(Sports Network) - It has been 56 years since the Giants last won a World Series. The Texas Rangers have never won a title. Something will have to give when the 106th edition of the Fall Classic gets underway this evening at AT&T Park.
Maybe both teams were longshots at the start of the playoffs, but both earned their way into this year's World Series, as each took out the pennant winners from a year ago in their respective leagues.
Texas entered the postseason for only the fourth time in team history and its first appearance in 11 years. The club's three previous trips ended with losses to the New York Yankees, but after getting past the Tampa Bay Rays in five games of the ALDS to win their first-ever postseason series, the Rangers exorcised their Yankee demons by taking out the defending champions in six games to advance.
The Rangers possess a high-octane offensive attack, but the biggest reason Texas is still playing is its starting staff, a group that has pitched to a 2.76 ERA in 11 games in these playoffs.
Of course the Rangers are led by the incomparable Cliff Lee, who will take the ball in Game 1 for the American League champions. After a tremendous postseason run with the Philadelphia Phillies a year ago, Lee has been even better in these playoffs, going 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA.
With his win in Game 3 against the Yankees, Texas' midseason acquisition became the third pitcher in MLB history to win his first seven playoff decisions and is the first pitcher with three games of 10-plus punchouts in one postseason.
Lee's career ERA of 1.26 in the postseason is good for third best all-time.
"What I attribute my success in the post season to is confidence, relying on my routine, playing on a really good team, having a really good offense to lean on, Bengie Molina," Lee said. "Those are a lot of the reasons. But I think mostly it's probably just confidence and going out there and expecting to be successful, and what allows me to do that is my routine. I've proven to myself over and over that it works, and eventually it becomes what you rely on to make you successful, and that's where I'm at."
Lee has beaten the Giants all three times he has faced them and has pitched to a 1.13 ERA in those outings. His last start in San Fran came last season in his first outing with the Phillies and he turned in a brilliant complete-game win.
"I'm sure there's a lot of familiar guys, familiar faces," Lee said. "But obviously they've figured some things out and are playing as one unit over there. I mean, they're in the World Series. They're doing a lot of stuff right."
Offensively the Rangers are led by center fielder Josh Hamilton, who picked up the first of what could be many awards in the coming month with an ALCS MVP trophy thanks to a terrific bounce back series against the Yankees.
After hitting a mere .111 in the ALDS, Hamilton hit .350 in the ALCS with three home runs and seven RBI. It is safe to say that Hamilton, the front- runner for the AL MVP award, is back at 100-percent after missing 24 games in September with fractured ribs.
San Francisco, meanwhile, needed all 162 games to clinch the National League West but has made the most of its opportunity. The Giants disposed of the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, then took out the heavily-favored two-time defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
Although Cody Ross hit three home runs to gain NLCS MVP honors, the Giants haven't really had an offensive star in these playoffs, as 11 different players combined to score 19 LCS runs.
Ross' first major league home run actually came off of Lee as a rookie in 2003 with the Detroit Tigers.
San Francisco has also had a knack for winning the close games. Seven of the Giants' 10 postseason games have been determined by one run, and San Francisco has come out the winner in six of those contests.
"You get a lot of people -- family, friends -- telling us we give them a heart attack with these games," Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "You know, I think we've been prepared for these games. We've had them all year."
Runs figure to be at a premium this evening with Lee on the hill, but the Giants will have a pretty solid pitcher of their own going in reigning two- time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
Lincecum won five of his final six starts of the regular season and has carried that success into the postseason, where he has gone 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in four games.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing," Lincecum said. "Prior to this year, I didn't know if we'd ever get here or what was going to happen or how far we'd get, but we got the right tools and brought the right people in at the right time, and we're here now."
He has never faced the Rangers.
While the Rangers are enjoying the first real postseason run in the team's 50- year franchise history, the Giants are no strangers to the World Series and will be making their 18th appearance. However, this is just the team's fourth trip to the Fall Classic since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Their last appearance ended in heartache in 2002 when they lost in seven games to the Angels.
The Giants haven't won a World Series since 1954, a series that was highlighted, of course, by one of the greatest plays in baseball history: Willie Mays' on-the-run, over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track to rob Vic Wertz.
The Rangers are the fourth team in the past six seasons to be appearing in their first World Series. However, the previous three all lost in five games or less: Houston (2005), Colorado (2007) and Tampa Bay (2008).
These two teams obviously have zero postseason history against one another, but the Giants lead the all-time series against Texas 15-7 and have won the last seven and 11 of the previous 12 meetings.
Texas has also lost 11 in a row in San Francisco, where it is just 2-12 all- time.