SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – All season, the San Francisco Giants counted on power arms to overcome a lack of pop at the plate.
A whole different team showed up in the World Series opener.
Freddy Sanchez hit three doubles, Juan Uribe launched a game-breaking, three-run homer and the Giants more than made up for Tim Lincecum’s troubles, battering the Texas Rangers 11-7 in Game 1 Wednesday night.
Even more surprising, the Giants whacked Cliff Lee.
“You never think you’re going to have success against a pitcher like that,” Sanchez said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, been unhittable in the postseason.”
So much for the unbeatable Mr. Lee.
“I think it’s just baseball. That’s the only thing you can say,” Sanchez said. “This is a crazy game.”
The Giants were by far the lowest-scoring team of the eight clubs that made the playoffs this year. They were hitting only .231 in the postseason going into this matchup, totaling 30 runs in 10 games.
“Certainly a huge game for us, and we needed the runs,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re not a team that tries to slug it with other teams, but today they threw out some great at-bats.”
What shaped up as a pitchers’ duel between Lincecum and Lee quickly deteriorated into a mismatch. The Giants scored six times in the fifth — their biggest inning in the postseason since 1937 — and turned a 2-all game into a blowout.
By the end, it was more lopsided than the scoreboard showed. The Rangers played like the World Series rookies they are: They made four errors for the first time 2008, Ian Kinsler took a mistaken turn around first base and was thrown out, and manager Ron Washington may have waited too late to pull his ace.
Lee came into the game with a 7-0 record and a 1.26 ERA in postseason play. Texas gave him an early 2-0 lead, but the Giants swung things in their favor in a hurry.
“I was trying to make adjustments,” Lee said. “I was up. I was down. I was in. I was out. I was trying to find it, and I was never really consistent with what I was doing.”
Just like that, the Giants added Lee to their hit list. They have now handed Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt their first career losses in the postseason — all in the last few weeks.
“It wasn’t quite the game we thought it would be,” Bochy said. “Great pitchers, sometimes they’re a little bit off.”
Sanchez sprayed balls down the lines. Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff hit line drives up the middle. Uribe launched a shot far, far over the wall.
Former Giants slugger Barry Bonds had plenty to cheer for from his seat next to the San Francisco dugout, while Rangers president and part-owner Nolan Ryan sat glumly in a suit and tie, his prized pitcher a wreck.
“I saw the Giants work him pretty good,” Washington said. “We left some pitches in spots we didn’t want.”
The Rangers did late damage, scoring three times in the ninth. Nelson Cruz hit a two-out, two-run double off Brian Wilson before the Fear the Beard closer finished it off.
Added up, the Giants improved to 10-0 against Texas at AT&T Park. Showers are in the forecast for Game 2 on Thursday night, when Matt Cain and his 0.00 ERA in two playoff starts takes on C.J. Wilson and the Rangers.
Sanchez finished with four of the Giants’ 14 hits, which included six doubles. Right after Lee trotted off the mound in the fifth, Uribe greeted sidearming reliever Darren O’Day with a three-run jolt that broke it open.
Sanchez became the first player to hit a double in each of his first three Series at-bats. He nearly had a fourth, too, but the play was scored a single and an error.
San Francisco had gotten through the NL playoffs because of its dominant pitching, plus an ability to win one-run decisions. None of that came into play on this beautiful night for baseball.
Lincecum struggled at the beginning, making a strange mental error, but settled down as the game progressed. The shaggy-haired ace walked off to a standing ovation in the sixth, his glove in his right hand and his head down.
At the start, he admitted, nerves got the best of him. He still couldn’t explain how he let Michael Young escape a rundown.
“Maybe a little bit because it is the World Series. It’s a first for a lot of us and different kind of atmosphere,” he said. “Obviously, I just kind of got outside of myself there.”
The Rangers nailed Lincecum for eight hits, two of them shots off his left leg.
What happened to Lee was simply puzzling.
Lee came into the game one win shy of matching the record set by Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez for the best start to a postseason career.
But the lefty who loves to stick to his routine — and his messy hat — was all over the place on eight days’ rest. He couldn’t control his curve and when he did throw it over the plate, it was flat.
Lee was tagged for seven runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings.
“You never see him do that badly,” Cruz said. “My guess is it was the layoff but there are no excuses.”
Gina Miller of TXA 21 speaks with 1080 KRLD from AT&T Ballpark in San Francisco, CA
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