October 2010

Game 4 notes; Game 5 lookahead

Charlie Manuel went to his slated Game 6 starter to pitch the ninth inning Wednesday. And what the Giants couldn’t do in Game 2 Sunday, they were able to do Wednesday — figure out Oswalt.

Four batters face Oswalt. All four had good at-bats against him.

Freddy Sanchez started out the ninth by working seven pitches out of Oswalt before hitting a laser to right. But it was caught by Jayson Werth for the first out.

Aubrey Huff jumped on Oswalt’s first pitch by shooting a single to right under the glove of the diving Ryan Howard.

Buster Posey battled Oswalt, nearly missing a double down the right field line, before delivering a single to right, that pushed Huff to third.

Juan Uribe then delivered the fly ball to deep right, allowing Huff to score the winning run.

PULLING OUT ALL STOPS: In addition to bringing Oswalt out to pitch the ninth, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel also let his set-up man, Ryan Madson throw 32 pitches in working 1 2/3 innings. The theory works two ways. Manuel needed Madson to hold the Giants in check, which he did. And Manuel figured he wouldn’t need a set-up man Thursday with Roy Halladay pitching. Halladay is going to go deep into Game 5, regardless of what the Giants are able to do off him.

PAINS OF OCTOBER: It’s late in the season, so everyone is hurting after a long season. But the Giants have their fair share of bumps and bruises: SS Edgar Renteria is playing with a torn bicep; SS Juan Uribe didn’t start Wednesday with a sore wrist; 1B Aubrey Huff is battling a sore leg; OF Cody Ross, at the very least, has a nasty bruise after being hit by Joe Blanton Wednesday.

STRIKING FIRST: The team scoring the first run has won all five games in the series.

NOT SO BIG THREE: With Wednesday’s Game 4 win off Oswalt, the Giants have won three games in the series. The losing pitchers in those three games: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

GAME 5 SUCCESS: As the Giants go for the clinching win Thursday, they take a six-game winning streak in postseason Game 5s. The Giants haven’t lost a Game 5 since the 1962 World Series, winning Game 5 in the 1987 NLCS vs. Cardinals, 1989 NLCS vs. Cubs, 2002 NLDS vs. Braves, 2002 NLCS vs. Cardinals and 2002 World Series vs. Angels. Five of those six wins have come at home.

Plenty of heroes to go around in Game 4 win

For the first time in eight years, the Giants find themselves one win away from the World Series after they pushed across a run in the ninth to beat the Phillies 6-5 in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series on Wednesday.

There were many heroes in Wednesday’s win. Sure, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey were a combined 7 for 10 — which was huge — but this victory has many contributors.

Let’s take a look at a few:

Aaron Rowand: Rowand found himself back in the starting lineup for the struggling Andres Torres. Rowand didn’t do much with the bat, going 0 for 2. But he did come up with a huge defensive play, making a perfect throw home to get Carlos Ruiz trying to score from second on Shane Victorino’s single. It came in the middle of the Phillies’ four-run fifth inning. If not for Rowand’s play, it would have been a five-run inning … or worse.

Pablo Sandoval: Another former everyday starter who has found himself on the bench lately. But Sandoval came up with a key two-run double in the sixth. Sandoval thought he had that two-run double earlier in the at-bat when pulled a ball down the right-field line. But the ball was ruled foul. Replays were inconclusive. The Panda came back to battle through the lineup, then delivered a liner to the wall in right-center, giving the Giants a 5-4 lead.

Freddy Sanchez: The numbers may not show it, but Sanchez is starting to look better at the plate. Sanchez got a first-inning single — the Giants’ first first-inning hit since Game 3 of the NLDS — to get things started Wednesday. Sanchez went to second, and then to third, when Joe Blanton thought he was a cricket bowler and started bouncing every offering to the plate.  He then scored on Buster Posey’s single.

Cody Ross: Yeah, that guy, again. Cole Hamels joked Tuesday that the best way to stop Ross would be to hit him. That’s what Blanton did in the first, although not intentional. There was some concern, as Ross was clearly stung by the pitch. But he bounced back and had a big double in the sixth that set the table for Sandoval.

Aubrey Huff: Huff had three singles in five at-bats, all of them were huge. He singled and scored on Posey’s double to left in the third inning for a 2-0 Giants lead. He singled home Andres Torres from second in the fifth after the Phillies had scored four in the top of the fifth. And he got the ninth-inning rally started with a one-out single under the glove of Ryan Howard.

Buster Posey: We’ve been waiting for Posey to get started in the NLCS. Frankly, he’s looked more like a rookie at the plate this series than the poised player we’ve grown accustomed to this season. But the rookie pulled it together Wednesday. He singled home Sanchez in the first inning and doubled home Huff in the third. He had a double to right in the seventh, then a huge single to right in the ninth, that put Huff on third. And he made a nice short-hop grab of Rowand’s throw to the plate and tagged out Carlos Ruiz in the fourth.

Juan Uribe: Uribe was unable to start because of sore wrist he injured in Game 1. But he came in late and made two huge plays. First came in the field, when he threw out Ross Gload with a strong throw from deep in the hole in the top of the ninth. And then came his game-winning sacrifice fly, when got the ball in the air — instead of striking out; instead of grounding into a double-play, as we’ve so many Giants do this year — when he needed to. A great at-bat and a great finish to a great Giants win.

Bum on the bump for Game 4

The Giants will send rookie Madison Bumgarner to the mound Wednesday for Game 4 of the NLCS.

Now, some note has been made about Bumgarner’s home/road splits this season. But let’s take a closer look.

Bumgarner was 6-3 with a 1.93 ERA on the road in the regular season, and that didn’t include his quality start in Game 4 of the NLDS.

At home? Bumgarner was was 1-3 with a 4.63. To get that ERA, you’ve look at 23 earned runs in 45 innings pitched at AT&T Park. He’s allowed five home runs at home.

But if you take away the Aug. 25 start against the Reds, his home numbers are not that bad.

You may remember that start. Bumgarner gave up seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings pitch. He gave up three of his five home runs allowed at home in that start.

Remove that start, and his home ERA is 3.40.

Three of his last four home starts were quality starts. The one that was not almost was a quality start — two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Since that disastrous start against the Reds, Bumgarner has not allowed more than two runs in any of his last seven starts, including the NLDS start against the Braves.

The Giants face Joe Blanton, who beat the Giants in his only start against them this season. In that start, he gave up two runs (both on homers) in 6.1 IP and struck out seven on Aug. 18.

But in September/October, he has given up eight home runs in seven appearances. He has not started since Sept. 29, when he gave up no earned runs in seven innings against the Nationals. He did pitch one inning of relief against the Braves on the last day of the season, giving up two runs on four hits.

Giants back in front with shutout

Matt Cain was on his game, shutting out the Phillies with seven solid innings Tuesday. That Giants take a 2-1 series lead with a 3-0 victory at home. Now all the Giants need to do is split at home and split on the road. Of course, we’d be perfectly happy with two more wins at home.

The Giants starters have posted three quality starts in three games. And the Giants have produced just enough runs to get the wins.

It bodes well for the Giants that Cain will be in position to pitch Game 7, if the series goes that far. He has yet to give up a run in two starts in the postseason.

CODY ROSS: The postseason continues to be the Cody Ross Story. For the first time in five postseason games, Ross DID NOT get the Giants’ first hit of the game. But for the fourth consecutive game, Ross’s first hit of the game drove in the Giants’ first run. In fact, if you go back to Game 3 of the NLDS, the fly ball that was dropped by the Braves’ Brooks Conrad, allowing Mike Fontenot to score from third, came off the bat of … Cody Ross.

On Tuesday, Ross came up with two on and two out when he dug out a low pitch from Cole Hamels and raked it into left field to score Edgar Renteria.

Ross opened the series hitting No. 8. In Game 2, he moved up to the No. 6 spot. On Tuesday, he was batting No. 5. Ross made Bruce Bochy looked smart.

EARLY-INNING BLUES: For the fourth consecutive game, the Giants failed to muster a hit in the first or second innings.

Atlanta’s Derek Lowe had a no-hitter in the sixth inning when Ross homered for the Giants first hit.

Roy Halladay had set down the first seven batters he faced when Ross homered with one out in the third inning.

Roy Oswalt did not allow a hit through 4 1/3 innings when Ross homered in the fifth for the first hit.

On Tuesday, Cole Hamels set the Giants down in order the first time through the order. Edgar Renteria got the first hit with a lead-off single in the fourth.

Beating the Phillies is not going to be easy. But it would be easier if the Giants could get some baserunners on early in the game.

TWO-OUT MAGIC: All three of the Giants’ runs in Game 3 were scored with two outs.

In the fourth, Renteria led off with a single to right. Freddy Sanchez sacrificed him to second (is it me, or does Sanchez look really uncomfortable getting down a bunt; not what you want to see from your No. 2 hitter).

It looked like the Giants’ chance to score may get away when Buster Posey swung and missed on ball four. It was the kind of swing on a head-high fastball that you would expect from Pablo Sandoval, Juan Uribe or Andres Torres. But not Buster Posey.

But then Pat Burrell worked a walk and Ross connected with the big hit. Then Aubrey Huff got another hit to single the squirted off Chase Utley’s glove.

In the fifth, Aaron Rowand led off with a double to left. But he was still there with two outs and looked like he might remain there when Freddy Sanchez hit the ball to Chase Utley. But it turned into a bad-hop single off Utley into center, scoring Rowand.

Little things going the Giants’ way. We’ll take it as a good sign.

NEW LINEUP: Bochy realized that Andres Torres was struggling and it wasn’t likely going to get any better with him batting right-handed against a tough left-hander. So Torres went to the bench. The move worked when Renteria, who moved into the leadoff spot by default, had a big hit to get the Giants’ rally started. And Rowand, starting in place of Torres in center, got a double in the fifth.

The revamped lineup was a product of facing a tough lefty in Hamels. Bochy said that Torres should be back in the lineup Wednesday against righty Joe Blanton. But will we see Pablo Sandoval at 3B instead of Mike Fontenot against the right-hander?

Giants go home with a split

It’s been a mantra all season for moresplashhits. We’ve been thinking it all season, even when we haven’t been posting it.

Win series at home. Play .500 ball on the road.

And that’s what the Giants need to do now. They got the split in Philly, now they need to win 2 of 3 in San Francisco.

Roy Oswalt was on Sunday night, and there wasn’t much the Giants could do about it but move on. But there are some points we’d like to make.

The Mike Fontenot-for-Pablo Sandoval experiement is over. Or at least it should be. Bruce Bochy made this move after Game 2 of the NLDS for two reasons: Braves pitchers Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe were groundball pitchers and Sandoval is a double-play machine. The second reason was defense. In Game 2, Fontenot made a key error in the first inning. With one out and Chase Utley on second, Fontenot fielded a grounder by Placido Polanco. With Utley holding at second, Fontenot made a wide throw to first allowing Polanco to reach and Utley to take third. After Ryan Howard walked, Jayson Werth struck out. It would have ended the inning if not for Fontenot’s error. Jimmy Rollins then drew a bases-loaded walk for the Phillies’ first run. In the fourth inning, Fontenot led an infield popup by Rollins drop for an infield single. If Fontenot is not going to give the Giants better fielding, then he needs to come out, because he’s not adding much with the bat. He’s 2 for 12 in the postseason. Left-hander Cole Hamles pitches Tuesday. The Giants would be better with switch-hitting Sandoval than the left-hand hitting Fontenot. Sandoval is 3 for 9 career against Hamels, including a double and a home run this season against Hamels.

Andres Torres flew home to San Francisco wearing a golden sombrero, courtesy of Roy Oswalt. Torres fanned four times Sunday against the Phillies pitcher. That makes Torres 3 for 25 (.120) with 12 strikeouts and no runs in the postseason. He’s 1 for 9 with six whiffs in the NLCS. The Giants need offense to beat the Phillies and that has to start with Torres.

The Giants reached the NLDS with a little help from the Braves’ defense. In Game 2, they helped the Phillies out by not making plays in the field. There was Fontenot’s first-inning error, which led to an unearned run. Fontenot allowing a pop-up fall for a single. In the seventh, Torres could not make a solid throw home on Polanco’s single. Oswalt ran through a stop sign, and  a good throw gets him out by a mile. Instead, he scored and the Phillies led 3-1. If he’s out, Rollins doesn’t bat with the bases loaded and deliver a three-run double. Since the Giants only scored one run, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Put them all together, and it is a big deal. The Phillies are the stronger team, so the Giants need to do all the little things right to win.

More torture, but another win in Game 1

Cody Ross belted two home runs as the San Francisco Giants won Game 1 with a fifth consecutive one-run game in the postseason, beating the Phillies 4-3 in a tense victory.

Ross was the hero, hitting solo home runs of Roy Halladay in the third and fifth innings.

But another key component to the win was three consecutive two-out hits in the sixth inning to bring home the third and fourth runs.

In the sixth, Buster Posey had a two-out single, Pat Burrell hit a long double to the left field wall that was almost caught by Raul Ibanez, and Juan Uribe singled to center.

Here are some other notes from Saturday’s game.

GAME 1 SUCCESS: Saturday’s win was the seventh consecutive Game 1 victory for the Giants in the postseason, following Game 1 wins in the 2010 NLDS (vs. Braves), 2003 NLDS (vs. Marlins), 2002 World Series (vs. Angels), 2002 NLCS (vs. Cardinals), 2002 NLDS (vs. Braves) and 2000 NLDS (vs. Mets). In Game 2 of all of the previous six series, the Giants were 1-5, winning only Game 2 of the 2002 NLCS.

ROSS IS RIGHT: Cody Ross was picked off waivers in August in a purely defensive move. The Giants wanted to make sure the Padres didn’t put in a claim on the outfielder. The Giants were heavy on outfielders and Ross really saw most of his time with the Giants as a late-inning defensive replacement. But he’s been an offensive force for the Giants in the postseason, hitting three of the Giants four postseason home runs. Remember, Ross hit near the top of the lineup for the Marlins, but he’s been a real asset hitting in the No. 8 hole for the Giants. For all those Sabean-haters out there, this is a move that has really paid off for the Giants GM, not only adding Ross but putting him on the postseason roster and starting him.

OFF-SPEED WILSON: Normally, when Brian Wilson gets into the game, you expect him to rear back and bring the heat. But against the Phillies in Game 1, Wilson depended more on his slider. Against Jimmy Rollins in the eighth inning, he threw six consecutive off-speed pitches before finally striking him out with a 96 mph fastball. Similarly in the ninth, he seemed to go heavy with the slider, falling behind 3-0 to Shane Victorino before finishing him off to end the game with three straight fastballs.

OW! MY SIDE! Since Andres Torres returned from his appendectomy in September, he hasn’t been quite right. And it’s getting frustrating watching him fail to put the ball in play in contact situations. In Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves, after Edgar Renteria reached on a bunt single, Torres could not get a bunt down to push Renteria over on two attempt. And then he struck out. On Saturday, Torres came up with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth after Brad Lidge had walked Cody Ross and hit Travis Ishikawa with a pitch. Lidge is known for losing the strike zone. So what does Torres? He swings at Lidge’s first pitch and fouls it off. It was a low borderline pitch. On the second pitch, he did the same thing. After watching a pitch sail wide for a ball, he s struck out on a pitch in the dirt. Torres has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Giants and a far better option at leadoff than Aaron Rowand or anyone else the Giants have. But he strikes out FAR TOO OFTEN for a leadoff hitter. The Giants really need to think about talking to Torres about maybe using a smaller bat next season and focus more on making contact and using his speed.

A look back at the Giants vs. Phillies in 2010

The Giants and Phillies split the season series 3-3, with the Giants winning two of three in San Francisco in April, and the Phillies taking two of three in Philadelphia in August.

Here’s a look at how the games went:

Monday, April 26,

At San Francisco

Giants 5, Phillies 1

The Giants handed Roy Halladay his first loss of the season, scoring three runs in the first three inning. Jonathan Sanchez gave up one run on three hits over five innings. He also walked five, leading to his early exit. Mark DeRosa (remember him?) has a two-out, two-run single in the first. Eli Whiteside doubled in a run and homered off Halladay. Halladay gave up five earned in seven innings.

Tuesday, April 27

At San Francisco

Giants 6, Phillies 2

Todd Wellemeyer beat Jamie Moyer. Neither pitcher finished the season on the active roster. Aubrey Huff and Matt Downs homered in the second to give the Giants a 2-1 lead. Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval added RBI singles in the fifth, and again in the seventh. 

Wednesday, April 28

At San Francisco

Phillies 7, Giants 6, 11 innings

Tim Lincecum limited the Phillies to two runs on three hits in 8.1 innings, striking out 11. But Brian Wilson blew the save, giving up a two-out, bases-loaded double to Jayson Werth as the Phils scored three in the ninth to tie the game 5-5. In Wilson’s defense, Werth’s double was a flare to right that landed on the foul line. Both teams scored a run in the 10th. The Phillies scored a pair of two-out runs in the 11th. Nate Schierholtz’s double got one run back in the bottom of the 11th for the Giants, but Juan Uribe was thrown out at home on an infield grounder to Ryan Howard, helping the Phillies seal the win. Cole Hamels struck out 10 Giants in six innings of work.

Tuesday, August 17

At Philadelphia

Phillies 9, Giants 3

The Giants got to Roy Oswalt early, scoring two runs in the first inning, including a solo home run by Pat Burrell. Barry Zito kept the Phillies scoreless for four inning. But Philly tallied two in the fifth on Jimmy Rollins’ two-run single, and two more in the sixth on Shane Victorino’s two-run double, chasing Zito. Jose Guillen homered in the seventh off Oswalt get the Giants within 4-3. But Chris Ray was tagged for four runs in the eighth without recording an out. The Phillies ended up scoring five in the frame for the victory. The win pushed Philadelphia into the wild-card lead over the Giants.

Wednesday, August 18

At Philadelphia

Phillies 8, Giants 2

Andres Torres led off with a home run off Joe Blanton. A run-scoring groundout by Chase Utley tied the game in the third. Jimmy Rollins had a two-out, three-run home run to cap a four-run fourth for the Phillies, an inning that was extended by a Mike Fontenot error. The Phillies added two runs in the seventh, and one in the eighth on a Dominic Brown home run. Matt Cain gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings. But only two of the runs were earned. Blanton struck out seven Giants in 6.1 innings, giving up solo homers to Torres and Pat Burrell.

Thursday, April 19

At Philadelphia

Giants 5, Phillies 2

The Giants scored three runs in the first inning off Cole Hamels on a double by Buster Posey and RBI singles by Jose Guilen and Juan Uribe. A Posey double in the third made 4-0 and Pablo Sandoval homered in the fifth. Hamels gave up five runs in five innings. Jonathan Sanchez pitched eight scoreless innings, giving up just one hit. He started the ninth by giving up a single to Shane Victorino was was relieved by Sergio Romo. Romo got two out, but also gave up a single to Chase Utley and a two-run double to Mike Sweeney. Brian Wilson came and got Raul Ibanez to fly to center for the final out. Sanchez struck out seven and walked two.

Moresplashhits is back

It’s been a while for moresplashhits, but the Giants’
postseason run has compelled us to start posting again. Call it therapeutic.

GAME 3 VICTORY: Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Braves was the
first for the Giants in a Game 3 of a Division Series. The Giants entered the
game 0-4 in Game 3s – vs. Marlins 1997 (completing sweep);  vs. Mets 2000 (Benny Agbayani); vs. Braves in
2002; and vs. Marlins in 2003 (Jose Cruz Jr. drops fly ball). In fact, in all
of the above series, the Giants also lost Game 2. Oh, and in Game 4? The Giants
are 1-2.

BUM ON THE BUMP: Madison Bumgarner takes the mound Monday in
Game 4. While Sunday’s win was a big win, winning Monday also is important.
While Sunday’s win ensured that the Giants will at the very least return to San
Francisco on Wednesday, winning Game 4 is important to set up the rotation for
the NLCS. The Phillies have clinched and now can set up their NLCS rotation. If
Lincecum has to pitch in Game 5, it means he wouldn’t likely be available to
pitch in the NLCS until Game 3 if the Giants advance.

The Braves will counter with Derek Lowe in Game 4 on short
rest. Bumgarner pitched better on the road than at home this season, going 6-3
with a 1.91 ERA on the road.

WHAT’S UP WITH SERG? In the first three games In the series,
Giants starting pitchers have allowed 1 earned run (Sanchez was charged with
one of the runs that scored on Eric Hinske’s two-run homer Sunday). Sergio Romo
has made two appearances in the series and given up two singles and a home run
in 2/3 of inning. Romo has been a solid setup man for Brian Wilson all season,
but has faltered so far in this series.

It just goes to show how the difference between success and
failure is razor-thin. Romo got ahead of Hinske. Hinske was way out in front on
a couple of pitches, and it looked like Hinske might just ground weakly into
into inning-ending double play. Instead, Hinske kept fouling off pitches, which
enabled him to get a mistake from Romo and hit the home run.

Romo did get out of the rest inning with no trouble, so
there shouldn’t be any reason not to go to him again if the situation calls for