October 2010

Game 4 lookahead: Staying positive

There are lots of things that we can look back on when you lose.

And Game 3 of the World Series is no different.

But we don’t want to linger over things like, oh, another sub-par outing from Jonathan Sanchez, the idea of a Sanchez-Colby Lewis rematch in Game 7 if the series goes that deep, the fact the Giants could not get to the Rangers bullpen Saturday, or that the Giants couldn’t get on the board early, or the platinum sombrero for Pat Burrell.

No,no. We are going to stay positive.

So here are reasons to be positive about the Giants in the World Series.

  • The Giants still lead the series 2-1. If you had told us going into the Series that the Giants would be up 2-1 after three games, we’d take it.
  • If you told us a month ago that the Giants would still be playing on Halloween, we’d take that, too.
  • The Giants need two wins to take the title and have starts coming from Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
  • With the Giants not facing a clinching win on Sunday, I won’t have to worry watching the game on Sunday night and having to get up every so often to go to the front door and yell “Will you kids stop ringing my doorbell! Don’t you know the Giants are about to clinch their first World Series title in 56 years?!?!?!”
  • The Giants are 7-1 in their past eight Game 4s of a best-of-7 series.
  • The Giants will face Tommy Hunter in Game 4, not Cliff Lee. After making his 2010 debut on June 5, Hunter opened the season 8-0 with a 2.31 ERA. After that, he went 5-4 with 5.08 ERA.
  • Hunter is 7-0 at home, but six of those wins came in that 8-0 start.
  • In the postseason, he’s 0-1 with 6.34 ERA. He’s failed to pitch into the fifth inning in either start.
  • Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ Game 4 starter, was 6-3 with 1.91 ERA in road starts this season. He gave up 2 earned runs in six innings in his lone postseason road start.
  • It’s Halloween Night, a night made for black and orange!!!

Lucky Giants shirt runs out of luck

I guess Sunday is a laundry day.

The final weekend of the regular season, I went to a men’s church retreat at the beach. I brought three Giants shirts to wear over the weekend, expecting the Giants to clinch the NL West Division title against the Padres.

I wore an orange Giants T-shirt on Friday (cuz it was Orange Friday), but the Giants lost.

I broke out the black “Gigantes” T-shirt on Saturday, but the Giants lost.

So I went to the white Giants shirt with orange/black trim. I remember telling a fellow Giant fan that morning “This is the winning shirt.” And the Giants won.

I didn’t think much about it. Until I put that same shirt on for Game 1 of the NLCS, and the Giants won. So I began to think maybe there was something in this shirt.

I broke it out for Game 3 of the NLCS, another win.

I broke it out for Game 6 of the NLCS, another win.

So then I kept wearing it on game day. Game 1 of the World Series. Game 2 of the World Series. Win. Win.

I had it on Saturday, and I guess it ran out of luck.

Or maybe whatever I wear really doesn’t have an impact on the games. Really, when you think about it, it’s kind of silly. A grown man worrying about what shirt to wear. I think the experience has helped me gain proper perspective.

So I’ll find something else to wear Sunday for Game 4 of the World Series … as I watch the game from my lucky chair.

Game 3 preview: Time to get back to work

Well, we’ve all been reveling in the Giants’ first two victories in the World Series.

I’ve even caught myself allowing thoughts of World Series championships swim around in my head on Friday. But just as those thoughts make a couple of laps, they run head-on into some bad memories. Then thoughts turn to: Is this how the Giants are going to break my heart this time?

So now is the time for the Giants, and all the Giants faithful, to take those first games and set them aside. A new series starts Saturday in Arlington, and they need to find a way to win Saturday. Take nothing for granted. Giants fans know well there are no sure things.

WHO IS COLBY LEWIS?

That’s a question a lot of Giants fans are asking. And it’s a reasonable question.

Even the Yankees, who play in the same league as the Rangers, were not that familiar with Lewis and it hurt them.

Here’s what we know about Colby Lewis.

The reason you don’t know much about Colby Lewis is that prior to 2010, he spent two season pitching in Japan. Lewis came up with the Rangers in 2002, making 26 starts and going 10-9 in 2003. But he missed 2004 after rotator cuff surgery. The Tigers claimed him off waivers after 2004 season. Lewis returned to the majors briefly at the end of 2006. He made 26 appearances for the A’s in 2007 before being claimed off waivers by the Royals, then later released after the 2007 season.

He signed Hiroshima of Japan’s Central League in 2008, where he led the league in strikeouts in 2008 and 2009.

He signed a two-year deal with the Rangers last winter, and went 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA for Texas. He struck out 196 batters in 201 IP.

His season was almost a mirror of Game 2 starter C.J. Wilson. Lewis lost seven straight decisions from last July to early September before winning three of his last four starts in September.

Lewis has been very good in the postseason. He pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Rays, a game Tampa eventually won 6-3 by beating the Texas bullpen (sound familiar?).

In the ALCS vs. the Yankees, he got the win in Game 2, giving up two runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. In Game 6, he was even better, pitching eight innings, allowing one run on three hits.

Lewis has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last eight starts, including three in the postseason. Yankee right-handed hitters struggled against Lewis. The Giants lineup likely will have six RH bats in it.

Lewis lives on the edges of the plate, preferring to pitch away away hitters. The Giants will need to hit to the opposite field or they’ll be popping up or grounding out.

Because he lives on the edges, Lewis can sometimes lose the plate, so being patient and fouling off pitches will be key for the Giants. If they can extend at-bats and innings and get Lewis’ pitch count up — like they did with Cliff Lee — that’s how they’ll succeed. It will also hasten Ron Washington to go to the bullpen. That is the goal.

Also scoring early will be important. The Giants have scored 20 runs in two games, but they haven’t score a run in the first or second innings. Scoring early will put pressure on the Rangers.

WHICH SANCHEZ WILL SHOW?

Of the four Giants pitchers who made 33 starts this season, who had the lowest ERA?

If you said Jonathan Sanchez, you’d be right. His 3.07 ERA topped Cain (3.14), Lincecum (3.43) and Zito (4.15).

Sanchez was 4-1 in September/October regular-season starts. In his lone loss, he gave up one earned run in 5 2/3 innings.

While he led the league in walks allowed, his 6.6 hits per nine innings was also the best in the NL.

In his first two postseason starts, he gave three earned runs in 13 IP, with 18 strikeouts.

We bring up these facts because the memory of his 2+ inning start in Game 6 of the NLCS is still fresh in Giants fans minds. Sanchez has been solid this season, and not the inconsistent pitch we’ve seen so often.

Bruce Bochy called his Game 6 NLCS start as a hiccup. We can only hope so. If Sanchez can return to the form he had in the nine starts before last Saturday’s start in Philly, the Giants should be just fine.

PANDA AS DH

Pablo Sandoval will get the start Saturday as the DH.

Sandoval is one of three Giants hitters who have yet to swing the bat in the Series, along with Mike Fontenot and backup catch Eli Whiteside. Fontenot was announced as a pinch-hitter in Game 2, but was quickly replaced by Aaron Rowand after a pitching change.

The Giants are going with this lineup:

CF Andres Torres
2B Freddy Sanchez
1B Aubrey Huff
C Buster Posey
LF Pat Burrell
RF Cody Ross
3B Juan Uribe
DH Pablo Sandoval
SS Edgar Renteria

That’s 3 lefty bats with switch-hitters Torres and Sandoval and lefty Huff.

Given how Lewis has handled RH batters recently, the Giants could have squeezed in another LH bat by starting Travis Ishikawa at 1B, Huff at DH, Sandoval at 3B and Uribe at SS.

But clearly Bochy likes the defensive alignment of Renteria and Uribe on the left side, and Renteria has been swinging the bat well.

CLIFF LEE IN GAME 4?

If the Giants win Game 3, it would almost guarantee seeing Cliff Lee start Game 4 on Sunday. But if the Rangers win, it leaves room to think.

Tommy Hunter is the scheduled Game 4 starter. He was warming up in the eighth inning as the Rangers ran through their bullpen trying to find someone to get the final out.

That doesn’t mean too much. We saw Madison Bumgarner throw in the pen in Game 2 of the NLCS. He didn’t get in the game, and then still started Game 4.

Good vibrations after Game 2

Yeah, we know Brian Wilson didn’t pitch in Game 2. But that doesn’t mean the Giants can’t feel some good vibrations after their 9-0 win over the Rangers on Thursday.

So as I sit here watch MLB Network’s replay of Game 2, I’d like to share some thoughts about why the Giants ought to be feeling pretty good about where they are right now.

DOINK!!!

If you don’t think that maybe the Baseball Gods are ready to smile on the Giants, just take another look at Ian Kinsler’s double in the fifth inning Thursday.
World Series Rangers _Mart.jpg
Here’s the link to Game 2 highlights where you can find a replay of the hit:

http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=12924837&topic_id=14871776&c_id=sf

The ball bounced off the top of the wall and back to center fielder Andres Torres. So instead of a solo home run and a 1-0 Texas lead, Kinsler had to settle for a leadoff double. And then Matt Cain stranded Kinsler there to preserve the 0-0 score.

Kinsler gave the media the slip after the game, but Brian Wilson had this take: “I was thinking that wall was perfectly designed for tonight.”

Sounds good to us.

The next inning, Edgar Renteria takes C.J. Wilson deep, and the Giants led 1-0.

MORE STATS

In World Series history, 51 teams have taken a 2-0 series lead, with 40 of those teams going on to win the World Series.

The last seven teams to take a 2-0 series lead have taken the Series and 13 of the last 14.

We mentioned after Game 1 that the Giants had won eight consecutive postseason Game 1s. What we didn’t mention was what the Giants’ record in Game 2 following those previous seven Game 1 victories. It was 1-6. In fact, going all the way back to the 1989 postseason, the Giants were 1-9 in Game 2s. But the Giants got the Game 2 win on Thursday.

After Game 2, the Rangers basically talked about how the Giants took care of business at their home park. So now it’s time for the Rangers to do the same at their home park. It’s a good theory, except for these numbers: The Rangers are 2-3 at home this postseason; The Giants are 4-1 on the road.

RALLY PANTS

All of us in Giants Nation are trying to do our part to help the Giants win their first World Series in more than half century.

You know, wearing the same wardrobe, following the same routines, as long as they result in a Giants win. A little bit of karma goes a long way.

Well, you’ll be happy to know Giants announcer Duane Kuiper is doing his part.

Kuiper received a pair of “rally pants” from a Giants fan at AT&T Park who apparently owns the company that makes some of the garish pants that golfer John Daly wears.

Kuiper changed into the pants during Thursday’s Game 2 and shortly afterward, Renteria belted his home run. The Giants added an insurance run in the seventh, then blew through for seven in the eighth.

Mike Krukow, Kuip’s cohort in the booth, described the rally pants as orange, pink and white argyle-style.

The pants may not land Kuip on any best-dressed lists, but as Kruk said, “they’ve got runs in them.”

Ewwwwwww!!!!!!

Well, regardless of what they have in them, keep wearing the pants, Kuip!!

Giants take Game 2, in a walk

Get it? A walk?

OK, OK. First off, Moresplashhits would like to apologize to Edgar Renteria. We took a shot at Edgar in our post about the seven reasons why the Giants should win the World Series.

Reason No. 6 was payroll, and we grouped Edgar in with other Giant free-agent signings that have quite worked out because of performance (Zito and Rowand) or injury (DeRosa and Renteria).

It seems like Edgar has been hurt more often than healthy in his two years in San Francisco. But when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t been bad — at least this year.

Well, during this fall classic, Renteria is NOT healthy. He has a torn left biceps. There was some talk about leaving Renteria off the postseason roster. But he’s toughed it out, played a solid shortstop, and on Thursday he delivered a huge hit with his fifth-inning home run to get the Giants on the board 1-0.

Renteria came back with a two-run single during the Giants’ seven-run eighth inning.

IT’S ALL ABOUT CAIN

The talk going into the Series was all about a pitcher who was just about unhittable during the postseason. The talk about the Rangers’ Cliff Lee.

The talk now should be focused on Matt Cain.

Cain added 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball to what has been an outstanding postseason.

He’s now throw 21 1/3 innings without an earned run in the postseason, joining the like of Waite Hoyt, Carl Hubbell, Christy Mathewson and Kenny Rogers as the only pitchers to allow no earned runs while pitching at least 20 innings in a single postseason.

Here’s to hoping there won’t be a Game 6 in this series. But if there is, that will Matt Cain’s next turn, at home.

TWO-OUT MAGIC

In the Giants’ first 10 postseason games, they scored more than four runs in a game once — when they scored six runs in Game 4 of the NLCS.

After two games of the World Series, the Giants have scored six runs or more in an inning — TWICE!

And like they did in Game 1, they did it with two outs, scoring seven times in the eighth inning.

After Darren O’Day struck out Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez to open the inning, he gave up a single to Buster Posey. Washington relieved O’Day and put in Derek Holland.

Holland then walked Nate Schierholtz and Cody Ross. But Washington didn’t go get Holland, who then walked Aubrey Huff to bring home the first run of the inning.

In came Mark Lowe, who didn’t have much better luck, walking Juan Uribe, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Two runs in.

Then Lowe found the strike zone and Renteria raked the ball into left for two more runs.

Michael Kirkland came into the game, and Aaron Rowand greeted him with a two-run triple. Andres Torres followed with a double to complete the seven-run onslaught.

The Rangers’ bullpen has given up 11 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings so far this Series.

2010 World Series: Game 2 Preview

After Wednesday’s unexpected Game 1 victory — unexpected in the manner in which it was achieved, not that it was achieved — the Giants will try to secure a 2-0 series advantage Thursday night when Matt Cain takes on C.J. Wilson.

The forecast for San Francisco calls for temperatures of 62 at game time with clouds and a 30-percent chance of showers. The chance of rain deminishes to 10 percent as the night progresses. So hopefully rain won’t be a factor.

The Rangers will send out 29-year-old left-hander C.J. Wilson.

Wilson is very much like the Rangers’ version of Jonathan Sanchez. Wilson is a converted reliever who saved 14 games last season and 24 games in 2008. But we was converted to a starter this season, going 15-8 with 3.35 ERA in 33 starts.

The part the makes him like J-San is that he’s left-handed who led his league in walks (93).

That means the Giants must take a completely different approach at the plate than they did against Game 1 starter Cliff Lee. Against Lee, they wanted to be aggressive, knowing Lee was going to spend most of the night in the strike zone.

Against Wilson, they’ll need to be patient. Make Wilson work, and hope he puts himself into fastball counts. And then when he does, the Giants must pounce on those fastballs. That’s what the Yankees did against him in the ALCS, where Wilson made two starts and went 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA, giving up eight earned runs in 12 innings.

Here’s another thing to consider with Wilson. With every pitch he makes, he’s venturing into new territory. The 204 innings he pitched this season were a career-high by a longshot. Pitching out of the pen, he never threw more than 73 innings in any one season before 2010.

That didn’t seem to bother him in the ALDS against the Rays, when Wilson pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-hit shutout ball. But in the ALCS, he started Game 1 and gave up three earned runs in 7-plus innings. In Game 5, he got tagged for six runs (five earned) in five innings with four walks. He surrendered three home runs in his two ALCS starts.

Wilson was at his best coming out of the All-Star Break when he went 7-0 in late July and August. But he struggled in September, going 0-3 with a 6.26 ERA in five starts. He broke that string by beating the Angels on Oct. 2 — the second-to-last day of the season

Against Wilson, the Giants send Matt Cain, who — with all apologies aside to Tim Lincecum — has been the Giants’ best pitcher down the stretch. Cain earned four consecutive victories from Aug. 23 to Sept. 26, posting a 2.46 ERA over that stretch.

Then he had the one hiccup in the final weekend of the season against the Padres.

But in the postseason, he’s been on again. He gave up one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings in the NLDS against the Braves. Then he came back with seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits against the Phillies in the NLCS.

THE LINEUPS

It’s doubtful after pounding out 11 runs on 14 hits in Game 1 that Bruce Bochy is going to make any changes to the lineup in Game 2.

For the Rangers, the question is whether they will sit Vlad Guerrero to get the left-handed hitting (and better fielding) David Murphy into the lineup. We’ll see.

Game 1: We’ll take it glad-lee

Game 1 is in the books, and Giants have tackled their first big hurdle of the series, beating Cliff Lee.

We said one of the keys for the Giants would be getting a win in a game started by Lee, and they did even better, spanking the left-hander for seven runs — six earned — on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

It was a completely unexpected result.

If you said the Giants would win with Tim Lincecum giving up four runs in less than six innings, we’d take that.

If you said the Rangers would score seven runs, and the Giants would still win, we’d take that too.

Before that huge fifth inning, it looked as if the Giants were letting opportunities slip away.

Examples:

* First inning: Freddy Sanchez gets the first hit, a double on the right-field line. With one out, Buster Posey hit a flare to right. Sanchez must have been watching Vladimir Guerrero, who had not chance to get the ball, because Sanchez wandered about two-third to third base. But he wasn’t watching 2B Ian Kinsler, who ran the ball down and then doubled Sanchez up.

* Second inning: The Rangers had runners on second and third with one out. The runner on third was Bengie Molina, who we all know is the slowest human on earth. Lincecum got Elvis Andrus to fly out to medium center field. The Rangers sent Molina. CF Andres Torres should have set himself and made a solid throw home. But he didn’t. The throw was way off line and Molina scored easily. Torres has to throw Molina out on that fly ball.

*Third inning: Edgar Renteria reached on an error to open the inning. Tim Lincecum fails to get down a bunt. But then Andres Torres is hit by a pitch, and Sanchez gets double No. 2 to score Renteria. Posey singles to center to score Torres, but Sanchez got a poor read on the ball and is held up at third. Had Sanchez come home, he would have scored as the throw home was off line. Then Pat Burrell and Cody Ross both struck out — looking.

File this away for future reference, Giants. If Cliff Lee has two strikes on you, you’ve got to look to be swinging on anything close. If it’s close, it’s a strike with Cliff Lee.

Bottom line, and we’ve said it before, the Giants need to do the little things to win, and they can’t let so many opportunities get by when facing someone like Cliff.

TAKING THE FIFTH

The reason why those missed opportunities didn’t hurt the Giants is that they made Lee pay for mistakes in the fifth inning.

Texas manager Ron Washington said he wasn’t going to worry about a pitch count with Cliff Lee. He was going go with Lee deep into the game. That mindset bit Washington in the fifth.

In the fifth, Torres got a one-out double, and Sanchez followed with double No. 3 to score Torres, and the Giants are up 3-2.

Posey struck out (looking again!). But it was an important out, because it put the idea in Washington’s head that Lee was about to get out of the inning. So he didn’t get the bullpen going.

It wasn’t until Lee walked Pat Burrell that reliever Darren O’Day headed to the bullpen.

Then Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff singled to score two more runs and Lee’s night was done.

O’Day, hardly having time to warm up, came in and Uribe sent the side-armer’s third pitch into the left-field bleachers for an 8-2 lead.

That’s five runs scored with two outs. Huge!

VLAD AS IN BAD

Vladimir Guerrero playing right field didn’t hurt the Rangers until the Giants already had eight runs on the board. But it may cause the Rangers to rethink their lineup in Game 2.

In the ninth, with the Giants up 8-4, Renteria opened the inning with a single to right. But Vlad played a little matador defense on the ball and whiffed, allowing Renteria to take third.

Renteria scored on Travis Ishikawa’s double. Renteria’s run ended up being earned when Freddy Sanchez singled down the right field line, scoring Ishikawa.

But then Vlad tried to pick up the ball as if the ball had a mind of its own, allowing Sanchez to take second. Sanchez then scored on Nate Schierholtz’s single to center.

The plays ended having little impact on the game. But if Vlad is back out in right in Game 2, we would not be surprised to see the Giants take advantage of Vlad’s lack of range or dependability with the glove.

THIS AND THAT

* Wednesday’s victory was the eighth consecutive Game 1 victory in a postseason series for the Giants.

* The Giants scored 19 total runs in six games in the NLCS. They had 11 on Wednesday.

* Freddy Sanchez is red-hot. After opening the postseason 2 for 21, Sanchez 13 for 25 in his last six postseason games.

* Timmy take some Tums! Tim Lincecum’s head was somewhere else when Nelson Cruz hit a chopper in front of the mound with Michael Young at third and Vlad Guerrero at first. Lincecum had Young hung out to dry, but just walked Young back to third, loading the bases. Lincecum looked like the thought the Rangers would have two runners at third. But they only had one. There were two Giants — Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria — at third. “A little bit of a brain fart there, not really knowing the situation,” Lincecum said. Lincecum got Ian Kinsler to ground into an inning-ending double play, so the play ended up not hurting.

Seven good reasons why the Giants should win the World Series

1. Giants’ fans have suffered longer than Rangers fans have.

A lot has been made about this being a matchup of long-suffering fans. The Giants haven’t not won a World Series title since 1954 and have the longest streak of seasons played without a World Series title (56) behind the Indians and Cubs. The Giants have not won a World Series in 53 seasons in San Francisco. The Rangers are in their 50th season without a World Series title. But the first 11 of those seasons were played as the Washington Senators (Part II). And we’re guessing Texas fans weren’t agonizing over the losing seasons of the Senators before they came to Texas.

2. Giants fans have suffered through more postseason heartbreak than Rangers fans.

Before this season, Rangers fans experienced three ALDS losses  to the Yankees in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Two of those three series were over in three games. That’s not heartbreak. THIS is heartbreak: Losing the 1962 World Series to the Yankees when Willie McCovery’s line drive with two on and two out in the ninth sailed into Bobby Richardson’s mitt instead of over his head; Losing the 1987 NLCS when Candy Maldonado played a second-inning single by Tony Pena into a triple by trying — and failing — to make a sliding catch. Then he couldn’t throw Pena out on a shallow fly ball by Jose Oquendo; losing the 1989 World Series in four games to the team across the bay AND having your home city destroyed by a friggin’ earthquake! Winning 103 games (in 1993) and NOT making the playoffs, THEN MLB decides that more teams should make the playoffs (the very next postseason); getting swept in the NLDS to the Marlins and playing only one game at home, even though they had home-field advantage in 1997, THEN MLB decided that the team with home-field advantage ought to open the series with two at home (the very next postseason); Losing the 2000 NLDS to the Mets on extra-inning home runs by Edgardo Alfonso and Benny “Friggin” Agbayani; Losing Game 6 of the 2002 World Series (enough said); Losing the 2003 NLDS to the Marlins because sure-handed RF Jose Cruz Jr. drops a fly ball in the 10th of Game 3.

You can’t claim to be long-suffering fans unless you’ve actually suffered.


3. Bengie Molina is going to win a ring anyway.

The Giants have decided to give Bengie Molina a World Series ring if they beat the Rangers. So Bengie wins either way. Plus, Bengie already won a World Series ring at the Giants’ expense (Angels in 2002). That ought to be enough.

4. The World Series will be played on Halloween. 

Black and orange are Halloween colors, not red, white and blue. If the World Series were being played over Veterans Day, then it should go to the Rangers. They should pray for two weeks of rainouts.

5. The National League has home-field advantage for the first time since Bud Selig decided to be an idiot (and that’s a looooong time)

For the first time since Bud Selig decided to adopt the idiotic policy of awarding home-field in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star Game, the NL team is playing Game 1 of the Series at home, thanks to Brian McCann’s game-winning double in July’s midseason classic. It would seem a waste of a perfectly good win for the NL.

6. Payroll

Sure, the Giants’ overall payroll of $97 million ranks 10th in the majors, compared to the $55 million of the Rangers (ranked 27th). But if you consider that $45 million of the Giants payroll is going to Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand, Mark DeRosa and Edgar Renteria, the amount the Giants are paying for good players is less than what the Rangers pay.

7. My daughter wins a candy bar from one of her teachers if the Giants win the Series.

Who would want to be responsible for taking a candy bar away from a 13-year-old girl?

Pre-World Series thoughts

ROTATION IS SET: Manager Bruce Bochy changed things up a bit for the
World Series, bring Matt Cain back to pitch Game 2. Bochy said it has
more to do with rest than Sanchez’s outing Saturday in Game 6 of the
NLCS. Cain hasn’t pitched since Game 3 of the NLCS last Tuesday.

So it
will be Tim Lincecum in Game 1, Cain in Game 2, Sanchez in Game 3 and
presumably Madison Bumgarner in Game 4. That would bring Lincecum back
in Game 5, Cain in Game 6 and Sanchez in Game 7.

After Sanchez’s poor
outing Saturday, that could make some Giants faithful uneasy in a Game
7. But, as he’s shown already, Bochy would not hestitate in bring
Lincecum out of the pen in Game 7 should Sanchez get shaky again. And in
this scenario, he’d be coming back with 2 days of rest.

MEANINGLESS STAT: The Rangers are 0-9 in AT&T Park. The Giants swept
the Rangers at home in 2009, 2006 and 2000. The only series worth
noting would be last year’s, so here it is:

Giants win 6-4 on June 19

Randy
Johnson got the start, but Sergio Romo got the win. Scott Feldman
started and lost for Texas. Fred Lewis had a two-run homer in the sixth
to give the Giants a 5-4 lead.

Giants win 2-1 (11) on June 20

Derek Holland got the start for Texas,
giving up 1 run in 7 IP; Matt Cain pitched for the Giants, giving up 1
run and 3 H in 8 IP. Jason Jennings threw a wild pitch with Bengie
Molina at the plate, allowing Nate Schierholtz to score the winning run
in the 11th. Romo got the win again.

Giants win 3-2 on June 21

Barry Zito outpitched Kevin Millwood.
Andruw Jones hit a two-run homer to tie the game in the top of the
seventh. Consecutive singles by Rowand, Renteria and Winn produced the
go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh. Brian Wilson got the save.

THE VLAD FACTOR: Rangers DH Vladimir Guerrero will start in RF for the
Rangers in Game 1 in San Francisco. After that Rangers manager Ron
Washington will take a wait-and-see approach.

Guerrero has played only
20 games in the outfield the past two seasons. Harold Reynolds on MLB
Network says right-field at AT&T Park is shallow, so there won’t be
much room for Vlad to cover. We say “What!?” Right field at AT&T
Park is one of the most difficult right fields in baseball. Playing the
ball off the brick wall and arch ways can be a nightmare for many
outfielders. Plus, right fielders must help cover triples alley in right
center.

With Vlad in right, the Rangers will have decide if he covers
the line or the alley. Either way, there will be opportunities for
extra-base hits for the Giants. Also the move caused Nelson Cruz to move from right, where he is most comfortable, to left.

DH DECISION: Bruce Bochy has not decided, or at least announced, which
player he will use as the DH when the series swings to Texas this
weekend.

The first thought is that Pat Burrell would be the DH. He’s been in the Giants lineup this postseason for his bat. When the Giants get a lead late, Burrell comes out for Nate Schierholtz for defensive purposes. So it makes sense to put Burrell at DH.

But Burrell has said he doesn’t like to DH, and his struggles in Tampa Bay as a DH seem to support that. That other side of this equation is what do you gain in the lineup with Burrell not in left field — Aaron Rowand? Nate Schierholtz?

The other thought is to make Pablo Sandoval the DH. But Sandoval has not started a lot in the postseason, and it’s not his glove specifically that has kept him on the bench. It’s the fact his bat has not produced enough to offset what you lose defensively.

Another thought is Travis Ishikawa. But not as the DH. You start Ishikawa at first base, and let Aubrey Huff play DH. Ishikawa often comes in late as a defensive replacement for Huff at first. If you start Ishikawa at first base, you improve your entire infield defense. And Huff has experience in the DH spot.

Plus, in Games 3 and 4 in Texas, the Rangers are set to start right-handers. So it figures the Giants will want to get an extra left-handed bat. So the choice comes down to Schierholtz (with Burrell at DH), Sandoval or Ishikawa.

In Game 5 against the lefty Lee, the choice boils down to Sandoval or Rowand.

BOTTOM LINE: Most of the prognosticators will take about the Rangers, Cliff Lee and their lineup. So the Giants are underdogs … again.

They were underdogs to win the NL West, underdogs to catch the Padres, underdogs against the Phillies. But here they are in the World Series.

The Rangers are a good team, no doubt. But remember, Texas finished the season 90-72 in a weak AL West. The Giants finished 92-70.

Cliff Lee has been lights out in the postseason. Getting a win in one of the games Lee starts may be the key for the Giants. But then again, the Yankees beat the Phillies last year while losing twice to Lee. And the Giants have beaten a ton of good pitchers this season. If you look at pitchers who might get Cy Young votes — like Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Ubaldo Jimenez, Mat Latos, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright — the Giants have beaten each those pitchers this season. They didn’t light up those pitchers, but they did enough to win.

To beat Lee, the Giants must focus on contact. If Lee piles up 10 or 12 strikeouts against them, that’s bad news for the Giants.

Josh Hamilton is a huge weapon for the Rangers. But AT&T Park is known for frustrating left-handed power hitters not named Barry Bonds.

Game 6 triumph a team effort

The Giants won Game 6 of the National League Championship Series the way they’ve won games all season … by the slimmest of margins and with contributions up and down the lineup.

So let’s take time to salute all those who made key contributions to the Giants’ clinching victory.

Andres Torres: Torres, who struggled so much in the NLDS and early in the NLCS, went 3 for 5. He also played Ryan Howard’s double off the wall in left center perfectly, preventing Jimmy Rollins from scoring from first in the sixth inning.

Freddy Sanchez:
Sanchez went 3 for 4 with a double. He also sacrificed runners to second and third in the third inning, setting up the Giants’ first run.

Aubrey Huff: Huff singled home the Giants’ first run in the third inning, then alertly went to second when Torres was thrown out at the plate. That allowed Huff to score the tying run when Buster Posey reached on Ryan Howard’s fielding error.

Cody Ross: Ross was 1 for 4 with a double in Game 6. But we had to mention him because he was the NLCS MVP.

Jonathan Sanchez: Sanchez?!? What?!? Yes, we know he couldn’t find the strike zone, throwing 27 balls and 24 strikes in two-plus innings. But it was Sanchez who singled in the third to start the Giants’ two-run rally. Also, Sanchez helped start a mini-melee in the bottom of the third after hitting Chase Utley with a pitch. After being hit by the pitch, Utley picked up the bouncing ball and flipped it toward Sanchez as he ran to first base. Sanchez didn’t appreciate the act, and offered Utley a suggestion. Utley then stepped toward Sanchez, asking him to clarify his remarks. So Sanchez offered him the suggestion again, and Utley waved him off. But it was enough to empty the dugouts and bullpens. Well, not completely. Jeremy Affeldt remained in the pen, and the couple of minutes of aggressive loitering on the field allowed Affeldt time to get properly warmed up.

Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt came into the game with two on and no one out in the third, then struck out Ryan Howard, got Jayson Werth to fly to center and Shane Victorino to ground out, ending the threat. He set the side down in order in the fourth.

Madison Bumgarner: The rookie came in and pitched two scoreless innings, pitching out of trouble in both innings when allowed the potential go-ahead run to get into scoring position.

Javier Lopez: When the Giants acquired Lopez from the Pirates, I’ll admit I was puzzled. I couldn’t figure out why the Giants got him. Yes, at the time, both Affeldt and Dan Runzler were injured, so the Giants needed a lefty reliever. But I thought both players would return soon enough, and giving him Joe Martinez and John Bowker was a steep price for a short-term pickup. Well, Lopez has been golden for the Giants, particularly in the postseason. He threw a perfect seventh inning to keep the game tied 2-2.

Juan Uribe: How many clutch home runs has Juan Uribe produced this year for the Giants? His ninth-inning blast of Heath Bell to tie the game in April in San Diego. His two-run homer off Roy Oswalt to help beat the Astros 2-1 in May. His two-run homer off Jonathan Broxton in the ninth to beat the Dodgers 5-4 in September. He had two huge at-bats in the NLCS, bringing home the winning run with a sac fly in Game 4. And then he did it again, with a home run to the short porch in right in the eighth inning. Let’s all say it together: UUUUUUUUU-RIBE!

Brian Wilson: Yes, he supplied all Giants fans with another case of the “Willies.” Every time Bruce Bochy bring Brian Wilson in for a 4+ out save, it makes me nervous. Wilson does a good enough job of creating his own messes that he sometimes struggled when dealing with someone else’s mess (Game 2 of the NLDS). So when Lincecum gave up back-to-back singles in the eighth, in came Wilson. But he delivered, getting Carlos Ruiz to line into an inning-ending double play. Then came the ninth. You knew it wasn’t going to be a 1-2-3 inning. He got Ross Gload to ground to second, but then walked Jimmy Rollins. He got Placido Polanco to ground into a force play — a key play because it got the faster Rollins off the base paths — but then he walked Chase Utley. Then he pushed Ryan Howard to a three-ball count. It seemed every time Wilson wanted to throw a high fastball away, the pitch would sail way up and away, making for an easy take. When Howard fouled off a 3-2 fastball at the hands, my thought wandered back to an April game in San Francisco when Wilson walked Howard with two-out in the ninth to load the bases, then gave up a three-run double to Jayson Werth. But then Wilson came back with that cutter at the knees and the celebration was on.

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