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Giants strong-arm their way to best in baseball


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Way back when, everybody said the Giants would be dangerous in October.

We all did. We all saw the pitching. Nobody was going to want to play them.

All that pitching was going to make them a tough matchup.

Yeah, right, a tough matchup. A dangerous opponent.

No, in the end the Giants were way more than that. They were more than just a team no one wanted to play.

They were the team no one could beat. They were the last team standing, the 2010 World Series champions, because that pitching staff was better than just tough, and better than just dangerous, and even better than many of us had ever realized.

What they did over the last week was unbelievable. What they did over the last two months was incredible.

They rolled through September. They rolled through the playoffs. And they rolled past the Rangers, because a team that led the majors with a .276 average suddenly couldn't hit.

A center fielder who is going to be the American League's Most Valuable Player turned into a .100 hitter (that would be Josh Hamilton in the World Series). A cleanup hitter who had a great year was even worse, at .071 (that would be Vladimir Guerrero).

A very good offensive team -- "No, it's a great offense," Giants outfielder Cody Ross corrected -- suddenly couldn't score.

You know how everyone says good pitching beats good hitting? Well, as it turns out, great pitching beats great hitting, too.

Seriously, 12 runs in five games? Didn't the Rangers score 12 runs in every game against the Yankees?

Day after day, the Rangers kept thinking they'd do better. Day after day, the Giants kept sending another great pitcher to the mound.

Day after day, the rest of us started realizing this World Series wasn't going to change course, because the Giants pitchers weren't going to allow it to change course.

Matt Cain was great. Madison Bumgarner was better. And then the double Cy Young guy was there to finish it off.

"What are you going to do at the end of the day when [Tim] Lincecum goes out and throws like he does?" Rangers outfielder Jeff Francoeur asked. "They were too strong, and the staff was pitching too well. We ran into a tough pitching staff."

It's at this point that we all look for comparisons. It's at this point that we wonder if these were the 2005 White Sox, who also won with great starting pitching.

We wonder if Lincecum and company should stand with Jack Morris and John Smoltz.

And then Dave Righetti comes to us with another suggestion.

"These guys remind me of the Oakland A's," the Giants pitching coach said.

He meant the early '70s A's, the A's he watched as a kid growing up in San Jose. The A's who stopped a great offense in the 1972 World Series, beating the team that would become the Big Red Machine, and then won it all again in 1973 and 1974, too.

The Catfish Hunter A's. The Vida Blue A's.

"The long hair, the beards," Righetti said.

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In their three World Series, those A's pitched to a 2.51 ERA. In the World Series just completed, the Giants pitched to a 2.45.

It's far too early to think that these Giants will win again next year, let alone win three in a row. But that's a story for another day.

The story today is that they won this year, and they won because they pitched better than anyone else.

It's a story that goes back to general manager Brian Sabean and his staff putting these guys together, and then refusing to part with them. It goes back to drafting Lincecum and Cain and Bumgarner, and bringing them along.

It's also a story that goes back to Aug. 28.

Hard to believe now, but these Giants pitchers who dominated October (and the first day of November) struggled in August. Lincecum wasn't good at all, and the staff as a whole wasn't, either.

And on Aug. 28, Sabean got them all together and gave them what one Giants person said will go down as "one of the best GM pep talks of all time."

"It was pretty sophomoric, really," Sabean insisted, in the middle of Monday night's celebration. "We were in a position where they had to step up. I told them, 'Oh, by the way, you are the foundation of the organization.'"

Around that same time -- and who knows if it was the pep talk that did it? -- Lincecum decided he was tired of being bad. He had gone 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA in August, and suddenly he was taking his workouts so seriously that Righetti started to wonder that his ace might hurt himself.

"Most people say you learn the most from adversity and tough times," Lincecum said Monday night. "I'd have to agree with that. I was lost emotionally. I changed my workouts, and got it back together."

Whatever it was, it worked. Lincecum went 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA from that point on. The Giants starters were incredible from that point on, with a combined 2.34 ERA over the final 32 games of the regular season.

They were incredible in the postseason, too.

Righetti thought back to Sabean's meeting.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "It's uncanny how it woke a few guys up. Brian was very emotional. He wanted to say something, and he did. And to be quite honest, it worked."

It worked so well that a Giants team that was five games out of first place when the meeting was held went on to win the National League West. It worked so well that a month later, when the playoffs began, there was no need for another talk.

And when it came time to play the Rangers in the World Series, the Giants' pitchers were ready to act like the foundation of an organization.

A championship organization.

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. But then again, maybe we should be.

After all, even Righetti said Monday night that he never thought the Giants pitchers could handle the Rangers hitters the way they did.

"No," he said. "No, I thought we'd battle with them, and it would be tough. But no, I didn't think this."

No one should have thought this. But now everyone should believe this, because we all saw it.

Yeah, they were dangerous, all right.

And now they're champions.


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