Game Two of the 2010 World Series at San Francisco's AT&T Park initially walked and quacked like a classic pitchers' duel, with the Giants' Matt Cain battling Rangers' starter C. J. Wilson through 4 1/2 scoreless innings.
Halfway through the game, when Giants' shortstop Edgar Renteria stepped up to the plate with one out in the bottom of the 5th, both teams had two hits, no runs, and each pitcher had given up just one walk (although Cain's 5th inning pass was intentional to Ranger first baseman Mitch Moreland).
Then Renteria hit a home run, and three innings later baseball history began breaking out all over again at the 2010 World Series. The Giants won the game 9-0, and along the way they sent the curators at the Baseball Hall of Fame scrambling to update the record books.
In the Giants' 11-7 Game 1 victory in this rocking world championship, Giants' second baseman Freddie Sanchez forced his way into the Cooperstown record book by being the first player in MLB history to hit doubles in his first three World Series at bats.
In Game 2, baseball's all time record books were again dusted off and reopened when: 1) the Giants tied a World Series record with 20 runs scored in two consecutive games; 2) the Rangers became the first team in history to give up 20 runs in the first two games of their first World Series; and, 3) San Francisco became the first team in World Series history to score seven runs in an inning after two outs and with the bases empty.
Four critical moments from World Series Game 2.
o In the top of the 5th inning, Rangers' second baseman Ian Kinsler hit a deep fly ball to center field. The ball
somehow hit the top of the centerfield wall, which is maybe three or four inches wide, and bounced up in the
air and back to the field. Andres Torres scooped the ball up and rifled a throw to the infield, holding Kinsler
to a double.
But that's not all. Matt Cain then got three infield outs, stranding Kinsler at second, to slam the door on the
o In the top of the 7th, Giant Manager Bruce Bochy set up his standard ahead-late-in-the-game defensive
package, with Cody Ross moving from right field to replace Pat Burrell in left, and Nate Schierholtz taking
over in right field. The first Ranger's hitter, David Murphy, hit a ball to the left field line that Ross caught and
Burrell may not have reached. The second Texas hitter, Matt Treanor, hit a shot to Triples Alley in right
center that took Schierholtz's extraordinary speed to track down and catch.
o Under extreme pressure, extreme patience at the plate. In the bottom of the 8th inning, with two outs, Giant
batters proceded to manufacture seven runs with 4 walks, 2 singles, a double, and a triple. An amazing
performance by the San Francisco offense on baseball's biggest stage.
o In the top of the 8th inning, Bochy once again brought in lefty specialist Javier Lopez to neutralize a power
hitting left-handed batter. In this case with the score 2-0 Giants, a runner on second base, two outs, and the
game still up for grabs, Lopez relieved Matt Cain and threw four pitches to get slugger Josh Hamilton on a fly out.
A final note about San Francisco Giant Edgar Renteria. The veteran shortstop was signed to a two year contract in 2009 for $19.5 million--- and Renteria's poor offensive output and deteriorating defense soon made that contract one of the worst signings by the Giants' front office in years. Now, with the slumping Pablo Sandoval not playing regularly in the post-season, Renteria has stepped up big time on the field and has had several key at bats.
In Game 1 of the Series, Renteria made an out play on a ground ball up the middle that he hasn't made in maybe four years. When they talk about what veteran players can bring to a team in a pennant race and in the post season, look no farther than the 2010 performances of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria.
Next: The Series moves to the Texas Rangers' Arlington Stadium for three games, Saturday 10/30, Sunday 10/31, and Monday 11/01. Of the last 14 World Series teams to win the first two games played, 13 have gone on to take the Series.
Game Two of the 2010 World Series at San Francisco's AT&T Park initially walked and quacked like a classic pitchers' duel, with the Giants' Matt Cain battling Rangers' starter C. J. Wilson through 4 1/2 scoreless innings.
It was unthinkable, but somehow Lee gave up two runs and allowed the San Francisco Giants to tie the game 2-2. This was starting to be an annoying problem, but McCarver and Buck stuck to Fox's set game script and suggested this was just a bit of a "hiccup" for the otherwise masterful Lee.
Then, complete disaster-- for the Rangers and for Fox Sports. With two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning, the Giants took a 5-2 lead in a storm of extra base hits and unceremoniously bounced the untouchable Cliff Lee out of the game. Rangers' reliever Darren O'Day (or, as broadcaster McCarver renamed him, "Dennis" O'Day), followed Lee, and Giants' third baseman Juan Uribe immediately tagged him with a three run homer to inflate the score to 8-2 Giants.
After more runs, many errors, and lots of relief pitchers getting into the game, the final score was Giants 11, Texas 7, Fox Sports 0. And San Francisco went up 1-0 to start the best of seven games Series.
Not only Fox Sports but virtually the entire national sports media built the Rangers' Cliff Lee into seemingly the greatest World Series pitcher in baseball history. What a nice, tidy story line it was going to be watching Lee mow down the rag-tag, scruffy, underachieving San Francisco Giants line-up to start the 2010 World Series. Only, it didn't happen.
Back on Fox, the often incoherent McCarver was almost apologetic as he and partner Buck scrambled to make sense of things as their carefully pre-scripted game went completely rogue on them. Toward the end of the ballgame, Joe Buck said, only half jokingly, "this goes against everything we talked about in our pre-game analysis... so just don't listen to us anymore...". What, and miss all the car wrecks that have made Fox's World Series TV broadcasts so hilarious the past five years. Not likely.
What is most fascinating about Fox's build up of the Cliff Lee Story is what they had to leave out of the story to make it work. Sure, Lee had outstanding post season stats before last night's game against the Giants: 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 8 starts the past two years. So far, so good. But Lee's overall 2010 record was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA.
Amazingly, after being traded from the Seattle Mariners earlier this year, Lee's regular season record with Texas was 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. But for Fox, that kind of negative information wouldn't fit into the approved story line.
Other than making them look foolish, why does Fox care?
In 2009, Fox Sports paid Major League Baseball $2.5 billion as part of a five year contract to broadcast a variety of games, including the World Series each year. To make a profit on that investment, Fox needs a lot bigger audience than the normal baseball fan demographic; Fox needs to attract millions of casual viewers and sports fans whose only serious exposure to baseball on TV each year is the World Series.
This is the market segment that can dramatically drive MLB TV ratings up in a given year, which means commercial spots the following year can be sold at top dollar, which means Fox makes money. To fully capture that audience, Fox needs to prep that vast, unwashed demographic with a simple, easy to understand story line they can follow. Fox prepped the 2010 audience with the Cliff Lee Story, so when Lee imploded in Game 1, Fox had a confused and scattered casual audience, who may now lose interest and drive the ratings down.
Will Fox attempt to shift the story line to another, easy to understand hyped-up script? Perhaps to those lovable scamps, the San Francisco Giants? Stay tuned.
The Manuel on Charlie Manuel
It seemed that Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel was sleepwalking during the NLCS, the crusty old skipper appearing to forget that the rule against using all 25 players in a playoff game was changed in 1909. He managed the NLCS like it was an annoying formality on the way to another Philly World Series.
It's hard to remember a more badly mismanaged playoff series during the modern era: a number of righty-lefty pitcher/hitter match-ups ignored, costing the Phillies runs; the Phils' line-up changed, then changed again, in mid-series because of media criticism; endless base runners not sacrificed into scoring position; pitcher Roy Oswalt allowed to make the decision that he was going to pitch the 9th inning in Game 4, which the Giants immediately untied and won; the inability to decide just where lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins should bat. And so on.
Thanks to his performance in the NLCS, Manuel has turned into the opposite of The Most Interesting Man in the World. When having soup for lunch, he often uses a fork; he thinks the 7th inning stretch is something that happens in the middle of nap time; he thought Barry Bonds would be a good post-season hitting coach for slugger Ryan Howard; to prepare for the NLCS, he asked the Commissioner which NL ballpark would be using the DH this year.
"I don't often drink beer for breakfast, but when I do... ".
The Texas Rangers Meet The Machine
The biggest factor in the first two games of the World Series will likely be the partnership of AT&T Park and the San Francisco Giants' celebrated pitching staff. The Giants in their spacious home park have a reputation for shutting the door on strong offenses and frustrating the most feared power hitters.
This season, the Phillies were 7th out of 30 MLB teams with 772 runs scored-- Texas was 5th overall with 787 runs scored. But during three NLCS games at AT&T Park the Phils scored only 9 runs and lost two games. The Rangers will have to demonstrate quickly they can adjust both offensively and defensively in San Francisco's large yard. Specifically, "Triples Alley" some 421 feet deep in right center field will be a challenge for Texas hitters and for DH/right fielder Vladimir Guerrero.
How WiIl the Giants' Line-up Do Against Cliff Lee?
Oddly enough, this season and post-season San Francisco Giant hitters tended to do well against the NL's best plate-covering strike-throwers. Here are some of the top National League starters the Giants tagged with losses this year:
-- three against the Astros'/Phils' Roy Oswalt (4/5, 5/15, 6/22);
-- the Cards' Adam Wainwright (4/24);
-- the Phils' Roy Halladay (4/26);
-- the Phils' Cole Hamels (8/19);
-- the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez (9/1; the Giants also got 7 earned runs off Jimenez on 7/3, in a game the Giants
won but in which Jimenez did not get the loss);
-- two against the Padres' Mat Latos (9/12, 10/3).
Cliff Lee is an excellent pitcher who is hitting his stride and will be very tough in his Series starts. But the Giants' line-up is full of free-swinging extra base hitters who cover the plate (and sometimes try to cover a large area around the plate).
Also, it may surprise some people to learn that Cliff Lee did not go 20-0 this season. In fact, Lee was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA; he gave up 195 hits in 212.1 innings.
Who Will Win the 2010 World Series?
The Giants will take the Series in six games.
The Texas Rangers had a team batting average of .276 in the regular season, they were 7th among 30 MLB teams with 123 steals (the Giants were 30th with 55 SB). But the Rangers did not routinely face a pitching staff anywhere near the quality of the Giants' staff. Of the top seven team ERAs in the Majors this year, six are National League teams:
1. San Francisco 3.36
2. San Diego 3.39
3. Atlanta 3.56
4. Oakland 3.56
5. St. Louis 3.57
6. Philadelphia 3.67
7. NY Mets 3.70
On to WS Game 1!
Sure, we can talk about Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton's inspiring personal journey from alcohol and drug abuse to MLB super-stardom. We can trade stories about several truly eccentric Giant players, notably closer Brian Wilson and first baseman Aubrey Huff. And there will be endless discussions around the amazing circumstance of Texas catcher Bengie Molina facing the same Giants' team that traded him on June 30th to make way for rookie star Buster Posey.
But as we approach Game 1 of the 2010 World Series between the Giants and the Rangers, what about some raw, uncooked, organic numbers? Major League Baseball presents seemingly limitless reems of player performance archives, team records, and League histories, so how about some damn chewy stats?
Disdained by old school managers, coaches and fans, and alternatively touted and discarded by the media, baseball's numbers are the fourth dimension of a wondrous universe. More indicators than predictors, MLB statistics are an intensely valuable window into the game. The following is a smattering, a mere scratching at the surface, a flirtatious taste, if you will. And I know you will...
|2010 season||RS||RA||TB||HR||XBH%||BA||BB||OPS||RG||SB% SB-CS||GDP||SH/SF||W-L||SB3-CS3|
RS: runs scored/RA: runs allowed/TB: total bases/XBH%: percentage of all plate appearances ending with an extra base hit/BA: batting average/BB: bases on balls/OPS: on base %+slugging %/RG: runs scored per game/SB% SB CS: stolen base %, stolen bases, caught stealing/GDP: grounded into a double play/SH-SF: sacrifice hits, sacrifice flies/W-L: wins losses/SB3:CS3- steals of 3rd base, caught stealing 3rd base.
ERA: earned run average/CG: complete games/tmSO-shutouts by a team, one or more pitchers/HR: home runs allowed/BB: walks allowed/SO-strikeouts/WP: wild pitches/WHIP-walks+hits per innings pitched/HR9: home runs allowed per 9 innings pitched/BB: walks per 9 innings pitched/QS: starter pitched at least 6 innings giving up 3 or fewer runs/IPmult: games in which a reliever pitched more than 1 inning/3pk: 3 pitch strikeouts/SV: saves/BSv: blown saves/Hold: pitcher entered the game in a save situation, did not get a save or a win, did not give up the lead.
|2010 season||E||Ch||PO||A||DP||Fld%||CA||CDP||PB WP||SB-CS %||OFE||OFA||OFDP||PE|
|Giants||73||5,941||4,383||1,485||110||.988||103||11||6 74||115-49 30%||7||33||5||17|
|Rangers||105||5,970||4,366||1,499||132||.982||61||4||8 56||116-35 23%||18||35||4||14|
E: team errors/Ch: team fielding chances/PO: team putouts/A: team assists/DP: team double plays/Fld%: team fielding percentage/CA: catcher assists/CDP: catcher double plays/PB: passed balls/WP: wild pitches/SB-CS%: opposition stolen bases, caught stealing, percentage/OFE: outfield errors/OFA: outfield assists/OFDP: outfield double plays/PE: pitcher errors.
Most recent San Francisco Giants vs Texas Rangers regular season series (interleague play): June 19-20-21, 2009 @ SF
Game 1 6/19/09 6-4 Giants WP S. Romo LP S. Feldman
The Giants and the American League pennant winning Texas Rangers will meet in the first Series game on Wednesday October 27th in San Francisco.
True to their winning formula of supersized pitching and just enough offense, the Giants overcame an early knockout of starter Jonathan Sanchez, who gave up two 1st inning runs and had problems controlling his pitches and his temper. After the Giants tied the game 2-2 in the top of the 3rd, Sanchez started the bottom of the inning with a walk to Phils third baseman Placido Polanco, then proceeded to hit Chase Utley in the back. Utley grabbed at the ball as he jogged to first base and tossed it in Sanchez's direction. After words were exchanged, both benches cleared before order was restored and the game continued.
Giants Manager Bruce Bochy restored further order by pulling Sanchez, who had thrown fifty pitches in two+ innings, and going to his bullpen. Other than missing the team plane, this is probably a manager's ultimate playoff nightmare; but left-handers Jeremy Affeldt (2 innings), Game 4 starter Madison Bumgarner (2 innings), and winning pitcher Javier Lopez (1 inning) came into the game and gave up no runs, 3 hits, and 1 walk while striking out 4 Phillies.
In contrast to Bochy's use of an array of the available pitching tools on his belt throughout the series, Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel badly overused ace reliever Ryan Madson, who pitched in four of the first five games. And though Madson had not pitched two full innings in any game all year, Manuel allowed his favorite reliever to go two innings in Game 6, giving up the go-ahead home run to Juan Uribe and taking the loss.
After Uribe's blast pushed the Giants ahead 3-2 in the top of the 8th, Thursday's Game 5 starter Tim Lincecum gamely started the bottom of the inning in a valiant effort to get to closer Brian Wilson. Lincecum struck out slugging right fielder Jayson Werth, but the next two batters singled, causing Bochy to thank Lincecum and task Wilson with a five out save and two inherited runners. The next batter, Phillies' catcher Carlos Ruiz, graciously solved a number of immediate issues by lining into an inning ending double play.
In the bottom of the 9th inning, Brian Wilson mixed two outs with two walks before facing Philadelphia cleanup hitter Ryan Howard with two runners on. After getting two strikes on the big slugger, Wilson abandoned a series of 97 MPH fastballs to strike Howard out looking on a nasty cut fastball that cruised in low across the outside edge of the plate.
And the final totals? There are two of particular note here: first, Giants right fielder Cody Ross was named 2010 NLCS MVP after hitting .350 with 6 extra base hits (3 of them home runs), his .950 slugging percentage making NLCS history as the highest ever in a six game series.
Second, a telling insight into not only the NLCS, but the Giants' entire 2010 season: in six NLCS games, the Giants scored a total of 19 runs; the Phillies scored 20 runs. It's a pitching-centric formula that wins games, but often compels Giant fans to double their medication and borrow the ignition keys to any available heavy machinery.
The San Francisco Giants' quest to confirm dugout seating reservations for the 2010 World Series took a hit in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series as they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 at AT&T Park. San Francisco keeps an overall 3-2 advantage in the seven game series, but the NLCS now moves back to the hitter friendly confines of Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on Saturday October 23rd.
In deciding just who is awarded the uncoveted dead bird in this one, don't blame Giants' starter Tim Lincecum, who put up a sterling pitching line of 7 innings pitched, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts. But please feel free to point an accusing finger at the Giants shaky infield defense, which turned the top of the third inning into a festival of Philly run scoring.
The initial scoring was Giants-related, as San Francisco took the lead 1-0 in the first inning after catcher Buster Posey's fielder's choice ground ball scored Andres Torres.
Fast-forward to the nightmare top of the third. After Phils left fielder Raul Ibanez opened the inning with a single, catcher Carlos Ruiz decided not to move when an inside pitch headed his way and he got plunked-- so runners at first and second, no outs. In the bizarre follow-up play, pitcher Roy Halladay attempted to sacrifice the runners over by way of a bunt. The ball died on the plate and Halladay didn't run because he saw the ball was foul. But home plate umpire Jeff Nelson stood motionless, indicating a fair ball.
This was a critical moment in a critical game, and two players instantly reacted correctly; Ibanez bolted from second base, and Giants catcher Buster Posey pounced on the ball and rifled a throw to third base. The throw easily beat Ibanez, but third baseman Pablo Sandoval did not initially react and his attempt to back-peddle with the ball failed when his foot missed the third base bag. Ibanez was safe at third and Ruiz at second, while Sandoval stood at third with the ball in his hand until Posey yelled for him to throw Halladay out at first; which he managed to do.
The very next play was the defining moment of the ball game. Lead-off hitter Shane Victorino hit a low line drive at Giants' first baseman Aubrey Huff. Huff later told reporters he thought the ball was going to be a short hop and his initial thought was to go to the plate with the throw and nail Ibanez at home. The ball might also have been caught in the air, in which case and Huff could have doubled Ruiz off at second. Whatever the scenarios, Huff appeared to give a look to the runners just as the ball got to him, and it bounced off his shoe or glove, and somehow ended up in shallow center field.
On Huff's error, Ibanez scored, Ruiz scored, Victorino to second base. For Aubrey Huff, who has been central to the soul of this 2010 Giants team, it had to be a gut-wrenching moment. The next batter, third baseman Placido Polanco, singled to left center and plated Victorino, 3-1 Phillies.
An Aubrey Huff error at first base is as rare as the chef at a real banquet actually serving Coors beer. In a hundred games at first in 2010, a total of 813 chances, Huff committed only 3 errors. He has been, and will continue to be, a defensive rock at first base for the Giants. This is simply what the gods of baseball sometimes bring to the banquet, in this case a rare Huff miscue that ultimately cost three runs.
The only other scoring in the game would be a home run by Phillies' slugger Jayson Werth in the 9th inning, his first of the 2010 postseason. In a night of rare events, a rare AT&T Park right field homerun by a right-handed batter.
With victory one game away, the Giants have to reboot and face the best team in the National League in their own home park. This we do know: there will be moments of unrelenting joy and crushing frustration as the amazing and gritty San Francisco Giants take flight to Philadelphia and a date with their 2010 baseball destiny.
Before the chalk dust settled at AT&T Park after the Giants' triumphant 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 of the 2010 National League Championship Series, the impact of this most memorable baseball game seemed to overwhelm the players, the fans, and even members of the baseball media.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reported Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval's heartfelt words shortly after the winning run scored in the bottom of the 9th inning on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Giants shortstop Juan Uribe: "I've got a lot of happy right now."
NLCS Game 4 was dominated by two dramatically contrasting levels of play: the San Francisco Giants fighting with pure adrenaline as Manager Bruce Bochy confidently pushed the attack with all his resources. And the Philadelphia Phillies, an exceptional team simply unable to overcome Manager Charlie Manuel's poor decision making and situational mismanagement.
The positive story of this game is the continuing ascent of the Giants through a tough and challenging season and post-season, and their colorful mix of home grown stars and players let go by various National and American League teams. But the story of how badly the Phillies were mismanaged in Game 4 is both compelling and confounding for a team that has owned the National League pennant three years in a row.
Among Manuel's numerous boots in this game, nothing compares to his inept management of the bottom of the 6th inning. The Phillies forced Giants rookie starter Madison Bumgarner out of the game in the top of the 5th inning, with two on and two out and the Giants leading 2-1. The Phillies then scored three more times and led 4-2. After the Giants scored a run in the bottom of the 5th inning, the score was 4-3 Phillies.
In the bottom of the 6th, Manuel brought in right hander Chad Durbin in relief of Jose Contreras. Durbin walked left fielder Pat Burrell and gave up a double to right fielder Cody Ross. Then up came third baseman Pablo Sandoval, no outs, runners at second and third.
How could Charlie Manuel have not been aware of the following: although Sandoval had a terrible 2010 season, with a .268 average, he hit much better from the left side of the plate against right-handed pitching (.282), than he hit from the right side against left handed pitching (.227). And, Sandoval hit much better at AT&T Park (.330) than on the road (.208). But for some reason Manager Manuel allowed the right hander Durbin to stay in the game and pitch to Sandoval. In the 6th inning of a must win playoff game with no outs, the tying run at third and the potential winning run at second base.
And, of course, Pablo Sandoval hit a double, driving in both Giant runs and retaking the lead 5-4.
In the Philadelphia bullpen sat two left-handed relievers, Antonio Bastardo and J. C. Romero. The argument against bringing in a lefty to turn Sandoval around to the right side is that you likely lose that left-hander after the Sandoval at bat, when the Giants would certainly pinch hit a right-handed hitter for the pitcher's spot. So you lose the lefty reliever after one at bat, and you might need him later. But this was later, later in the most critical game of the year in a situation where you use all your resources to keep the lead.
Another stand-out Charlie Manuel error occurred in the top of the 8th inning. Back to back doubles by Phillies Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth tied the game at 5-5. With Werth on second base representing the go-ahead run and no outs, Manuel elected to not have shortstop Jimmy Rollins sacrifice Werth to third, setting up a great scoring opportunity. Instead, Rollins hit away and Giants reliever Sergio Romo got him to pop up to third base. Then Romo struck out Phillies Ben Francisco and Carlos Ruiz.
A truly amazing moment in the 8th inning of the most important game of the year for Philadelphia.
Charlie Manuel's ineptitude takes nothing away from the what the Giants achieved in Game 4. If you know the game, you know well that opportunity is only half the equation; without execution there is no winning and the Giants won this game on their terms.
Having said that, if the much-feared Philadelphia sports media is not serving up roasted Charlie Manuel on a skewer in every newspaper and sports radio talk show today, I will have lost all respect for their exacting, negative, nasty reputation in the world of sports media.
Giants starter Matt Cain may have taken his own giant step into the ranks of current MLB world class pitchers, as he went seven innings giving up 2 hits and 3 walks while striking out 5. Cain had the Philadelphia offense off-balance all afternoon as he mixed well placed fastballs and off-speed pitches all over the strike zone, handcuffing one of baseball's most powerful line-ups. Giants side-winding left-hander Javier Lopez required only nine pitches to dispose of the Phillies in the 8th inning, and closer Brian Wilson slammed the door tight to complete the team shutout in the 9th.
The Giants' shining gem of a ballpark was a deadly 26th player in this game, and has been the garlic around the necks of the Phillies for years. In the past three years the National League's top run-producing machine batted an embarrassing .199 at AT&T Park, with a .313 slugging %, scoring 32 runs in 10 games-- a paltry 3.2 runs per game average. To give some perspective on just how bad San Francisco's home park is for the Phils, during that same three year period against all other teams on the road Philadelphia sluggers plated an average of 4.84 runs per game.
And here's the really bad news. The Phillies play two more games at AT&T Park, one of which will be against Giants' top rookie pitcher Madison Bumgarger, who the Phillies have never seen before, and the other against a long-haired gentleman named Tim Lincecum.
Game 3 provided yet another offensive encore for the amazing Cody Ross, who has been a cold drink dispenser in San Francisco's offensive desert throughout the 2010 post season. Giants' shortstop Edgar Renteria singled in the 4th inning for the Giants' first hit and was sacrificed to second by second baseman Freddie Sanchez. With two outs, left fielder Pat Burrell had a gutsy at bat, coaxing a walk after getting two strikes from Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels. Cody Ross followed with an RBI single and the Giants were on the board; Aubrey Huff followed with his own run scoring, seeing-eye ground ball just past Phils' second baseman Chase Utley.
In the 5th inning, an Aaron Rowand lead-off double was made good when Freddie Sanchez hit another two out single to score the Giants' third run. So while the big Philadelphia boppers foundered against the perfect storm of Matt Cain's pitching, all three Giant runs came on two out singles.
And that's the lesson of AT&T Park. As I noted in my pre-NLCS blog notes, the Giants' home park can have the effect of bringing down a big run-scoring offense and making them whimper in the corner, while the Giants' hitting machine does its usual slapping, scrapping, and punching out hits and runs here and there.
Which makes it all about pitching, which is what the 2010 Giants are all about.
Throughout the 2010 MLB post season, the San Francisco Giants have been carrying a very large elephant across a thin and extremely wobbly tightrope wire. On Sunday October 17, in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, that elephant sneezed and the tightrope snapped as the Giants tumbled to a 6-1 loss. Lack of offense will do that to you.
In four games with the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, the Giants scored a total of 11 runs-- an average of 2.75 runs per game. In two NLCS games with the Phillies, the Giants scored 5 runs, or 2.5 per game. During the 2010 regular season, the Giants were 9th in the National League with 697 runs scored, good for 4.30 per game. In the 2010 post season, San Francisco has so far scored 16 runs in six games, or an average of 2.67 runs per game.
In contrast, Philadelphia scored 772 runs during the regular season, 2nd among all NL teams. If your toes are currently unavailable, that's an average of 4.76 runs per game. In their three-game NLDS sweep of Cincinnati, the Phils plated 13 runs; add the 9 runs they've scored in two games against the Giants and the favored Phillies are pretty much on target with an average of 4.4 runs scored per game in the post season.
For the statistically challenged, what all of this means is the Giants are not even meeting their own normally lackluster offensive objectives. The pitching-over-power mantra has been mandatory for all Giants fans entering the magic kingdom since 2005; and after five years of wandering through the desert ('05- 3rd place, '06- 2nd place, '07- last place, '08- 4th place, '09- 3rd place), the thirsty faithful are drinking at the post season well, and it's cold and it's wet and it tastes damn good.
Now all this stuff about scoring runs comes up again. We know it needs to change soon. Really very soon.
The good news? So far, Giants outfielder Cody Ross is not only hitting home runs, he's among the top hitters of all eight National and American League teams making the 2010 post season. Tops with 4 home runs, tied at second with 6 RBIs, a .350 average, a .435 OB%, and leading the post season world with a whopping 1.435 OPS. Add to that list Ross' dynamic base running, that maniacally toothy grin, and the fact that he's doing most of this damage from the 8th spot in the batting order.
More good news? Sure, the pitching is absolutely coming through. Out of eight post season teams, the Giants are currently third in team ERA at 2.45 (Atlanta is second at 1.95, and [whoops] Philadelphia is first with a 1.60 team ERA). Giants pitchers are second with 68 strike-outs (Texas has 70), and SF and the Yankees are tied with 3 saves each. And, by the way, the Giants are 4-2 in the 2010 post season, with the next three games coming up at AT&T Park.
There's no doubt the Giants' bats have to come alive, and this amazing group of home-grown talent and retread patchwork toss-aways are more than capable of getting the job done at the plate. Even if they just come back up to their 2010 season average of 4.30 runs per game.
But if there's one thing we've learned after getting back into the National League Championship Series after eight long years, it is this: even with the kick-ass pitching staff San Francisco trots out on the field every game you need to have at least one legitimate All Star power/average bat in the middle of the line-up. Otherwise you might just find yourself carrying elephants across a tightrope wire.
Around the greater Philadelphia metro area this week, NLCS Game 1 at Citizens Bank Park was not something to be overly concerned about. Kind of like a routine visit to the doctor. So Philly fans bought their five foot long cheese steaks, grabbed a few cases of Rolling Rock lite, and prepared to watch Doctor Roy Halladay practicing from the mound in game one, surgically disecting the San Francisco Giants.
Only the patient did not cooperate. Cody Ross rose from the table and started chasing people around, including the good doctor. And what a scarey sight it was for the Philly faithful to see the living dead coming after them and their cheese steaks. Not only did Ross hit two home runs from the 8 spot in the line-up, left fielder Pat Burrell had two hits and knocked in a run, and shortstop Juan Uribe also contributed an RBI.
Oh, and Giants ace Tim Lincecum pitched his heart out, going seven innings, giving up three runs, and striking out eight batters in a 4-3 win.
Lincecum brought his own medical condition to the mound: a previously developed a blister on his pitching hand, probably from overworking his new slider in Game 1 of the NLDS on October 7th. So the Giants ace relied early and often on his change-up, and that pitch was absolutely deadly the first six innings as the Phillies' celebrated offense could not find the hitting zone against the two time CY Young Award winner. In the 7th, Lincecum found his fastball just in time to finish his stint with a three up and three down frame. Closer Brian Wilson threw a four out save, and Philadelphia batters ended up with a total of 13 strikeouts on the night.
But it was Cody who again climbed the tower and stood on top of the world in his second post season series. Ross positively rocked the Phillies and their confident fans by lighting up the night at Citizens Bank Park with two long balls off the invincible Roy Halladay. The dynamic right fielder has provided almost all the post season offensive fireworks for the Giants, a streaky hitter hitting a streak at just the right time.
After the game, Philadelphia Manager Charlie Manuel appeared to be aware of what occurred earlier on the field, and at the same time showed off his impressive knowledge of Major League Baseball rules. "I don't think we can do nothing to bring this game back tonight," stated Manuel to the gathered media. "It's a loss."
And so it was. Game one of the National League Championship Series went to the San Francisco Giants 4-3, as they continue walking a torturous tightrope in their unbelievable quest to win the 2010 World Series.