For Texas, one pitch to ponder
November, 2, 2010
By Buster Olney | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesBengie Molina had called for a ball off the plate, but Cliff Lee went after Renteria.There should be no regrets for the Texas Rangers about the 2010 World Series, because they were completely dominated over a week of baseball. The No. 3-4-5 hitters in their lineup -- Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz -- combined to hit .130 in the series, and the Giants posted as many runs in five games (29) as Texas had hits (29). The Giants' Juan Uribe turned into Brooks Robinson at third base, Freddy Sanchez became Roberto Alomar, and old Edgar Renteria played like he was young all over again.
But of course there will be crossroad moments to ponder in the years ahead, in the way we wonder if the 1988 World Series might have been different if Dennis Eckersley had thrown a fastball to Kirk Gibson rather than a slider, or how the 2000 World Series might have played out if Timo Perez had run hard from first base rather than being cut down at the plate.
For the Giants, that moment came in the seventh inning of Game 5, with runners at second and third and two outs and Renteria at the plate. Renteria, of course, has had a rebirth in the past two weeks, partly because he has been one of the few players not coping with fatigue this time of year, after being benched late in the season. Renteria had just 52 at-bats from the end of July to the end of the regular season, and a total of two at-bats in the first six games of the postseason.
But Renteria, at age 35, had been installed into the everyday lineup by Bruce Bochy, at a time when the manager was just trying to find somebody who might contribute to the offense. And after getting a hit and scoring twice in Game 1 of the World Series, he slammed a homer and drove in three runs in Game 2. Renteria added three more hits in Game 4, and so as he strolled to the plate, Giants catcher Bengie Molina -- who had played with Renteria in San Francisco -- had it in his mind that he wanted to pitch around Renteria. Because Molina knew the guy on deck, Aaron Rowand, had played even less than Renteria.
Since being benched in the middle of September, Rowand had a total of 12 at-bats in the previous 45 days. With first base open, Molina figured it was just better to work around the hot-swinging Renteria and go after Rowand. His feelings were reinforced when Lee missed badly with his first two pitches to Renteria, falling behind two balls and no strikes.