Caught Looking continues its recap of the most memorable moments and accomplishments from the 2010 season. Here are moments one through five.

5. Stras-a-palooza
In what ended up being one of the most hyped regular season games in recent memory, the Nationals and Pirates met up for a meaningless game on June 8th that just so happened to be the debut of pitching  phenom Stephen Strasburg. You knew it was a big game when the MLB Network pulled Bob Costas out of the woodwork for it. Thankfully, their broadcast was blacked out in Pittsburgh so I didn’t have to struggle with Costas’ one liners and overly dramatic statements. This was also the game that featured the first and so far only live blog for Caught Looking! As for the game, Strasburg lived up to the hype as he baffled Pirate hitters all night, striking out 14 with no walks in seven innings of work for his first victory. Though the Pirates did score runs off of him thanks to a two-run home run by Delwyn Young. Strasburg would make 12 total starts and finish with a 5-3 record and 2.91 ERA before being shut down in late August with a torn right UCL that will sideline him for the 2011 season.

4. Perfect games and no-hitters gone wild
The “Year of the Pitcher” was no more evident than in the frequency of great pitching performances that continued throughout the entire season. It started with Ubaldo Jimenez‘s dominant performance by no-hitting the Braves on April 17. There are so many after his no-hitter that I need to list them all…

  • Oakland A’s starter Dallas Braden fires the 17th perfect game in MLB history on May 9 against the Rays to celebrate Mother’s Day, which made it even special since Braden lost his mother to breast cancer years ago. The whole Braden/A-Rod storyline that preceded this performance was just another headline after Braden made himself a household name.
  • Roy Halladay didn’t wait very long for the next perfect game as he mowed down the Marlins on May 29 for the 18th perfecto in history. Halladay’s perfect game was just the beginning of his remarkable first year in the NL.
  • Edwin Jackson no-hit the Rays on June 25. Yes, the Rays were no-hit again, and was I the only one who honestly didn’t remember Jackson throwing a no-hitter in 2010? It just got lost in all the others. Maybe it was because while he gave up no hits, he also walked a ridiculous eight batters while throwing 149 pitches. Whoa. Jackson was eventually traded a month later from Arizona to the White Sox.
  • The Rays must have been tired of being on the losing end of no-hitters, so Matt Garza tossed his own against the Tigers on July 26. Garza made history for the Rays as the first no-hitter in franchise history, and it also marked the most no-hitters in one year since 1990.

There was one other no-hitter that I failed to mention because it was memorable enough to hold its own spot next on the list.

3. Roy Halladay‘s no-hitter in his first postseason game
There was a lot of pregame debate about how the Doc would handle his first playoff game since he had never gone to the postseason with the Blue Jays. That was all put to rest with an exclamation point as Halladay stifled the Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS with the second no-hitter in postseason history, second only to Don Larsen‘s perfect game in the ’56 World Series. Doc struck out eight batters on 104 pitches and only permitted one walk in the entire game or it could have been his second perfect game of 2010. His performance pretty much ended the Reds season even though they weren’t knocked out until a couple of days later when the Phillies finished the three-game sweep. Even though the Phillies did not get back to the WS, Halladay’s first season in the NL was legendary as he easily went on to capture the Cy Young award with a 21-10 record and 2.44 ERA.

2. Armando’s perfect game that wasn’t perfect
Of all the no-hitters and perfect games thrown in 2010, of course the most memorable game would be Armando Galarraga‘s near perfect game that was derailed due to a horrendous call by ump Jim Joyce. Never has Jim Joyce’s name been known by some many fans—mostly irate ones. Four days after Halladay’s perfect game, Galarraga took the mound for the Tigers against the Indians at home and was one out away from another perfect game. Galarraga got Jason Donald to ground to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who tossed the ball to Galarraga coming to cover first base in what appeared to be a close play. Galarraga’s hands went in the air when he tagged first base, but Joyce called Donald safe for an infield single, ruining the perfect game and no-hitter. Galarraga’s hand immediately went to his head in utter disbelief. As well as the shocked crowd at Comerica Park. Replays quickly showed that Donald was indeed out, and the play wasn’t nearly as close as first thought. Joyce admitted to blowing the call later after seeing the replay and the two made up the next game when they met at home plate to turn in the starting lineups. It was a cruel twist of fate, one that Galarraga showed an immense amount of class for such a young player while some of his teammates did not. In my opinion, this perfect game that never was is definitely one of the most memorable moments of 2010.

1. San Francisco Giants are champs
Despite a stable of great pitching, people continued to not give the Giants a real chance as a contender for the championship. They proved they were way more than just a surprise team by defeating the Phillies and disposing of the Texas Rangers in five games to earn their first title since 1954 when they were still in New York. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson and a lineup mostly full of castoffs surprised the baseball world with dominant pitching throughout the entire playoffs. Edgar Renteria (series MVP) continues to find himself on the big stage in the Fall Classic with the game-winning three-run homer in Game 5 to help give the Giants the championship.

There you have it. The top 10 memorable moments from the 2010 season. Are there any other moments Caught Looking missed?

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World Series Game 5: Giants 3, Rangers 1  (Giants win WS 4-games-1)
Thanks to another stellar pitching performance by ace Tim Lincecum, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 to win the series 4-games-to-1 for their first championship since arriving in the Bay Area. The Giants ace defeated Rangers ace Cliff Lee for the second time in the series and left no doubts about how much pitching dominated these playoffs.

It’s only fitting that in a year dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher” that the playoffs and, more importantly, the world series would be dominated by pitching.

In a game that was more of what people expected from the Game 1 Lee-Lincecum matchup, Lincecum fired 8.0 innings with just one run allowed on three hits while fanning 10. Lee matched Lincecum until the seventh inning when Edgar Renteria, who is developing a flair for the dramatic, ripped a three-run homer off Lee to give the Giants all the runs they would need to win it all. Cody Ross and Juan Uribe led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Aubrey Huff laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, and Lee then struck out Pat Burrell for two outs bringing Renteria to the plate. Renteria had the walk-off game-winning hit for the Marlins in the ’97 World Series and made the final out of the 2004 World Series for the Cardinals. This time he delivered again with a three-run blast into the Texas night to deep center field. It was all the Giants needed.

Nelson Cruz hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, his sixth of the postseason, but that was all the Rangers would get off of Lincecum. Closer Brian Wilson came in for the ninth and shut down the Rangers middle of the order, striking out Josh Hamilton, getting Vlad to ground out and clinching the World Series for the Giants by striking out Cruz to end it.

Renteria was named series MVP thanks to a .412/.444/.765 slash line with two home runs, including the series-winning home run. You can definitely make a strong argument that Lincecum deserved the MVP award, but it really doesn’t matter because the Giants are champs and that’s all that matters to them and their fans.

World Series Game 4: Giants 4, Rangers 0
Giants rookie pitcher Madison Bumgarner threw a brilliant performance to blank the Rangers 4-0 in Game 4 to move the Giants to one game from their first championship since moving to San Francisco.

If the Rangers were to show any momentum from winning Game 3 in front of their home fans, Bumgarner put a stop to that early. The rookie southpaw fired 8.0 shutout innings, limiting Texas to just three hits, two walks while striking out six batters. Closer Brian Wilson finished the job with a perfect ninth inning to give the Giants a 3-games-to-1 lead. Mitch Moreland, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young were the only ones to record a hit for Texas, all three hits being lousy singles.

The Giants, on the other hand, churned out eight hits including two long balls. Aubrey Huff opened the scoring with a two-run blast in the top of the third inning. Torres doubled in Renteria in the seventh inning for one of his three hits on the night, and rookie phenom Buster Posey hit his first home run of the World Series with a solo shot to center in the eighth inning. San Francisco chased Rangers starter Tommy Hunter from the game after just 4.0 innings, five hits and two runs.

The Giants will attempt to capture their first championship since 1954 tonight with Tim Lincecum taking the mound in Game 5 against Texas ace Cliff Lee in a rematch of Game 1. Here’s hoping for a better pitching duel than what we saw in Game 1, which saw a total of 18 runs when it was all said and done.

 

World Series Game 3: Rangers 4, Giants 2
Texas returned home down two games and found the big hit they lacked for the first part of the series in San Francisco. Mitch Moreland, an unlikely choice for a game 3 hero, belted a three-run homer off Jonathan Sanchez in the bottom of the second inning to give the Rangers all the runs they would need to win their first game of the series.

Josh Hamilton also added a solo shot as the Rangers defeated the Giants 4-2. Colby Lewis continued a stellar postseason run with 7.2 innings of effective work with just two runs allowed on five hits for the win. Neftali Feliz pitched a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts to record the save.

The Giants two runs were scored on solo blasts by Cody Ross and Andres Torres, but that was all they could muster off Lewis and company. For the second consecutive start Sanchez struggled on the big stage as he failed to go at least five innings again and gave up four runs through 4.2 innings.

The Rangers and Giants meet for Game 4 tonight in Arlington with Madison Bumgarner starting for the Giants against Rangers righty Tommy Hunter.

World Series Game 2: Giants 9, Rangers 0
Panic time in Texas? Matt Cain dominated the Rangers on route to a 9-0 victory in Game 2 to give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the World Series.

Cain continued his magnificent performance in the postseason with 7.2 shutout innings on four hits, two walks and four strikeouts. Everything that was expected of Lincecum this postseason has pretty much come in the form of Cain. The Giants starter has not allowed an earned run in three starts this postseason.

The Giants lineup, which may be the weakest lineup star-wise to start a WS in years, scrapped their way to another big game with nine runs. Edgar Renteria, who hit three home runs in the regular season, opened the scoring in the fifth inning with a solo home run to left field. With the score 2-0 and the Giants already chasing Texas starter CJ Wilson from the game, their offense broke out for seven runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Renteria finished with three RBI and Aaron Rowand drove in two on a triple in San Francisco’s big inning.

Wilson matched Cain step for step until Renteria’s home run as he finished 6.0 innings of work and two runs allowed for the loss. The Rangers came on and gave up the seven runs to turn the game into a blowout.

The Rangers head back to Texas for Game 3 in what is pretty much a must-win game for them at this point. Colby Lewis, who was brilliant in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees, will go for Texas against Jonathan Sanchez who only lasted two innings in his last start of the NLCS.

World Series Game 1: Giants 11, Rangers 7
If you would have told me prior to Game 1 that the Rangers would score seven runs and lose with Cliff Lee on the mound, I would have committed you. In your insanity, if you would have also told me that a game where Lee faced Tim Lincecum would end up with 18 total runs, I may have given up on you altogether. Yet, that’s exactly the way the script went for Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night. So much for that once-in-a-lifetime pitching duel. That’s why they play the game I guess.

The Giants ripped Lee all around the ballpark on route to an 11-7 victory at AT&T Park to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Lee lasted just 4.1 innings with seven runs allowed (six earned) on eight hits, one walk, one HBP and seven strikeouts. Hey, he did have a double off Lincecum though in the second inning. It was his first ever loss in what was a remarkable postseason career up until last night. It wasn’t all his fault as the defense behind him fell apart as well as Texas recorded four errors in the game. Lee ran into major trouble in the fifth after Torres doubled with out. Freddy Sanchez ripped an RBI double, Posey struck and Burrell walked. Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff followed with back-to-back RBI singles to chase Lee from the outing. Juan Uribe welcome Rangers reliever Darren O’Day with a three-run blast deep into the San Francisco night for the big hit the Giants were looking for. It was Uribe’s second crucial home run in as many games as he hit the eventual game-winning homer in Game 6 of the NLCS in Philadelphia.

Sanchez didn’t have a bad game himself. He only doubled in his first three WS at-bats and finished with four hits and three RBI. Not bad for a former Bucco! (sorry, I had to add the Pirates plug in there). Three extra-base hits with no home runs in a WS game? It’s only happened a handful of times before.

The Giants actually trailed the game 2-0 early and got out of a jam after a horrendous brain fart by Lincecum. The Giants starter had Michael Young in a run down with one out in the first inning and decided to run him back to third base instead of flipping to third for the out. Lincecum had to of thought the other runner had moved up to third, so the lead runner would be out, but that was not the case. Inexplicable decision by Lincecum, but he got out of it against the next batter, enticing Ian Kinsler to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Even with an 8-2 lead, Lincecum wasn’t great either as he only made it 5.2 innings allowing four runs on eight hits, two walks with three strikeouts. The difference here was a big W in the win column.

For Texas, Vlad Guerrero and Nelson Cruz each had a hit and two RBI while Bengie Molina and Mitch Moreland each recorded two hits.

The Rangers will try to bounce back tonight with CJ Wilson taking the hill against Giants starter Matt Cain in Game 2. All Cain has done so far this postseason is allowed zero earned runs in 13.2 innings.

As for a random non-game thought from last night, I’m all for being patriotic, but can we lose “God Bless America” for the 7th inning stretch and go back to the old-fashioned “Take Me Out to the Ballgame?” The National Anthem is sung before every game, I don’t think we need another national TV performance of an American song. Let the Giants fans, who were having a good time at that point, sing and go crazy for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

NLCS Game 6: Giants 3, Phillies 2 (Giants win series 4-games-2)
The Giants scratched out enough runs again in a hostile environment to defeat the Phillies 3-2 to eliminate the former back-to-back NL champs and punch their own ticket to the Fall Classic against the Rangers.

Juan Uribe hit a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the eighth inning off Phillies reliever Ryan Madson to give the Giants a 3-2 lead that held up as the winning run. This coming from a guy who was hitting under .100 this postseason and off of a pitcher that has been stellar for Philadelphia up until tonight. This all after the Giants had tied the game in the third inning off of another Phillies either as Aubrey Huff scored when Buster Posey‘s slow roller to third base gave Polanco trouble as he threw wildly to first base, hit the runner and got away from Ryan Howard to allow Huff to score and tie it. The Phillies showed shoddy defense all series.

The other aspect that has to be talked about for the Giants in Game 6 was the fantastic pitching by the bullpen. After Jonathan Sanchez left following 2.0-plus innings of work, the bullpen took over to shut down Philadelphia the rest of the way. Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner, Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson worked the rest of the game allowing no runs. Lincecum even picked up a hold! Wilson came on and worked a five-out save and got Ryan Howard to strikeout looking with two runners on in an epic at-bat to end the game and the Phillies season. Lopez picked up the win and Wilson earned his third save of the season. Cody Ross picked up NLCS MVP honors, but no one would have complained had it gone to Wilson and his beard instead.

Phillies starter Roy Oswalt was good, but not terrific as he scattered nine hits over 6.0 innings allowing two runs (one earned) with five strikeouts. Oswalt gave way to Madson, who gave up the home run to Uribe in his second inning of work for the loss. It was the first run allowed all postseason by Madson…and couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The Giants continue to win tight ball games, string together just enough runs and pitch the lights out on the road, at home, anywhere to advance to their first World Series since 2002 in the post-Bonds era. You can’t say enough about how difficult of a performance it was for them to go into a hostile environment like a rockin’ house in Philly, take your starter out in third inning and still rally for the victory. Unbelievable stuff right there.

Cliff Lee versus Tim Lincecum Wednesday night for Game 1. Wow, I can’t wait for this series.