Baseball is a game of inches. Defensive alignment can be the difference between a snared liner and a double in the gap. Whether a pitch is inside enough or not can be the difference between a sawed off pop-up and a homer deep into the seats.

And, as a game-changing play in Game 2 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers illustrated, lacking just a bit of extension in a swing’s follow-through can turn a sure-fire homer to center into an improbable and unlucky double.

That was the case in the fifth, when Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler led off with a drive to the deepest part of the park. Matt Cain made one of his few mistakes, but it somehow only resulted in a double, as the ball hit off the top of the wall and bounced back into play.

Kinsler looked out to center in disbelief after rounding second. He wouldn’t move; Cain sent down the Rangers after that and walked off the mound having still not allowed an earned run this postseason.

What happened next? Edgar Renteria, one of the Giants many wily veterans, showed Kinsler how it’s done, smacking a fastball from C.J. Wilson high and deep to left that dropped into the tunnel as fans above cheered. Thirteen years after winning the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins as a 21-year-old, Renteria came up big on the game’s biggest stage again.

Cain appreciated the blast, and proceeded to mow down Texas in the sixth and seventh before leaving in the eighth to a resounding ovation. Preceding his exit was another crucial hit produced by Juan Uribe, who has been one of the more valuable hitters this postseason.

After driving in the Giants’ second run in the seventh, he also produced in the eighth. So did every other Giant as part of a nightmarish frame three Texas relievers won’t soon forget.

As the eighth transpired, somewhere Rick Ankiel was feeling their pain. The pitcher turned outfielder was memorably wild in the 2000 NLDS against the Atlanta Braves as the Game 1 starter for the St. Louis Cardinals.

In the third inning of that outing he allowed four runs on two hits and four walks while uncorking five wild pitches. He was the first to throw five wild pitches in an inning since Bert Cunningham did so in 1890 as a member of the Players League. Afterward, Ankiel joked about being in his company, but what the Rangers bullpen went through was no laughing matter.

As stated, the game of baseball is one of inches. It is also one of feet, the distance the trio of Derrick Holland, Mark Lowe, and Michael Kirkman repeatedly missed the strike-zone. Holland was the worst of the lot, and his downfall certainly drew some sympathy from this particular baseball fan as well as a presumed many others.

Entering with two out and a runner on first, he threw 11 straight balls. The first eight loaded the bases, and the next three to Aubrey Huff put Holland on the brink of forcing in a run. He guided in a strike, but then missed woefully high.

Buster Posey, whose two-out single made this possible, trotted home, as three other Giants slowly took their base. This was just the beginning for the Rangers, but it was the end of Holland. Thirteen pitches, 12 balls: Ankielesque, just without the wild pitches.

But, clearly, he was plenty wild. And so was his replacement. Uribe, a stocky third baseman who touts a mighty and increasingly successful swing, managed to fall behind in the count to Mark Lowe, who was making his first appearance of the postseason. 

On cue, however, he rested his bat on his broad shoulders and watched three pitches miss badly. For his and the Rangers sake, that was the last of the walks issued in the inning. But this didn’t mean the Giants were done. Oh no, they were far from finished. Pitches were guided into the hitting zone and they took their hacks.

Renteria capped of his first three-hit game of the season with a single to left. This plated the Giants sixth run, and three more came their way as Aaron Rowand and Andres Torres let the Rangers wound continue to bleed.

In disposing of the New York Yankees in the ALCS, Texas poured it on late. So far in this series San Francisco has turned the tables, dominating the concluding innings. They have done so in a way that will be hard for the Rangers to stomach and hard to overcome, just as it was for the Yankees.

With that, backed by Cain’s brilliance, Renteria’s tremendous night at the plate, and the wildness so sadly put on display by the Rangers bullpen, the Giants blanked their heavy-hitting opponent and handily took a 2-0 World Series lead.


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