side of the bag.
Kinsler fielded the ball so deep in the hole that he threw from shallow rightfield. The more common stretch positions for a first baseman are to lunge forward toward the ball or to stretch toward the home-plate side of first base because the longer throws from shortstops and third basemen are more likely to be inaccurate. Miller stood in the best position he could be for the vast majority of calls at first -- behind first base and a few feet off the line -- even if Moreland's own body may have blocked Miller's view of his foot.
The sun is out but the wind is swirling mightily in the stratosphere above the ballpark -- i.e. my vantage point from the auxiliary press box -- and that could affect Matt Cain more than most pitchers. He's a power pitcher but also a flyball pitcher with a 0.57 groundball-to-flyball ratio. The swirling wind could make it difficult on fielders, though the Rangers went 1-2-3 in the first, all on balls in the air.
The threat of rain has ominously hung over Thursday's forecast all week, a dark pall that reminded all of the 2008 World Series, when the suspended Game 5 was dragged out over three days, because San Francisco is going to get seriously rainy this weekend. But mercifully, the likelihood of rain has subsided and, though it's overcast over AT&T Park, it shouldn't interfere with the game unless there are extra innings.
The one significant lineup change is that Rangers manager Ron Washington is not throwing aging Vladimir Guerrero back into rightfield. His rusty play and ailing knees were evident in his poor defensive play, which included tentative jumps toward flyballs and two errors, bobbling balls in the eighth inning. Washington insisted that the plan all along was for Guerrero to only start one game, but there's no doubt he'd have started both games if he had pounded a few hits and played a more competent rightfield in Game 1.
"It had nothing to do with anything that happened out there," Washington said, "because Vlad didn't do anything out there that I have never seen another baseball player do in right field, so it had nothing to do with it."
Reminded that he said the opposite last night -- that Guerrero would start rather than David Murphy -- Washington laughed and said, "Well, once again, me being the manager, I have the right to change my mind. I decided today that I wanted to go with Murph."
Other notes:• Major League Baseball announced that Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield is this year's recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the player who gives back through community service and plays well on the field. • The daughters of Giants home run hero Bobby Thompson -- "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" -- will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. • Country artist Lady Antebellum will sing the national anthem.