ARLINGTON, Texas - Say hey! The San Francisco Giants are World Series champions at last.
The Giants claimed the prize that had eluded San Francisco so long, thanks to a band of self-described castoffs and misfits and their shaggy-haired ace.
Tim Lincecum, Edgar Renteria and the Giants seized the crown Monday night, beating the Texas Rangers, 3-1, in a tense Game 5 and taking the trophy home to the city by the Bay for the first time.
The Giants last wore the crown in 1954, four years before they left New York. Then the Giants were a franchise that never quite got it done in San Francisco despite the likes of baseball giants Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and Juan Marichal. It’s November, and now new stars stand tall in San Francisco.
“This buried a lot of bones – ’62, ’89, 2002,” Giants general manager Brian Sabean said, ticking off losing Series appearances. “This group deserved it, faithful from the beginning. We’re proud and humbled by the achievement.”
Lincecum outdueled Cliff Lee in an every-pitch-matters duel that was scoreless until Renteria earned the Series MVP award by hitting a stunning three-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning.
Nelson Cruz homered in the bottom half, but Lincecum returned to his wicked self and preserved the lead.
Lincecum won this game of Texas Hold ’em, beating Lee for the second time in a week. The two-time National League Cy Young winner from the University of Washington gave up three hits over eight innings and struck out 10.
Brian Wilson closed for a save, completing a surprising romp through the postseason for a pitching-rich team that waited until the final day to clinch a playoff spot.
Manager Bruce Bochy enjoys calling his Giants a ragtag bunch. Maybe Renteria, Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez fit that description. Cut loose by other clubs this season and before, they all wound up in San Francisco.
But the foundation of this team – for now, for the foreseeable future – is totally homegrown, built on a deep, talented and young rotation, a rookie catcher named Buster Posey with huge star potential and Wilson, their bearded closer.
“They did all right,” Bochy said. “I couldn’t be prouder of a group. They played with heart and determination. They weren’t going to be denied. My staff, they accepted their roles and had only one mission.”
Renteria reprised his role of postseason star. His 11th-inning single ended Game 7 of the 1997 World Series and lifted Florida over Cleveland. Forget that he made the last out in the 2004 Series that finished Boston’s sweep of St. Louis – this journeyman’s path led to another title, helped by his go-ahead home run in Game 2.
“It was a tough year for me,” the oft-injured shortstop said. “I told myself to keep working hard and keep in shape because something is going to be good this year.”
A team seemingly free of egos did everything right to take the lead. Ross, the surprising MVP of the NLCS, hit a leadoff single, and Juan Uribe followed with another hit up the middle.
That put a runner at second base for the first time in the game and brought up Huff, who led the Giants in home runs this year. So what did he do? He expertly put down the first sacrifice bunt of his career.
Lee struck out Pat Burrell, but Ross began hopping home as soon as Renteria connected, sending a drive that kept sailing and landed over the left-center field wall. And just like that, all the Giants’ past troubles seemed like ancient history.
Exactly when these Giants turned into world beaters is hard to say.
Trailing San Diego by 71/2 games in the NL West on July 4, they meandered in the wild-card race until the stretch run, winning the division and finishing 92-70.
Come the playoffs, they became dangerous.
Start with Matt Cain – three postseason starts, a 0.00 ERA. Throw in Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner. Add Madison Bumgarner, the 21-year-old rookie who blanked Texas for eight innings in Game 4.
“This doesn’t make sense. You don’t realize it. It’s something that’s surreal. But that’s what we are, World Series champs,” Cain said.