ANDRES TORRES – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero for October 31

Tim Sharp/Reuters

Tim Sharp/Reuters

OCTOBER 31, 2010 – World Series Game 4

Andres Torres is one of those players that a fan base loves disproportionately to their stats.

A casual look at his career shows he was a journeyman minor leaguer with some cups of coffee in the big leagues before earning a starting job with the Giants while in his 30’s.

He had one good full season and followed that up with 3 nondescript seasons before seeing his career end in the minors.

Bring his name up among Giants fans and see them light up. Still a fan favorite at AT&T Park, he cemented his status of permanently loved Giant when they played on Halloween, 2010.

The Giants won a hotly contested NL West title over a surprising Padres squad. After beating Atlanta in the Division Series, they stunned the heavily favored two time defending NL Champion Phillies in the NLCS.

Bruce Bochy’s squad was filled with solid starting pitching, led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and an outrageously deep bullpen, anchored by eccentric Brian Wilson. They would face the Rangers in a World Series of snake bitten franchises.

The Giants took the first two in San Francisco but Texas won Game 3. The fourth game was a showdown between two young pitchers who shone that regular season. Rangers pitcher Tommy Hunter was 23 years old, had the best winning percentage in the American League after going 13-4 and threw to a 3.73 ERA. The Giants threw 21 year old rookie Madison Bumgarner. He would show up again in subsequent Octobers.

The Rangers hoped that with a win, they could hand the ball to Cliff Lee to get a 3-2 lead. The Giants knew a Game 4 win would mean handing the ball to Lincecum with a chance to clinch.

The Giants leadoff man was Andres Torres. He had been drafted back in 1998 by the Tigers but never caught on in Detroit. He played 19 games for the Tigers in 2002, 59 in 2003 and 3 in 2004 before making an 8 game cameo for Texas in 2005 and returning to the minors.

After bouncing around between the Twins, Cubs and Tigers again, Torres landed with the Giants in 2009 and stayed with the big league club for most of the season.

In 2010, he started 124 games, making the most of the playing time opened up with injuries to Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand. Torres won the Willie Mac Award, given to the Giant who showed the greatest leadership and spirit on the Giants. On a roster filled with beloved San Francisco stars, that was quite an honor.

The leadership, and more importantly the bat, of Torres was on display in the World Series. He led off Game 4 with a single and stole second. He would not score but he was setting the tone for the game.

He led off the third with a double and would score on Aubrey Huff’s homer. Meanwhile, Bumgarner held the Rangers scoreless inning after inning.

In the 7th, the score was still 2-0 Giants. A modest Texas rally would tie the game. With 2 outs in the top of the 7th and Edgar Renteria on first, Torres stepped up to the plate again.

He lined a double to centerfield on the second pitch and Renteria came all the way around to score. Now the Giants had a 3-0 lead. Bumgarner and Wilson would make it stand as the final was 4-0.

Torres final line was 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, a run scored and another knocked in. The Giants would clinch the next day. For the series, Torres batted .318 with an OPS of .984. Not bad for a career minor leaguer.

Eventually, Torres was dealt to the Mets for Angel Pagan, who would go on to become a World Champion Giant himself. Torres returned to San Francisco in 2013. He hasn’t played in the bigs since.

But he will always be a beloved World Champion Giant and his worth will go beyond the box score. That makes him the Unsung Post Season Hero for October 31.

It’s GOT TO BE the Smiling Bird!

Did you notice that the Orioles are hot?

Not just based upon their 5 run bottom of the 9th win today capped by Wilson Betemit’s walk off 3 run jack.

But Buck Showalter is entering the month’s final game tied for first in the Division. The Orioles have a better record than the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Tigers, the Angels and many other teams that were expected to contend.

Adam Jones is off to a great start. Red Sox nemesis Nolan Reimold is hitting the ball well. Matt Weiters is driving in runs. And Tommy Hunter looked terrific today (I thought last year he was a good pick up for Baltimore.)

Jim Johnson has been spot on as a closer and while the Red Sox and Yankees try to piece together a rotation, Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen join Hunter as solid starters so far. If Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz can get their acts together, this would be a deep staff.

So who should get credit for this?

Buck Showalter?

Dan Duquette?

Of course not.

It’s the smiling bird hat.

This is their best start since 2008 when they won 16 games in April. And we all know how THAT season ended. (Actually I bet you didn’t. They were a .500 team in mid July but went 23-52 after the 4th of July to finish with 93 losses.)

But the feeling in Baltimore is good right now.

And that bird has reason to smile.

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I am keeping my eye on Tommy Hunter

A year ago, Tommy Hunter looked like he was exactly what every team wanted. A young pitcher who could win. In fact he had the best winning percentage in the American League. At age 23 he won 13 games, pitched to a solid 3.73 ERA in Texas and had an ERA+ of 120, which I understand is good.

He made three post season starts and while he didn’t exactly shine in the October spot light, he got his initial butterflies out.

Cut to a year later, and injuries and the rise of Matt Harrison has made him expendable and he has been shipped off to Baltimore for 36 year old Koji Uehara.

I’m going to watch Tommy Hunter carefully as he goes to the Orioles. There is no way Uehara will be part of any playoff team in Baltimore.

But I wonder what Hunter will be at Camden Yards. Will he be yet another toss in, a young player traded away at the deadline never to be seen again.

Sure he started in the post season.
Big deal. So did Dana Kiecker.

But what if the Orioles got a steal. A nice valuable piece to an elusive playoff puzzle.

What if Hunter comes back and becomes a nice #3 or #4 starter like he was last year? What if that happens and some combination of Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Dan Klein break through and become successful?

Then he might become a valuable cog in a surprising young pitching staff.
Hell, he has ALREADY been on a staff like that. Maybe that’s what his role would be. The guy to remind them “Hey! Nobody thought WE’D be a good staff. But we wound up playing in a little thing called the World Series.”

It’s an interesting deal.
It could amount to nothing… but I have my eye on him.

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