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Giants 2010: Postseason Top 16

(originally written 11/4/10)

In salute to the World Series MVP Edgar Renteria, who wears #16, I present you with my select Top 16 2010 Giants Postseason Moments—in a particular order. You will not find any moments from the NLDS on this list, simply because none of them are guaranteed to stay fresh in my mind past the turn of the season, like the NLCS and World Series moments will (besides the Giants’ classy nod to the retiring Bobby Cox). 

FYI, this will carry a positive Giants theme, so no Lincecum brain farts or Torres/Burrell strikeouts or Posey thrown bats or Zito roster exclusions or Guillen off-field issues will be mentioned, nor will any Phillie or Ranger highlights.


Did I leave out something? Did I rank something too high or too low? TAP THOSE KEYS and give your input, readers. (Numbers in parentheses represents game number.)

16. Huff Takes A Drag. (WS #5)


Aubrey Huff had never successfully sacrifice bunted in his entire decade as a major leaguer. For a player with his power resume, why WOULD he? Because he wanted to WIN more than he wanted personal glory. With men on 1B and 2B, and 0 out in what would be the 5th and final game of the World Series, Huff executed a drag bunt up the 1B line; He was barely thrown out.  When you talk about players sacrificing and checking their egos to win, you’ll see a photo of Huff’s bunt. Of COURSE he wanted to crank a three-run jack. But he wanted to win even more.


15. Mad Beats Vlad. (WS #4)


Vlad Guerrero is a beast, with a Hall-of-Fame (Expos?) plaque awaiting him in about 8-10 years. Like many sluggers, he’s known for swinging at balls everywhere BUT in the strike zone. But unlike many sluggers, he HITS those balls very hard and very far. So when Madison Bumgarner completely broke him down with a slider in the HEART of the strike zone en route to shutting Texas out in WS Game 4, it said something. Namely that Bumgarner is fast becoming a beast in his own right.


14. Fly, Run, Walk (off) (NLCS #4)


Roy Oswalt, one of the best starters in baseball, was asked by Charlie Manuel to preserve a 5-5 tie in the 9th inning of NLCS Game 4. Oswalt, who’d started and won Game 2, came out of the bullpen. Following a gut-punch lineout, Aubrey Huff singled through the right side, and Buster Posey subsequently doubled. That brought up the dangerous but dormant Juan Uribe. Uribe wanted this blast so bad, we could taste it. He’d have to settle for a walkoff sacrifice fly, however—one that put San Francisco up 3-to-1 in the series.


13. One Man. Three Two-Base Hits. For-midable.


Over the last few weeks of the regular season and through the playoffs, we asked the real Freddy Sanchez to please stand up for the GIants and restore his reputation as one of the game’s top hitting second basemen. Boy, did he. In fact, in the opening game of the 2010 World Series, he made history. Freddy doubled in each of his first three at-bats, figuring prominently in the Giants’ 11-run explosion; no other player had ever done that before. Sanchez was a scorer’s decision away from a fourth double—it ended up ruled a single/error. If that weren’t enough, Freddy lit it up with the leather as well all Series long.


12. Renteria: Can’t Say Texas Wasn’t Warned…


Foreshadowing heroics yet to come, Edgar stepped up in the 6th inning of WS Game #2, which was scoreless up to that point. C.J. Wilson came with a high fastball boring in, but the old guy slightly tomahawked the ball high and deep and WELL over the LF wall at AT&T Park. A tsunami of run-scoring hits followed in a game that will go down as a blowout, but surely wasn’t one when Edgar went deep. A big hit, yes, but he had bigger in store…


11. Huff. Hunter. Heater. Homer. (WS #4)


Tommy Hunter is a big fella. He throws country hard. Huff wasn’t impressed. Held without a homer all postseason, Huff broke a 0-0 tie in the 4th inning of WS Game 4 with a high drive down the line. No question it was gone, no assurance it’d be fair. Fortunately for Giants fans, the ball soared against an invisible forcefield which guided it 100% inside the pole, allowing the Giants to break the seal. It turned out to be all Bumgarner needed on this night, though Andres Torres and Posey later added insurance RBI.


10. Panda Uncaged…And Productive. (NLCS #4)


About the only true drawbacks on the feel-good 2010 Giants: Mark DeRosa’s injury, Barry Zito’s 2nd-half falloff, and the slump by Panda Sandoval that wound up lasting basically the entire season. Sandoval was statistically at his best when batting lefty at home—exactly the setup when he faced Phils middleman Chad Durbin in NLCS Game #4. The Giants had gotten off to a 2-0 lead, only to cough it up in a four-run Phillie 5th. By the time the 6th rolled around, SF had closed to within 4-3. Burrell and Ross each reached, bringing up the 2009 Giants’ biggest hitter.


Sandoval just missed a double down the line before cracking one up the LCF alley, plating both his mates and giving S.F. the temporary lead. For Pablo, it was like old times, bringing the AT&T crowd to its’ feet with the big hit that eluded him most of 2010. Eventually, the score would re-knot at five, leading to moment #14…


9. Schier Energy. Schier Elegance.  (WS #2)


If you’re not a Giants follower and you’ve wondered why Bruce Bochy always pulled his right fielders in place of Nate Schierholtz in practically every game down the stretch and in postseason, World Series Game 2 held the answer. Reserve catcher Matt Treanor drove one far and deep into the Triples’ Alley region. In a lot of parks, it’s an extra-base hit off the wall at least. At AT&T, it’s a chance for a displaced starter to figure in a critical game’s outcome.


Off the crack of the bat, Nate was on his horse. Never breaking stride, never emanating doubt, #12 beat the ball to the spot by a step and secured it in his raised backhanded glove—turning a long double into a long out. It was the catch of the postseason, one which helped preserve Matt Cain’s shutout and a 2-0 series lead for the Gigantes.


8. Citizen Cain Disarms Rangers. (WS #2)


Speaking of Cain’s shutout…
Though the Giants scored 11 runs in Game 1 of the World Series, they still had to bring in their closer just to eke out a victory versus a star-laden Rangers’ lineup, one in which the talented Elvis Andrus is one of the “weak” spots. For a team consisting of Guerrero and Michael Young (both of whom could go to Cooperstown one day) not to mention Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler (all All-Stars) to be held to one run in their final three losses spoke volumes to the vaunted San Francisco pitching corps.


Cain was the guy who got the ball rolling in Game #2, holding the mighty Rangers to four hits and zero runs in 7.2 innings a day after they recorded 11 hits and 7 runs. Cain bored his fastball on the Rangers’ hands repeatedly, inducing weak popup after weak popup. For most of the game he had no run support, but once the Giants’ offense got going, Texas was sunk. 


7. THRowand Erases Ruiz. (NLCS #4)


It seemed virtually every button Bochy pushed activated a new hero this postseason. Javier Lopez simply took opposing lefties out of their team’s lineups, the way Deion Sanders used to “shut down” his side of the field. Sandoval cashed in on his limited opportunity. Renteria, in limbo during the season’s final months and opening rounds of postseason…well, all he did was end up World Series MVP. Then there was Rowand, whose starting CF job was overtaken by Andres Torres so fast, not even Andres Torres could have kept pace.


But when Torres fell into a temporary strikeout slump, the veteran Rowand (a 2005 World Champion with the White Sox) was there to pick his teammate up. First in Game #3, when he doubled and later scored one of just three Giant runs. Then in Game 4, he fielded a Shane Victorino single to center and in one quick motion, fired the throw of his career to home plate. This beauty couldn’t have been more perfect; all Posey had to do was seal off Carlos Ruiz from home and slap the mitt on him. It proved huge later on, as the Giants ended up squeaking by the Phillies by a single run.

6. Sanchez/Utley: I Believe You Dropped This. (NLCS #6)


Jon Sanchez and Chase Utley will never be mistaken for Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Klesko, in terms of temperament. These are two mild-mannered guys who have grown to dislike each other because of Sanchez’ tendency to fall dangerously wild on the mound. Last year Utley took Sanchez deep at AT&T Park after Sanchez nearly knocked Utley’s helmet off with a fastball. In NLCS Game 6, Sanchez suffered from a complete lack of command, drilling Utley (right after a mound conference, no less!) in his upper side.


The ball caromed so high, Utley was able to field it on a bounce as he strode to first. Obviously aware of their past, he flippantly, uh, flipped the ball back to the already-burning Sanchez, who soon completely lost his cool with a choice expletive for the Phillies legend. Benches cleared, but Sanchez’ head did not. He was removed after only 2+ innings, allowing the Giants to make MLB postseason history by using four different, consecutive left-handed pitchers (Jeremy Affeldt, Bumgarner, Lopez).


5. Ross Tees Off On Phillies’ Halladay. (NLCS #1)


One is a legend, Mr. Blue Jay for years and the frontrunner to claim the Cy Young Award in his first Phillie season. One is a castoff who’s been waived or released by four other teams, including the one immediately preceding the Giants.

The castoff, Cody Ross, trumped the legendary Roy Halladay in the NLCS opener, driving two separate fastballs into the Philadelphia night to back Tim Lincecum. Cody picked the best time to have the hot streak of his life, driving home 7 of the Giants’ first 19 postseason runs—many of them tie-breakers or lead-changers. He went on to win Series MVP—and inspire a number of shaved-and-bearded heads area-wide.


4. Uribe Gets MAD (son). (NLCS #6)


It hadn’t been the best postseason for Uribe at-bat until his sac fly won NLCS Game 4. Then came the 8th inning of Game 6, in which the Giants and Phillies were knotted tightly at two. This duel carried all the potential to rival Mets/Astros 1986 in terms of length…until Uribe dug in vs. setup man Ryan Madson. With two out—the Giants’ theme this postseason—and none on, Uribe took a heater from Madson up and over the right field wall to give the Giants the narrow advantage. The biggest hit of Uribe’s 10-year career led directly to…


3. Wilson Got Five On It. (NLCS #6)


No closer in baseball tossed it back to yesteryear like Brian Wilson—he topped all others with five five-out saves in 2010, like Goose and Hoyt and Marshall and Quisenberry used to do. None were bigger than Game 6 of the NLCS—this was the game in which Bochy went to Lincecum to begin the 8th inning, leading by a lone run (3-2). But Lincecum, pitching two days after going seven innings in Game 5, gave up two hits after a K and was pulled.


Bochy went to Wilson with men on 1st and 2nd, and just one out! Wilson challenged the dangerous Carlos Ruiz, who lined one the other way directly into a double play 3-unassisted! The 9th wouldn’t—couldn’t—go so smoothly. Wilson walked two men sandwiched around two ground ball outs before taking on the great Ryan Howard. Howard had been held without an RBI the whole postseason—not entirely his fault; opportunities were at times scarce—and this moment wouldn’t be his breakthrough. Wilson battled him into a full count before painting the outside corner with a knee-high cutter. Howard didn’t offer and was rung up by the ump to end the NLCS!


2. Edgar Renteria Goes Deep Off The Cliff. (WS #5)


The left field wall at Rangers Ballpark doesn’t feature the yellow line umpire’s aid which adorns many of its contemporaries. If it did, Renteria’s unforgettable three-run home run off Cliff Lee in the 7th inning of WS Game 5 might have scraped some paint off. No matter—a 450-ft. home run isn’t worth any more runs than a 390-footer.


Off the bat, Renteria’s drive didn’t appear to be much more than a lazy flyout. As it sailed, the collective breaths of every Giant fan nationwide—not to mention that of Pat Burrell, who’d just struck out with two men in scoring position—joined forces to carry the baseball just far enough to leave the yard. It proved to be the margin of victory, and seal the MVP award for the somewhat-forgotten veteran shortstop.


1. Cruz-ing Back To The Dugout. (WS #5)


The moment speaks for itself. There Brian Wilson is, protecting a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 9th. Nelson Cruz, a star slugger whose home run represented Texas’ “1”, is in the box. The count is full. The Rangers’ season is on the line. Wilson comes with a cutter that starts inside and, well, cuts back over the plate belt-high. Cruz has to swing or risk a punchout. He draws air. He’s out. Game OVER, Giants are champs! 

The San Francisco Giants, for at least one year, are kings of Major League Baseball. Not the Yankees or the Phillies. Not the Red Sox or the Cardinals. In fact, in the last 22 seasons, the Giants have now captured more titles than the Dodgers. 
Now THAT tastes gooooooood…

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