10-28 Newberg Report: World Series Game One, San Francisco 11, Texas 7

From the early lead to the beatdown that followed, from the failure to capitalize on chances to the widespread mistakes, last night’s Giants win over the Rangers was similar in a number of ways to Monday’s Giants win over the Cowboys.

But where Dallas plays with very little character, Texas has proven it has it in very deep supply, and that’s why Wednesday’s butt-whipping, while disappointing, doesn’t bang my trust in this team.  

The opener of the Yankees series, after the disastrous eighth, felt devastating.  This one, a smackaround of the highest order, does not.

Cliff Lee was shockingly mortal.  During the game it crossed my mind that, given how unusually undominant he was, maybe he tweaked his back swinging the bat, but there’s been no talk of that since the end of the game.  He simply didn’t have his breaking ball, got far too much of the plate too often, and San Francisco squared up a lot.  The control was there (two-thirds strikes, one walk), but the Lee command we’ve all gotten used to was way, way off.  

And this is important: San Francisco earned this one.  Don’t chalk it all up to Lee’s substandard effort or the defensive and baserunning blunders.  The Giants spanked Texas.

Lee entered last night’s start with a 7-0 record in post-season play, scattering nine earned runs (over eight starts) in 64.1 innings.  Last night: six earned runs in 4.2 frames.  He surrendered more extra-base hits last night (five) than he had in his three Rangers playoff starts against Tampa Bay and New York combined (three).

Had the Yankees forced a seventh ALCS game, Lee would have pitched Saturday, on regular (four days’) rest.  Instead, he pitched last night on eight days’ rest.  A factor?  Who knows.  But maybe getting Lee back into his routine, with him taking the ball in Game Five on regular rest — yes, there will be a Game Five — will be a good thing.

The unfortunate part is that Texas, despite squandering a huge opportunity to turn the one-run first inning into something bigger, wasn’t terrible against Tim Lincecum (could the Giants bring him back for Game Four if the situation calls for it, given that he threw only 93 pitches last night?), but still couldn’t come away with a win.  The offense wasn’t shut down by Lincecum, or by Brian Wilson late, and maybe that’s one small positive to take away from Game One.  This wasn’t the late ’90s playoff offense.  

And it wasn’t late ’90s Vladimir Guerrero defense.  Brutal.  Just brutal.

According to postgame reports, Guerrero will be back in right field tonight, and my comfort level with that idea is on near-empty.  If we were talking about taking a hot bat out of the lineup and replacing it with Andres Blanco or backup catcher offense, that would be one thing, but I’m just as confident right now in David Murphy’s bat as Guerrero’s, if not more so, and the defensive difference is obviously massive.  Hope Wash hasn’t ruled out a change for tonight.

A thought: Would you rather have to strongly consider pulling Guerrero for defense late in the game (exposing the cleanup spot to an option worse than Nelson Cruz from a Hamilton-protection standpoint), or have his bat on the bench available for the late-inning spot of your choosing?  Particularly facing the right-handed Matt Cain (who held righties to a .217/.273/.356 slash this season — though to be fair, lefties got to him at only a .225/.280/.382 rate), I’d feel much better with Murphy in the lineup tonight, and obviously in the outfield with C.J. Wilson on the mound.

Eighteen runs (and 10 pitchers) in a game started by Lee and Lincecum just doesn’t compute.  I remember thinking, on our connection descent into Las Vegas on Tuesday night, that the scene below looked like a pinball machine on tilt.  That’s what the Giants attack looked like last night.  A couple bleeders down the right field line early, but lots of barreling up after that, particularly with two outs.  I think I read that only one time all year did the Giants rack up that many extra-base hits in one game.  They’d scored more than four runs only two times in their last 19 games, and hadn’t scored in double digits in more than a month.  Nobody could have ever seen that coming, not in a game entrusted to Lee.

San Francisco did what Texas has done all post-season, jumping on opportunities, and the Rangers didn’t do enough of that last night.  And so, as a result, the Rangers need to win four out of six, but they’re good enough to do it, and plenty resilient.  Take Game Two behind C.J. Wilson, and Texas will have shifted home field advantage heading into Saturday’s Game Three in Texas.

(Hey, speaking of which, if you happen to have two good seats for sale to Saturday’s game in Texas, lower bowl between the bases, can you give me a shout?  I need to buy a couple, and obviously I’m not expecting to get them for face value.)

Because of the unusual sloppiness of Lee’s start and the Texas defense last night, there’s room for an argument that the Rangers let down a bit after the huge series win over the Yankees that got them here.  But we’ve come to know enough about this team that we need not worry that a bad Game One loss could linger into Game Two.  The Rangers simply got their tails whipped, and that should have no bearing on Game Two, when the club can take advantage of its faulty short-term memory, start with a clean slate as they did against the Yankees, and secure a two-game split to open this series.

Time tonight to just take out the garbage and get back to playing Rangers baseball.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
Twitter  @newbergreport

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