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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Best clutch shortstop in Series history? Try Renteria

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Everyone else ran to the mound. They came pouring out of the San Francisco dugout, furiously happy and sprinting for San Francisco closer Brian Wilson, who had just closed out Game 5, the Texas Rangers and the 2010 World Series. Giants catcher Buster Posey hurled his mask and thundered toward Wilson. The San Francisco bullpen came running in from center field. Everyone on the team headed for Wilson.

Everyone but second baseman Freddy Sanchez and third baseman Juan Uribe. Sanchez and Uribe met about 30 feet behind the mound, where they made a sandwich of the most clutch shortstop in recent baseball history.

And his name ain't Derek Jeter.

Sanchez and Uribe surrounded Edgar Renteria, who on Monday night won his second World Series ring by doing the heaviest lifting himself -- with the winning hit in the clinching game, a 3-1 San Francisco victory.

The first time Renteria did this was 1997, when he was a rookie with the Florida Marlins. Back then he came to the plate with two outs in the 11th against Cleveland. It was Game 7, and the score was tied. The bases were loaded, Renteria was facing Charles Nagy, and he snuck a perfectly placed line drive over Nagy's glove, under the glove of lunging second baseman Tony Fernandez and into center field for the walk-off victory.

The second time was Monday night, and this one was a bit more emphatic. It went more than 400 feet, a three-run home run in the seventh inning, breaking a scoreless tie and making a World Series loser, again, of Rangers ace Cliff Lee.

And making a winner, again, of Tim Lincecum. And a champion, finally, of the San Francisco version of the Giants. And a legend, definitely, of Edgar Renteria.

This gets him into the Hall of Fame, right? I mean, I'm not overreacting to the moment here, am I? Renteria is 35, and he's an old 35, so his career could be over. He made three trips to the disabled list this season, and only a month ago he was whispering about retirement and apologizing to the Giants and their fans for being so unproductive this season.

But this ... this changes everything. This puts Renteria into a club that is so exclusive, I don't feel worthy typing the sentence. But out of respect to Renteria, I'll do it. Here goes: Renteria became the fourth player in MLB history to have the winning hit in two different clinching World Series games -- joining Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.

Gehrig. DiMaggio. Berra. Renteria.

That alone doesn't put Renteria into the Hall, but when you add that to his two Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, two seasons where he hit at least .330, two years with 100 runs, one year with 100 RBI, three seasons with 30 steals, five All-Star Games and the 2010 World Series MVP trophy? That might not get him into the Hall of Fame, no -- but it gets him into the conversation.

And if character comes into play -- and it usually does -- that could put Renteria well over the top.

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"He's a guy all the players look up to," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Teammates aren't the only ones who love Renteria. So does the media, and the media votes. The Hall of Fame isn't a popularity contest, but popularity doesn't hurt. And after playing the game the right way, treating people the right way and staying miles from even the whiff of scandal during an era when it's almost impossible to do so, Renteria has Hall of Fame popularity.

And he's the most clutch shortstop since ... ever?

None of those other guys in the two-time World Series clinching club played shortstop. All three were Yankees, of course, which brings me back to the Jeter comparison. Yankees fans might see this as heresy, but I can't worry about that. I'm not putting down Derek Jeter. He has five World Series rings in seven tries. He has a career .321 average in the World Series. He has been tremendous.

But Renteria has been just a little bit better. Two rings in three World Series tries -- he won those rings with the relatively small-market Marlins and Giants -- and a .333 career batting average in the World Series.

And those two World Series-winning hits.

Those weren't flukes, either. That first year he did this, way back in 1997? Renteria already had won five regular-season games for Florida with walk-off hits in extra innings. And then he won the first playoff game of his life, Game 1 of the 1997 NL Division Series against the Giants (ahem), with a walk-off single in the ninth off smoke-throwing Roberto Hernandez.

That's how he started his postseason career.

How cool would it be if this is how he ends it?

With the last swing of his career winning the World Series. A World Series where he hit .412. A series where he had the biggest hit in Game 2, a fifth-inning home run that broke a scoreless tie. Where he had three hits and a run in a 4-0 Giants victory in Game 4. And then this bolt of beauty in Game 5, a home run, a two-out ball struck so purely that it fooled Cliff Lee, who patted his glove in relief, thinking the inning was over, as the ball floated toward left-center ... and kept floating.

As he stood in the on-deck circle, Renteria told teammate Andres Torres that he was going to hit a home run. He was joking. But as he walked toward the plate, Renteria passed Pat Burrell, who had just struck out. Burrell looked at Renteria and said, "Pick me up, baby."

Burrell wasn't joking.

There were runners on second and third as Renteria took two pitches from Lee, both balls. Another manager, with a 2-0 count and first base open, would have walked Renteria -- a clutch right-hander facing the lefty Lee. But Rangers manager Ron Washington made another curious move, ignoring both the open base for Renteria and the struggling right-handed hitter in the on-deck circle, Aaron Rowand. Washington had Lee go after Renteria.

Wrong call. Wrong hitter. Wrong time of year.

"I got confident," Renteria said. "When he threw me the two balls, I said, 'I'm looking for one pitch. If he throws it, I'm going to swing.'"

History. Again. Best October shortstop of this generation?

Obviously.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. More importantly, he is 4-0 as an amateur boxer, with three knockouts. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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