SAN FRANCISCO — The dominant October ace was missing for the Texas Rangers.
While Cliff Lee failed to locate his pitches effectively, there were also bobbles in the field and bumbling on the bases. It all added up to a dismal World Series debut for the Rangers, who lost Wednesday night’s opener 11-7 to the San Francisco Giants.
“Jitters didn’t have anything to do with it,” manager Ron Washington said. “They put 11 runs on the board. They beat us.”
Still, the Rangers did plenty to help the Giants.
Texas became the first World Series team in six years to have four errors in a game, including two by Vladimir Guerrero in right field.
Ian Kinsler got tagged out when he took a turn past first base on a ball he thought rolled away but didn’t.
And, worst of all for Texas, Lee just wasn’t himself. The lefthander lost a postseason game for the first time with his shortest outing while giving up his most runs.
“I was a little bit erratic and trying to find it, and just for whatever reason, I couldn’t get consistent with locating pitches,” Lee said. “I threw a ton of pitches, and threw a lot of balls. Threw a lot of pitches over the heart of the plate.”
The Rangers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the matchup of former Cy Young Award winners, and Lee even contributed with his bat, doubling in the second off Tim Lincecum.
But third baseman Michael Young let Edgar Renteria’s leadoff grounder in the third kick off his glove for an error. Renteria scored on a double by Freddy Sanchez before rookie Buster Posey’s RBI single tied the game in a 32-pitch inning for Lee.
“We would have liked to play a cleaner game,” Young said.
Lee, the prized midseason acquisition the Rangers got in hopes of winning games like this, retired the next six batters before everything fell completely apart. He was gone after a six-batter span in the fifth when five reached base. Juan Uribe then greeted submarine-style reliever Darren O’Day, knocking a 2-0 fastball into the left-field seats for a three-run homer that made it 8-2.
The Giants were already done scoring in the fifth, but the inning dragged on when shortstop Elvis Andrus misplayed Lincecum’s grounder. Guerrero, the slugger playing in the field in the NL park rather than his usual designated hitter slot, misplayed two balls when San Francisco tacked on three runs in the eighth.
Texas hadn’t made four errors in a game since July 2008, according to STATS LLC.
“Usually, a team makes errors, you’re going to find a way to score off them,” Young said. “But we’ve been a great defensive team all season long, so this isn’t really something we’re going to lose sleep over.”
Guerrero had played just once in the outfield since the start of September, and played only 18 games there all season.
“Nobody is perfect,” he said. “I made a couple of mistakes. I’m not going to put my head down. I have to be ready for tomorrow. I wanted to play, and it was the manager’s decision to put me in there.”
Washington had said before the game that Guerrero starting again in Game 2 could depend on what happened in the opener. When asked afterward if he would reconsider using Guerrero in the outfield again, the manager responded, “No, I don’t. A couple balls got by him.”
After Lee got to second base on his double into the left-center gap, all his teammates stood in the dugout emphatically waving their right arms high in the air, giving the team’s customary “claw” gesture for a big play.
Slow-footed Bengie Molina moved from first to third on Lee’s hit, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Andrus to make it 2-0.
On most October nights, that would be more than enough for Lee. Instead, he ended up getting an early hook.
“It just wasn’t up to Cliff Lee standards, which everybody gets used to,” Josh Hamilton said.
Lee entered 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in eight postseason starts. He had given up only two runs over 24 innings in his three starts this postseason for Texas, which acquired him July 9 from Seattle.
And starting a World Series opener wasn’t a new experience for the free-agent-to-be. He did it just last year for Philadelphia, winning the first and fifth games against the New York Yankees, who won the other four games and the Series.
While Lee struck out seven in his 4 2-3 innings, San Francisco had eight hits — five doubles — and scored seven runs against him. The Giants had scored four or fewer runs in 16 of their previous 17 games, and their high mark in that span was a 6-5 victory over Philadelphia in Game 4 of the NL championship series.
“There’s only been two games I’ve caught that he’s been like this, and one of them he was hurt,” Molina said. “What I saw, he wasn’t hitting his spots very well. … Everybody thinks he’s a machine. He’s not. He’s a human being and he had a tough game.”