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The Narrative Of The 2010 MLB Season

The Giants franchise hadn’t won the World Series since 1954 when they were In New York. The pursuit of a title on the West Coast had been fraught with heartbreak, most notably in 1962 and 2002. But the 2010 MLB season would finally be different. The San Francisco Giants not only won it all, but they started a string where they would make up for some lost time.

Pitching was the cornerstone of San Francisco’s success. The Giants had the best staff ERA in the National League thanks to a balanced rotation. Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez all made 33 starts and all had ERAs between 3.07 and 4.15. Brian Wilson was at the back end, and he saved 48 games with a 1.81 ERA.

The offense had some problems, ranking ninth in the NL in runs scored. But they got 26 home runs from Aubrey Huff, a good year from veteran leftfielder Pat Burrell, and had a breakout rookie. A catcher named Buster Posey posted a stat line of .375 on-base percentage/.505 slugging percentage and won Rookie of the Year hoors.

San Francisco got a stiff challenge in the NL West from the San Diego Padres. The Padres had a similar profile to the Giants—excellent pitching, troublesome hitting. San Diego got 14 wins apiece from Mat Latos, Jon Garland, and Clayton Richard. Heath Bell racked up 47 saves with a buck-93 ERA. San Diego pitching ranked second to San Francisco in the National League for composite ERA.

The Padre bats could only rank 12th in the NL for runs scored. Adrian Gonzalez had a terrific year at first base—a .298 batting average, 31 homers and 101 RBIs. He finished fourth in the MVP voting. But he was a lonely warrior.

San Diego went to the early lead in the NL West, but the division race stayed packed, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies—both playoff teams the year before—staying within four games. L.A. fell off after the All-Star break. By Labor Day, San Diego had a one-game lead on San Francisco, with Colorado still 4 ½ games out.

As we came down the stretch, this NL West race had to be seen in conjunction with how the NL East was shaping up. The Philadelphia Phillies were the two-time defending National League pennant winner, and they were back for more in 2010. The second-best offense in the NL was led by Jayson Werth, whose stat line came in at .388/.532. Ryan Howard hit 31 homers and drove in 108 runs. Chase Utley, with his .387/.445 stat line was still the NL’s best second baseman.

Philadelphia could also pitch. Roy Halladay had a dazzling year, with 21 wins, a 2.44 ERA, 250 innings pitched, and a Cy Young Award. Cole Hamels added 12 wins with a 3.06 ERA and Phillie pitching finished fifth in the league for staff ERA.

The Atlanta Braves were challenging the Phils this season. Jason Heyward and Brian McCann, with stat lines of .393/.456 and .375/.453 respectively, led a top-5 National League offense. Tim Hudson’s 17 wins and 2.83 ERA led the rotation. Billy Wagner closed out 37 games and his ERA ended up a sparkling 1.37. Atlanta woke up at least some of the echoes of their great pitching during the 1991-2005 dynasty run by placing third in the National League for ERA.

It was the Braves who moved out to a four-game lead by the All-Star break. The Phillie front office acquired Roy Oswalt from Houston for the rotation. Down the stretch, Oswalt merely went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA.

By Labor Day, the Phils had closed to within a game of the Braves. These two teams, along with the Giants and Padres were all packed together in the race for the playoffs. There was only one wild-card berth available prior to 2012, so this was essentially a four-way game of musical chairs, seeing who would be left without a seat.

Fueled by Oswalt and Halladay’s dominance, Philadelphia slowly pulled away in the NL East and by the final week had the race mostly put to bed. San Francisco’s own pitching nudged them past San Diego and they moved out to a three-game lead going into the final weekend. Atlanta was up two on San Diego for the wild-card.

As luck would have it, the matchups for the final weekend were Giants-Padres and Phillies-Braves. On Friday, San Diego won and stayed alive for the division title. Atlanta lost. On Saturday, the Padres won again, and the Braves lost. Now, we were going to the final day of the season. The Giants’ lead was down to a single game, and the Braves and Padres were tied.

San Francisco answered the bell with a 3-0 win that clinched the NL West. Atlanta won an 8-7 slugfest with Philadelphia and took home the wild-card. San Diego was left without a chair.

The four-team playoff bracket in the National League was rounded out by the Cincinnati Reds. MVP first baseman Joey Votto led the way. Votto batted .324. His plate discipline also produced a .424 on-base percentage. He hit 37 homers and drove in 113 runs. Votto led the league’s most productive offense, and he got help from Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce, and Drew Stubbs, all of whom hit 20-plus homers. The pitching staff was average and top-heavy. But with Bronson Arroyo winning 17 games and Johnny Cueto adding 12 more, the Reds pitched well enough.

Cincinnati was in a tight race with St. Louis, led by a vintage year from Albert Pujols and a solid season from Matt Holliday. But in August, the Reds broke it open, extending their margin to seven games by Labor Day. Cincinnati comfortably clinched the division early in the final week.  

The New York Yankees were the defending World Series champs. And while the legendary Derek Jeter had an off-year at age 36, the Yanks got plenty of offense elsewhere. Second baseman Robinson Cano finished third in the MVP voting, with a .319 batting average, 29 homers and 109 RBIs. Mark Texiera and Alex Rodriguez at the corner infield spots were each 30 HR/100 RBI men. Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher combined for 53 homers, and Brett Gardner stole 47 bases. The New York offense scored more runs than anyone in the American League.

Yankee pitching was more middling, but they had a legitimate ace in C.C. Sabathia, whose 21 wins and 3.18 ERA placed him third in the Cy Young vote. They had a legitimate #2 in 18-game winner Phil Hughes. And they had the incomparable Mariano Rivera in the bullpen, with his 33 saves and 1.80 ERA.

Boston was usually the primary challenger to New York, but the Red Sox would suffer injuries. While they stayed on the fringes of contention, it was the Tampa Bay Rays who emerged to fight the Yankees for supremacy in the AL East.

Tampa Bay finished in the top three of the American League for both runs scored and staff ERA. Third baseman Evan Longoria finished with a .372/.507 stat line. Carl Crawford’s line was .356/.495 and he stole 47 bases. Carlos Pena hit 28 homers. A balanced rotation was led by Cy Young runner-up David Price, and his 19-6 record with a 2.72 ERA. Rafael Soriano joined the list of closers having fantastic years, with 45 saves and a 1.73 ERA.

The Rays led the AL East by 3 ½ games on Memorial Day, but the Yankees bounced back and moved into first place throughout the summer. More important, is that both teams ran away in the wild-card race. By Labor Day, New York led Tampa Bay by 2 ½ games, but the Rays led the Chicago White Sox by a full seven games for the wild-card. Both teams cruised into the playoffs. The division race, and homefield advantage, came down to the final day. The Rays pulled it out. The Yanks were the wild-card.

In the AL West, the Texas Rangers were emerging and led by Josh Hamilton. The outfielder hit .359, slugged 32 homers, drove in 100 runs, and won the MVP award. Texas added veteran DH Vlad Guerrero Sr. The future Hall of Famer batted .300, with 29 homers and 115 RBIs. A young Nelson Cruz hit .318 and popped 22 home runs. Michael Young added 21 dingers.

On the pitching side, the Ranger rotation had a steady top three in C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Tommy Hunter. Darren O’Day was one of the game’s best setup relievers, and Neftali Feliz nailed down 40 saves. Texas was a complete team, finishing in the AL’s top four for runs scored and staff ERA.

This was a division that had the Cy Young Award winner in Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. They had an established power in the Los Angeles Angels, who had won three straight AL West flags. But the Rangers moved out to a 4 ½ game lead over the Angels by the All-Star break. Aided by the trade deadline acquisition of starting pitcher Cliff Lee, Texas broke it open in late summer and cruised home to an early clinch.

In the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins won a repeat title. Joe Mauer continued to be the league’s best-hitting catcher, with a .327 batting average. Jason Kubel and 39-year-old Jim Thome each exceeded 20 home runs. So did outfielder Delmon Young, in a strong all-around year. Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano combined for 31 wins to lead up a balanced rotation.

Minnesota spent the summer battling with the Chicago White Sox, who were led by John Danks in the rotation and Paul Konerko at first base. Chicago led the race at the All-Star break. Minnesota was 3 ½ games back, and the Detroit Tigers were nestled in between. The Tigers faded, and the Twins surged to a 3 ½ game lead. Between Labor Day and September 19, Minnesota took off, blowing the lead out to ten games and coasting home.

Some great pitching would get the playoffs underway. Texas visited Tampa Bay. Cliff Lee and David Price were on the hill. Lee was dominant in getting the Rangers a 5-1 win. But he had nothing on what Halladay was about to do in Philadelphia. The Phillies’ ace threw a no-hitter at the Reds—the first postseason no-hitter since Don Larsen pitched a perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

Halladay set the tone for Philadelphia to sweep Cincinnati. Another sweep went down in the American League. After Minnesota’s strong finish, the Twins seemed like a worthy challenger to dethrone the Yankees. But New York went up to the Twin Cities and immediately won the first two games, then easily took Game 3 back in the Bronx to close it out.

San Francisco was getting some pretty good pitching of their own. Lincecum won the opener against Atlanta in a 1-0 duel against Derek Lowe. That was just the start of a terrific series where every game would be a one-run affair. After losing Game 2, the Giants won a pair of 3-2 decisions on the road, both of which they trailed in the late innings.

After Lee’s Game 1 gem, Texas won Game 2 and appeared to have this series under control. Until Tampa Bay went on the road and swept both games. Another big Lee-Price showdown was at hand for Game 5. And once again, it was Lee that came through—another 5-1 win punched the Rangers’ ticket to the ALCS.

A rematch of the previous year’s Yankees-Phillies World Series seemed almost inevitable. It was an outcome that would have surely pleased Fox Sports, who had the broadcasting rights. But the upstarts would have something to say.

After blowing a lead and losing Game 1 at home, Texas looked to be in serious trouble. But the Rangers took Game 2, and then shocked everyone by walking into Yankee Stadium and winning Games 3 & 4 in blowout fashion—a combined score of 18-3. They lost Game 5 but came back home and Colby Lewis won his second game of the ALCS to clinch the pennant. For the first time ever, the Texas Rangers were going to the World Series.

San Francisco went on the road and earned a split in Philadelphia. The Giants came back home and got a shutout from Matt Cain in Game 3 and a walkoff win in Game 4. They were on the brink of an upset. But the Phillies took Game 5 and forced the series back east. Game 6 was tied 2-2 in the eighth inning. Giant shortstop Juan Uribe homered, and San Francisco had their first pennant since 1989.

We had an unlikely Giants-Rangers World Series. With Lincecum and Lee on tap for Game 1, it seemed like we would get more great pitching to start the Fall Classic. The game’s unpredictability went on display, as San Francisco won 11-7. But the Giants pitching rounded into form. They got shutouts from Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Edgar Renteria hit .412 with a couple of home runs. It only took five games for San Francisco to finally bring the World Series trophy west. And it wouldn’t be long before they would be back, doing it again in 2012 and 2014.