SAN FRANCISCO – Somebody forgot to tell the San Francisco Giants that batting practice was over.
Because once Freddy Sanchez and those Giant bats finished teeing off on Cliff Lee in the World Series opener, the Texas Rangers were done, too.
The Giants battered Lee and the bullpen, with Sanchez hitting three doubles and keying a six-run burst in an 11-7 romp Wednesday night that looked even more lopsided.
So much for the unbeatable Mr. 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.”
What shaped up as a pitchers’ duel between Tim Lincecum and Lee quickly deteriorated into a rout. By the end, 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 manager Ron Washington may have waited too late to pull his ace.
“It wasn’t quite the game we thought it would be,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Great pitchers, sometimes they’re a little bit off.”
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.
Sanchez sprayed balls down the lines. Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff hit line drives up the middle. Juan Uribe launched a shot far, far over the wall.
“I think it’s just baseball. That’s the only thing you can say,” Sanchez said. “This is a crazy game.”
Former Giants slugger Barry Bonds had plenty to cheer for from his seat next to the San Francisco dugout, especially when a tie game suddenly became an 8-2 thumping in the fifth inning. Rangers president and part-owner Nolan Ryan sat there glumly in a suit and tie, his prized pitcher a wreck.
“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.”
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.
“We know he throws a lot of strikes,” Sanchez said. “We know he’s one of the best pitchers in the game, especially in the postseason. We just wanted to attack him early.”
And they did. Lee threw first-pitch strikes to 15 batters and seven of those hitters swung.
“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 tonight 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 N.L. 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.