It's Pitching, Stupid, and the Giants Have Enough to Look Smart
ARLINGTON, Texas -- How could folks not get this? The hitting, the fielding and the pitching (oh, the pitching) for a San Francisco Giants team that led the majors in ERA, strikeouts and a bunch of other stuff.
All of that was apparent long before odds makers tabbed the Texas Rangers as World Series favorites and the Giants as lucky just to be in the hard-hitting shadow of the other guys' 10-gallon hats.
Yeah, well. The Giants rolled to a 4-0 win in Game 4 on Sunday night at Rangers Ballpark to sit a victory away from an inevitable world championship that may come as soon as Monday night -- you know, whether the Giants wish to admit it or not.
"I mean, it feels good," said Giants catcher Buster Posey, trying to keep from smiling in the visitors' clubhouse.
Then, with the national and international media hanging on his every syllable, Posey shifted into cliché mode, adding, "Having said that, we know that it's a good ball club over there, and we've got to come out (Monday) and keep playing hard."
Now back to plain speaking: Game 3 was a fluke. Somehow, the Rangers won it on Saturday night at their big place with the cozy feel, but the Giants always were destined to take this World Series, because they are just better. In other words, they weren't aided Sunday night on Halloween by the ghoulishness of witches and goblins.
Try the goodness of hitters and pitchers.
You can throw in the greatness of fielders, too, because the Giants played splendid defense throughout Game 4.
They also were clutch at the plate by scoring early and late, but they mostly pitched. With Madison Bumgarner (pictured above) using his 21-year-old arm and his overall composure that was much older than that, he hurled one of the most efficient games ever in World Series history. And Brian Wilson remained the ultimate closer with a perfect ninth.
Up next for the Giants is Tim Lincecum, owner of two Cy Young Awards, and he is 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA during this postseason.
"Well, it's certainly been pitching as advertised," said Rangers manager Ron Washington of the Giants. "Those guys pound the strike zone. They've got good stuff. They've got velocity. They can spin the baseball. The can change speeds, and they keep their defense engaged."
That's about right, and they have Posey, a rookie, who continued to add more impressive moments to his season full off them.
This time, Posey threw out a runner who had a tremendous jump, and he slammed a solo home run in the eighth for insurance, and he called a nearly flawless game for Bumgarner, who also is a rookie. Said a shrugging Bumgarner, always low key with his North Carolina drawl, "I have 100 percent confidence in Buster, so whatever he threw down there (as far as signs), I think you have to give all the credit to him. I just threw the ball where he wanted most of the time."
The results for Bumgarner: eight innings, three hits, two walks, six strikeouts, no runs, no chance for a Rangers team that led the majors in hitting. Plus, with that assist from Wilson, this was the first time the Rangers were shut out at home this season.
Just call it the worst sports days in Dallas history, especially when you consider the city hasn't an NFL team anymore.
It used to have the Cowboys, but impostors play across the way from Rangers Ballpark at the new Cowboys Stadium. In fact, earlier in the afternoon, the Cowboys were pounded 35-17 at home by a bad Jacksonville team. Now they are 1-6, and their latest loss was so dreadful that the announcers on the Cowboys' postgame show gave their traditional "Cowboy play of the game" honors to a Cowboy punt.
So it was all about the Rangers in this part of Texas by Sunday night, with the second-largest crowd ever (51,920) squeezing into a place that was built as a monument to storied ballparks of the past.
They came to see the Rangers do what they can't do. That is, they can't win this series. And gimmicks definitely won't change their fate. Still, when you're the Rangers, and you're desperate even after a Game 3 victory, you go for a bunch of this and a little of that.
And it was Halloween, you know.
Which is why the Rangers had an African-American kid say, "Play ball" before the game while doing an imitation of Washington, complete with the seven-year-old wearing his version of the African-American manager's Bozo hairstyle and black mustache.
Oh, and the antlers. That, and the claws. You always have those things going on around here, but it was more so this time. Fans flaunted the wearing of t-shirts with either one or both of those things in honor of the hand signals Rangers players flash to each other in honor of great plays.
There also were the Bushes, the unofficial mascots of the Rangers these days. George W. used a golf cart to drive George H.W. from the left-field corner to the pitcher's mound for the ceremonial first pitch. They went from there to join the world's most famous white-haired lady named Barbara for prime box seats next to the Rangers' dugout.
None of that mattered for the Rangers. Neither did Josh Hamilton's diving catch in center field in the bottom of the second inning that kept the Giants from scoring the game's first run.
The Rangers' problem was that the Giants had more than a few defensive gems to counter that one.
Second baseman Freddy Sanchez crushed a Rangers rally in the second inning after leaping and grabbing Jeff Francoeur's sizzling drive. In the fourth, Posey continued his Johnny Bench routine by nailing Josh Hamilton at second on a steal attempt, and Hamilton even had that splendid jump. In the fifth, Cody Ross dove in left to rob Ian Kinsler. Plus, there were a couple off San Francisco double plays.
Typical Giants stuff.
Enough to win a world championship.
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Steve Phillips breaks down the Giants' Game 4 win. Click to watch: