SAN FRANCISCO — Not only have the Texas Rangers never been to the World Series before, they are winless in nine games at AT&T Park. And make that an 11-game losing streak in San Francisco dating back to the windy, cold nights at the Giants’ former home of Candlestick Park.
The Rangers must find a way to win in San Francisco’s pitcher-friendly waterfront ballpark at least once, because the Giants have home-field advantage in the Series. Game 1 is Wednesday night — and the Giants know Texas manager Ron Washington will have his team ready with postseason ace Cliff Lee on the mound.
“I keep saying the same thing over: It’s not the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best on that day,” Washington said after his club reached its first World Series by beating the defending champion New York Yankees. “Well, that was quite a few days that we played better than the teams we played and that’s why we are headed to the World Series.”
The Giants returned to the Bay Area on Sunday afternoon following their Game 6 victory Saturday night at Philadelphia that sent the franchise to its first World Series since the Barry Bonds-led 2002 team that finished runner-up to the Angels.
This squad is so different from that 2002 team. There is no superstar in this gritty bunch.
“We fought,” said left fielder Pat Burrell, one of several new faces to come along during the course of the year. “We scratched and clawed. I don’t know how we did it but we did it.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced his rotation before the start of Monday evening’s workout. Two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum will start the opener, followed by Matt Cain in Game 2. When the series shifts to Texas, Jonathan Sanchez will start Game 3, followed by Madison Bumgarner.
Texas was scheduled to get into town early Monday evening, opting to wait until Tuesday to hold its first workout on the field where it has endured so many defeats. Yet since AT&T Park opened for the 2000 campaign, Nolan Ryan’s Rangers have at least made things interesting. Of those nine losses to the Giants, five were by two runs and three by one run. The only somewhat lopsided score was 5-1.
The Giants have the NL All-Stars to thank for starting the World Series at home. This is the first time the Series has begun in a National League park since 2001 at Arizona. Home-field advantage stopped rotating between the leagues in 2003, going instead to the league that won the All-Star game. The NL finally ended its 13-year drought by winning this year’s Midsummer Classic, and the Giants are the beneficiary.
“We’re proud and we’re humbled to be where we are today,” said Bill Neukom, San Francisco’s bowtie-wearing, second-year managing partner.
Texas players actually had a few chances to change that All-Star outcome, but Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Ian Kinsler combined for just one hit in seven at-bats against the National League.
Giants closer and 2010 major league saves leader Brian Wilson retired Andrus to start his perfect eighth inning at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium.
Lee, who had just been traded from Seattle to Texas four days earlier, didn’t factor into the decision, pitching one inning of relief.
But boy has the lefty been a key for the Rangers in October. He is 3-0 during this playoff run and 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA for his career in the postseason, covering eight starts in five series with the Phillies and Texas.
San Francisco will look to produce more offense — as tough as that might be against Lee and Co. San Francisco was outscored 20-19 by Philadelphia in six NLCS games and had three one-run victories in both that series and the division series against Atlanta.
One thing the Giants have is depth, with somebody different capable of delivering a key play or hit on any given night. So far this postseason, Cody Ross has been the star.
“It’s not one guy that carries this club,” Bochy said. “It takes the whole team every night.”