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So Much for a Pitcher’s Duel Giants down Rangers 11-7 as Cliff Lee is Suddenly Mortal

Freddy Sanchez flying down the baseline, Sanchez had three doubles in Game One of the World Series

Well the promised pitching duel ended as did Cliff Lee’s undefeated record in the playoffs and with it the predictions of almost everyone including me that this would be a close game.  Giants’ starter Tim Lincecum struggled in the early innings giving up a run in the first inning and got out of a bases loaded situation with 1 out when Juan Uribe made a difficult double play at Third Base.  He gave up a second run in the top of the 2nd inning as Cliff Lee helped himself with a double.  The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the 3rd inning when Edgar Renteria reached on an error by Michael Young at 3rd base and Cliff Lee uncharacteristically hit Andres Torres to bring up Freddy Sanchez who doubled to left to score Renteria. Buster Posey singled to score Sanchez to tie the game before Lee recovered his composure to strikeout Pat Burrell and Cody Ross to get out of the inning.

Both pitchers seemed to find their groove until the top of the 5th inning when Cliff Lee was removed rather violently from the pedestal that many sports writers and fans had placed him on. I knew that he was beatable in game 5 of the ALDS when he had to gut out that game against the Rays, he got the win there but had to work hard and only lasted 6 innings. In the bottom half of the 5th in game one of the World Series Lee was shredded by the Giants. After retiring Tim Lincecum he gave a double by Torres and was driven in by Sanchez who hit his third double of the game.  In game one Lee could not get his curve ball over the plate so Giants hitters patiently waited on his fastball and hammered him time and time again. Lee struck out Buster Posey for the second out and it was downhill from there. He then walked Pat Burrell and then gave up an RBI single to Cody Ross. Aubrey Huff followed with an RBI single and Lee was done. Ron Washington trotted out Darren O’Day to face Juan Uribe who hit a towering home run to left center field to clear the bases and make the score 8-2.  Seven runs were charged to Lee, his worst game in his playoff career.  Lincecum then got the first two batters of the 6th inning out striking out both Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz.  He had a 2-0 count on Ian Kinsler but walked him and then gave up a double to his former catcher Benji Molina which scored Kinsler from 1st base and a single to Mike Moreland which hit him in the hamstring for an infield hit. Pinch hitter David Murphy singled to score Molina before Sergio Casilla relieved Lincecum and struck out Elvis Andrus to end the inning with the score 8-4 in favor of the Giants.

The score remained 8-4 until the bottom of the 8th inning when the Giants put another crooked number on the board. Edgar Renteria singled to right and went to second on an error by Vladimir Guerrero. Pinch hitter Travis Ishikawa doubled to score Renteria and the hits kept coming.  Sanchez singled to right scoring Ishikawa and then took 2nd base on another error by Guerrero. Nate Schierholtz singled with two outs to drive in Sanchez to make the score 11-4.  The Rangers came back in the 9th inning scoring three runs off of Giants relievers but could not complete the comeback as Brian Wilson got Ian Kinsler to fly out to end the game.

Rangers’ pitchers Darren O’Day and Cliff Lee after being battered by the Giants for Lee it was his worst outing in the playoffs and his first loss in post-season play

Cliff Lee got the loss, his first of his playoff career as the Giants worked him over good driving him from the game after 4.2 innings hitting him hard, 7 runs (6 earned) on 8 hits forcing him to throw 104 pitches in the effort.  Tim Lincecum got the win going 5.2 innings giving up 4 runs on 8 hits.

Giants’ hitters acted like they were the Rangers blasting 6 doubles and a home run, three of the doubles by Freddy Sanchez, a World Series record.  The Giants also scored 6 of their runs with two outs, excellent production which gave them the victory.  In the end the Giants had 11 runs on 14 hits with two errors to defeat the Rangers who had 7 runs on 11 hits and committed 4 costly errors.  Tonight they meet again with Matt Cain going up against C. J. Wilson.

Until then,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Thoughts on Baseball and the World Series in a Time of National Turmoil

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.” – James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams

“Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”  ~Saul Steinberg

“Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” ~Sharon Olds, This Sporting Life, 1987

I’m sitting down watching game one of the World Series and as usual the Giants until the bottom of the 5th inning were playing it close in their unique “tortureball” way that drives Giants fans as well as their opponents absolutely nuts.  Now at the end of the 5th they lead 8-2 after beating up the vaunted Cliff Lee for 7 runs in 4.2 innings pitched.  But that is not the point of this article; it is an article about hope in a time of turmoil.  I could write about the Lord being a hope in time of trouble and that is certainly true but unfortunately so many people are using God as a bludgeon against their political opponents I’m not even going to go there. I figure that the Deity is pretty sick of how he or she gets used by people for their own agendas and although I believe with all of my heart that God is a refuge and help in time of trouble.

As anyone that reads this site on a regular basis knows that I am a member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish and that baseball is much more than a game to me. Yes I love the details, statistics and nuances of this beautiful game played upon that lovely and lush diamond but the game is much more than that it is the heart and soul of America.  I know that Football is now the most popular sport in the country but it is different, it is a sport of combat, speed and violence a sport which while there are lessons that can be learned from it its’ appeal is to our violent and warlike side.

As John Leonard in the New York Times said back in 1975 “Baseball happens to be a game of cumulative tension but football, basketball and hockey are played with hand grenades and machine guns.Roger Kahn one of the nation’s most gifted sports writers said “Basketball, hockey and track meets are action heaped upon action, climax upon climax, until the onlooker’s responses become deadened.  Baseball is for the leisurely afternoons of summer and for the unchanging dreams.”

I think that this year’s World Series is symbolic of the Spirit of this country where we see two great teams that embody all that is good about this country.  There are the stories of excellence in Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, the stories of second chances and redemption in men like Josh Hamilton and Texas Manger Ron Washington recovering from addictions to drugs and alcohol, the stories of players cast off by other teams like Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff and the stories of young men like Neftali Feliz, Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Elvis Andrus, stories of the eccentric epitomized by Giants closer Brian Wilson, natural born Americans and immigrants and so many other stories. These are stories about us, stories that hearken back to the times when Americans actually believed in a good future and were willing to work with each other despite political differences to make it happen.

The teams were not considered among baseball’s elite at the beginning of the season and neither was picked to win their divisions.  Their payrolls pale in comparison to the Yankees, Phillies and even the Cubs and the Rangers were just rescued from bankruptcy by baseball legend Nolan Ryan.  In a time of recession and uncertainty such teams relate to everyday Americans because they seem to be real, made up of flawed people, people that needed second chances and have triumphed.

Both the Rangers and Giants have special fan bases, the Rangers fans epitomize middle America and the Giants fans, well they are as diverse as the city that their Giants represent.

I agree with Bill “Spaceman Lee” who said “I would change policy, bring back natural grass and nickel beer. Baseball is the belly-button of our society. Straighten out baseball, and you straighten out the rest of the world.” Baseball is the bell weather of America and a place that we can all go to if we want.  Thankfully it seems that baseball after the gratuitous excess of the steroids era has recovered itself, maybe we will never get back to nickel beer but we can recover our soul as a nation.

In baseball you have opponents, not enemies and while you play them hard you never dehumanize them.  I think that in the poisonous political and social environment of 2010 where political or ideological opponents are no longer fellow Americans that we may differ with but enemies to be defeated destroyed and trampled under violently if necessary.  In baseball there is a decorum that is seldom breeched but in our society such decorum is sadly lacking and there is blame on all sides of the body politic.

Maybe we can learn something as a nation from this World Series which happens to share the national stage with one of the vilest election seasons that I have ever seen where Republicans and Democrats alike share the blame for the mess that we are in.  Maybe we can learn from the game that was with us during our Civil War, through the Great Depression and World Wars, through the social upheaval of the 1960s and the current wars and worldwide economic crisis that has so severely impacted the people of our country.

For me baseball has been there in good times and bad and in the worst and most desolate time in my life, the two years after I returned from Iraq damaged in mind, body and spirit that diamond was the one place that I could find peace.

Here’s to the Rangers and the Giants, the men and their stories and their fans.  I hope that we all learn something from them this year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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“Experts” Wrong, Padre Steve Right: Giants Win the Pennant! Defeat Phillies in Six to Advance to World Series

Ryan Howard looks as he is rung up on a called third strike as Buster Posey celebrates (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Phillies and their fans looked on in stunned disbelief as a team of no-names, cast offs and some remarkable starting pitchers and relievers defeated the Phillies in six games to advance to the World Series.  Once again it was a nail-biting tension filled decision that would have driven the Dalia Lama to drink and drink heavily if he is a Giants fan.  It was a game that exemplified the Giants season, a comeback win in the late innings that came down to the Giants closer Brian Wilson against Phillies slugger Ryan Howard in a battle of power against power with two men on base and a full count and on that count he stuck the Phillies slugger out looking.

Juan Uribe hits the winning home run in game 6 (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The game started with the Phillies getting out to an early 2-0 lead in the 1st inning. Giants’ starter Jonathan Sanchez had trouble finding the plate and was hit early. Placido Polanco walked and took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Chase Utley double. Utley took third when Ryan Howard singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jayson Werth. It looked like the Phillies were on their way to forcing a game seven and judging by the noise of the partisan Philadelphia crowd it seemed that the Giants just might get smacked around hard.  Sanchez was able to finish the inning and send the Phillies down in order in the second inning.  Phillies starter Roy Oswalt seemed in control early but the Giants tied the game in the third inning when Jonathan Sanchez hit a leadoff single and took second on a single by Andres Torres.  Freddy Sanchez then grounded out to advance the runners. Aubrey Huff singled to score Sanchez and Torres scored when Ryan Howard botched a ground ball by Buster Posey.

Fear the Beard: Brian Wilson throws in the 8th inning (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The bottom of the 3rd inning was interesting as Sanchez hit Chase Utley with a pitch to the back. Utley seemed to innocently pick up the ball and lob it back to the mound. A stare down and words between Utley and Sanchez resulted which escalated to words and then benches cleared as both teams took the field to be broken up by the umpire crew and cooler heads on both teams. Bruce Bochy took the angry Sanchez out of the game and send in Jeremy Affeldt who sent the Phillies down in order.

Let the celebration begin: Brian Wilson and Buster Posey great each other after striking out Ryan Howard (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The game settled down as neither team could get their offense going although both teams had chances in the 4th and 5th innings.  Affeldt retired the Phillies in order in the 4th inning and was relieved by Madison Bumgarner.  Bumgarner gave up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins and then retired Placido Polanco and Chase Utley on fly balls. Ryan Howard slammed a double to left center which sent Rollins to third.  Bochy had Bumgarner intentionally walk Jayson Werth to get to Shane Victorino who grounded harmlessly to Bumgarner to end the inning.  In the bottom of the 6th Bumgarner gave up a leadoff double to Raul Ibanez who went to 3rd base on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Carlos Ruiz but was left stranded when Bumgarner struck out Ben Francisco and got Rollins to fly out to end the inning.

Unlikely and improbable victors (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Ryan Madson relieved Oswalt in the 7th and was able to keep the Giants off the board in that inning while Giants’ reliever Javier Lopez came in for the bottom frame and got Polanco to Fly out, Utley to ground out and sent Ryan Howard down swinging. The game went to the top of the 8th inning still knotted at two runs apiece and Madson came back out to pitch the top of the 8th.  Madson has been a one inning reliever all year so this was a change for him. He retired Pat Burrell on a ground out and Cody Ross on a deep fly ball to left which brought Juan Uribe to the plate. Uribe had jammed his right hand sliding into first in game one of the NLCS and sat out game two and took a pitch off the same hand in game five.  Uribe took Madson yard on a fly ball which kept going and tailing away in right field until it cleared the wall by a couple of feet.  The Phillies and their fans went silent as Uribe rounded the bases and scored the go ahead run.

Phillies look on in the 9th as hope fades away (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Giants brought in starter Tim Lincecum into the game to pitch the bottom half of the 8th and he struck out Jayson Werth to begin the inning. He then gave up consecutive singles to Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez and was lifted for closer Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson. Wilson got Carlos Ruiz to line out to first baseman Aubrey Huff who threw to second to double up Victorino for the final out of the inning.

Buster Posey helps hold up the NL Championship trophy (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Phillies sent out closer Brad Lidge in the top of the 9th inning to keep the game close and he did that though things did get a bit sporty for the Phillies when the Giants had runners on second and third with 2 outs with Buster Posey at the plate and Wilson on deck. Charlie Manuel had Lidge intentionally walk Posey to load the bases and Wilson grounded out to first to end the inning causing the entire Phillies nation to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

In the 9th inning Giants fans were treated to another inning of Giants’ baseball sometimes known as “torture ball.”  Wilson got the leadoff batter, pinch hitter Ross Gload to ground out and then walked Jimmy Rollins.  Rollins advanced to second on a ground ball fielder’s choice by Polanco and Wilson then walked Chase Utley to put runners on first and second to bring up slugger Ryan Howard who worked to count to a full count before going down looking on a called strike three to end the game. Silence engulfed the stadium as the Phillies and their fans sat or stood in stunned disbelief, a few boos were heard but the bulk of the noise in the stadium came from a group of cast offs, has beens and never weres who were dismissed for much of the season by almost every baseball expert, even the series MVP Cody Ross was sent home by the Florida Marlins before being picked up by the Giants in August.

Picked by most to finish no better than 3rd in the NL West the Giants were 7 games back of the Padres at the beginning of August.  They won the division on the last day of the season, defeated the Braves in the NLDS and were picked to lose the NLCS to the Phillies in 5 or 6 games by the same experts who gave them no chance at the beginning of the season.  Even in the pre-game show the commentators were picking the Phillies to force a game seven which the Phillies of course would win, I think hoping against hope to justify themselves.  I on the other hand picked the Giants to win by looking at the numbers, match ups and statistics as well as the psychological factor that the Giants had nothing to lose because all the experts were saying that they had no chance. I really think that the Phillies believed the experts.

I said that it would come down to pitching and in this both teams were pretty evenly matched with the Giants having a slightly better team ERA of 3.06 to the Phillies staff 3.08.  However the Phillies continued not to hit the ball well just as they did in the NLDS against Cincinnati, where only 7 of the 13 runs that they scored were earned runs.   The Phillies mustered 20 runs of which 18 were earned s opposed to the Giants total of 19 runs of which 18 were earned.  The Phillies hit a dismal .218 for the series collecting only 41 hits and the scrappy Giants hit .244 with 49 hits.  The Giants had a better on base percentage and better slugging percentage than the Phillies in this series.  This did not surprise me because of the Phillies dismal hitting in the NLDS and the fact that the Phillies and Giants had very similar numbers in all departments of offense except for stolen bases in the regular season. The experts had sold a myth that the Phillies were a massively better offensive team that would not let the Giants pitching staff get away with anything but the numbers told a different story a Phillies team that had a regular season batting average of .260 and 166 home runs and 1451 hits with a .745 OPS (on base+ slugging percentage) going up a Giants team that hit .257 with 162 home runs, 1411 hits and a .729 OPS.  The Phillies did score more runs than the Giants during the regular season but one always has to weigh run-production with the other numbers. I think that many people simply saw that the Phillies had 75 more regular season runs than the Giants and assumed that they would pound the Giants pitching anytime a Giants’ pitcher made a mistake.  They didn’t seem to look at the fact that the teams split their season series 3-3 and that the Phillies won two of those games in the Giants’ worst month of the season which was August.

Padre Steve Celebrates the Giants’ win and his prediction

The Giants now go home to face the Rangers in Game One of the 2010 World Series. I am sure that once again that they will be dismissed.  I will analyze the series as thoroughly as I did the NLCS and make my pick later in the week putting my obvious bias for the Giants aside in order to make an accurate pick.  Until then my friends have a great Sunday and great week.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Giants Defeat Phillies in 9th 6-5 go up 3-1 in NLCS as Posey and the Panda have big nights

Aubrey Huff raises his arms after he scores the winning run in Game 4 of the NLCS (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The San Francisco Giants keep finding ways to win and of befuddling the experts in their NLCS matchup with the Philadelphia Phillies.  With most experts picking the Phillies to win this series in five or six games no matter what happens it will go seven.  Tonight in front of a wild crowd of Giants fans decked out in orange and black, wearing “fear the beard” beards, panda heads and any number of unusual outfits the Giants defeated the Phillies 6-5 beating Roy Oswalt in the bottom of the 9th to do it.

Buster Posey Tags out Carlos Ruiz in the 5th inning  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Giants got the first run on the board in the bottom of the 1st inning when Freddy Sanchez singled and then advanced to second and then third on wild pitches by Phillies starter Joe Blanton. With Sanchez on third base Buster Posey singled to get his first RBI of the night.  The Giants added to their lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning when with 2 outs Aubrey Huff singled and scored on a deep double by Buster Posey. 

Pablo the “Panda” Sandoval connects for a 2 RBI double (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Madison Bumgarner was solid through four innings striking out 6 Phillies batters and only giving up 2 hits but lost his edge in the 5th inning.  The rookie gave up 4 singles one of which by Shane Victorino scored Ben Francisco to put the Phillies on the board but a tremendous throw from center fielder Aaron Rowland cut down Carlos Ruiz at the plate with Posey making a great play to block the plate and hold onto the ball in the collision with Ruiz.  This turned out to be a big play which kept the Phillies from a second run on the play and giving the Giants a badly needed out.  Chase Utley singled to put runners at first and second and brought Manager Bruce Bochy to the mound to lift Bumgarner in favor of Santiago Casilla. Casilla then gave up a double to Placido Polanco which scored both Victorino and Utley.  Casilla then intentionally walked Ryan Howard and hit Jayson Werth with a pitch to load the bases. Casilla then tossed a wild pitch which scored Polanco to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. 

Andres Torres walked to lead off the Giants half of the 5th inning and advanced to 2nd base on a ground out by Edgar Renteria. He then scored when Aubrey Huff singled to end the 5th inning with the score the Phillies 4 and the Giants 3. Casilla retired the Phillies in order in the 6th and in the bottom half of the inning the Giants went back to work.  Pat Burrell led off with a walk and was followed by Phillies killer Cody Ross who smacked an inside fastball into the left field corner to put runners on second and third. This brought Pablo the “Panda” Sandoval to the plate. Sandoval who had been benched at the beginning of the series has been in a slump but in this at bat he took a Chad Durbin pitch to deep center for a double which scored both Burrell and Ross and give the Giants a 5-4 lead going into the 7th inning.

Javier Lopez came in and put the Phillies down in order in the 7th and the Giants loaded the bases in the bottom of the 7th with one out but Sandoval hit into an inning ending double play.  In the top of the 8th inning Lopez gave up a double to Ryan Howard to lead off the inning and was pulled in favor of Sergio Romo one of the Giants’ “black beards.” Romo gave up a double to Jayson Werth to tie the game before retiring Jimmy Rollins on a pop up and Ben Francisco and Carlos Ruiz on consecutive strike outs using just six pitches to do it. 

Fear the Beard: Brian Wilson shuts down the Phillies to collect the win  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

With the score tied in the 9th inning the Giants brought closer Brian Wilson into the game. Wilson who has 4 saves in 6 playoff appearances got pinch hitter Ross Gload on a ground out to shortstop Juan Uribe who made an outstanding effort to get the out. He then struck out Shane Victorino and put Chase Utley out on a line drive to left field.  The tension mounted as the Phillies had closer Brad Lidge and starter Roy Oswalt warming up in the bullpen. As the Phillies half of the 9th ended it was Oswalt who got the call going on 2 days rest following his start in game two against the Giants.  Freddy Sanchez lined out to right for the first out which brought Aubrey Huff to the plate. Huff singled and then advanced to 3rd base on a single by Buster Posey which could have scored Huff had Jayson Werth not made a tremendous defensive play to keep the ball from going to the wall. This brought an unlikely hero to the plate. Juan Uribe playing with an injured hand was able to hit a medium depth fly ball to left which scored Huff from third to give the Giants a 6-5 win and a 3-1 lead in the NLCS.

 

Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz sits in stunned silence as the Giants celebrate (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Giants made a great team effort to win this game, the first game since September where they scored more than 4 runs.  Timely hitting by Buster Posey who went 4-5 with 2 RBIs, Pablo Sandoval with his 2 RBI double and Aubrey Huff who went 3-5 with an RBI helped push the Giants over the top in this see-saw game.  Brian Wilson got the win in relief and Roy Oswalt the loss in a rare relief appearance.  The teams meet for game five on Thursday with a battle of the aces on the offing as Roy “Doc” Hallady goes up against Tim Lincecum in what could be the deciding game of the series.  Giants fans accustomed to “Tortureball” need to break out their Xanax for this one which could be an epic playoff game with two of the best pitchers in baseball going against each other in a game that could send Halladay and the Phillies home until the spring.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tortureball: Lincecum and Giants Shock Phillies 4-3 as Ross Homers Twice

Tim Lincecum defeats the Phillies in game one of the NLCS Saturday (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The underdog San Francisco Giants went into Philadelphia with all the experts predicting them to lose. Instead Tim “the Freak” Lincecum, Giants relievers and Cody “I can hit clutch home runs” Ross defeated the Phillies on Saturday night. The atmosphere in the ballpark was charged the entire game as the Giants won in yet another one run game as the Giants treated their fans to another evening of torture.

Roy Halladay gets his first playoff loss of 2010 the victim of 2 Cody Ross home runs (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

In the bottom of the third inning Roy Hallady gave up a solo home run to Cody Ross to give the Giants a 1-0 lead after retiring the first seven Giants batter. Tim Lincecum gave up a home run to Carlos Ruiz in the bottom of the third to tie the game at one.  The score was tied until the 5th inning when Cody Ross slammed his second home run off of Halladay a one out pitch into the left field seats for a 2-1 Giants lead.  The Giants increase their lead in the top of the 6th inning when with two outs they got a rally going. With two outs Buster Posey singled and scored on a double by Pat Burrell who was lifted for a pinch runner in the form of Nate Schierholtz. Juan Uribe then singled to score Schierholtz and give the Giants a 3-1 lead.

Cody Ross hits his second home run off Roy Hallady in the 5th inning (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Phillies came back with two runs in the bottom of the 6th when Jayson Werth hammered a two run home run into the right field seats. The game then became a duel of relievers as both Lincecum and Halladay exited the game after 7 innings. In the 9th Phillies closer Brad Lidge loaded the bases but was able to get out of the jam while Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson were able to shut down the Phillies with Wilson striking out the side in the 9th to secure the win. Tim Lincecum got the win for the Giants and Roy Halladay the loss.  Brian Wilson who led the majors in saves with 48 got his third save of the playoffs.

Fear the Beard: Brian Wilson strikes out 4 of 4 Phillies to get the save (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Tomorrow Jonathan Sanchez will face Roy Oswalt who was roughed up by the Reds in the NLDS. Sanchez has beaten the Phillies twice this year while Oswalt has beaten the Giants once. It should be an interesting matchup.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Giants down Braves 3-2: Advance to NLCS

The Giants celebrate their first playoff series win since 2002 at Turner Field (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Once again there was a pitcher’s duel between the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants. Once again the Giants were the team to come from behind in the late innings to win the game in Atlanta. The Braves who have the most come from behind wins in the Majors this year could not come back from a late 3-2 deficit despite getting two walks with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning. Closer Brian Wilson got his command back and got Omar Infante to strike out for the second out and Melky Cabrera to ground out to 3rd base to end the game and the managerial career of the legendary Bobby Cox.  In a touching moment Cox came out for a curtain call tip of the hat to the fans receiving a standing ovation not just from the Braves faithful but from the victorious San Francisco Giants.

End of an era: Bobby Cox tips his hat after the game (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Giants started rookie Madison Bumgarner in game for against Derek Lowe pitching on short rest. Bumgarner struggled in the first three innings loading the bases in the 2nd and allowing a run on three singles and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 3rd inning.  Lowe was very effective actually going into the 6th inning with a no hitter which was broken up by a solo shot by Giants outfielder Cody Ross to tie the game.

Cody Ross celebrates after his 6th inning home run (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After the first three innings the young left-handed Bumgarner was very effective until the bottom of the 6th when he gave up a solo home run with 1 out to Braves catcher Brian McCann which gave the Braves a 2-1 lead and had the Braves faithful in full tomahawk chop frenzy mode.  With the crowd in his face Bumgarner bore down and despite giving up a single the Jayson Heyward struck out Alex Gonzales and Rick Ankiel to end the inning.

Fear the beard: Giants’ Closer Brian Wilson gets his second save in two games in Atlanta (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In the top of the 7th the Giants came back. Freddy Sanchez grounded out to lead off the inning but the tiring Lowe walked Aubrey Huff and then gave up a single to Buster Posey which sent Huff to 2nd base. Bobby Cox came to the mound to pull Lowe from the game with Pete Moylan ready in the bullpen. A defiant Lowe told Cox that he could get the next batter Pat Burrell out and Cox gave way allowing the World Series veteran to stay in the game. Instead of getting Burrell out Lowe walked him to load the bases which brought out Cox for the second time to bring in Moylan.  The first batter that Moylan faced was Juan Uribe who hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop Alex Gonzales who threw just high enough to bring second baseman Omar Infante off the bag allowing Huff to score and the bases to remain loaded. Jonny Venters relieved Moylan and struck out pinch hitter Aaron Rowland for the second out. Venters then faced Cody Ross who singled to left to score Posey for the go-ahead run but left fielder Matt Diaz threw out Burrell at the plate aided by a great block of the plate by Brian McCann.

Brian McCann and Diory Hernandez look on as the Giants celebrate (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Giants sent Santiago Casilla to relieve Bumgarner in the bottom of the 7th and Casilla sent the Braves down in order.  He would get Derek Lee to strike out swinging before giving up a one out single to Brian McCann.  Casilla then got Alex Gonzales to hit a soft sinking line drive to shortstop Edgar Renteria who misplayed it but was able to recover and throw out Gonzalez who paused before running to first base thinking that Renteria had the catch. Pinch runner Nate McLouth went to second on the play and Giants manager Bruce Bochy to bring in Javier Lopez and Lopez struck out Jayson Heyward to end the inning.

The Giants managed nothing in the 9th despite an Aubrey Huff single.  In the bottom of the 9th the Giants brought in closer Brian Wilson.  Wilson got pinch hitter Brooks Conrad, the error prone goat of Sunday night to fly out but then walked Rick Ankiel and Erik Hinske.  Wilson then struck out Omar Infante who was one of the most effective Braves hitters in the series before retiring Melky Cabrera on a ground ball to third to end the game.

Saluting the longtime foe: The Giants pause their celebration to tip their hats and honor Bobby Cox (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

This was a true championship caliber series and certainly more competitive and well played than any of the other divisional series game.  Like all the games of this series the game could have gone either way. These teams were so evenly matched and played so well that it was a shame that one had to lose. Both secured playoff berths on the last day of the season and both are class organizations and have great fans. The difference was pitching the Giants starters had an ERA of 0.89 in the four games but not the starters alone as the Giants’ pitching staff allowed just 5 earned runs in 37 innings work for a 1.21 ERA.   Giants’ starter Madison Bumgarner got the win while Derek Lowe picked up his second loss of the series.

The hero for the Giants was Cody Ross who had the game winning hit in game one and 2 RBIs in the finale to give the Giants just enough juice to end the Braves season and Bobby Cox’s managerial career.  As Bobby Cox tipped his hat at the end of the game I thought back to all of the times that this legendary manager has taken the Braves to the playoffs, especially their amazing run in 2005 with the “Baby Braves” rookies.  Cox was an old time manager who knew how to get the most out of his people and even continued to wear steel cleats to his final game. The colorful Cox will be missed and whoever the Braves get to fill his shoes will have to work many years in the shadow of a legend.

The Giants now move on the face the Phillies in the NLCS which begins on Friday in Philadelphia. I will analyze that series and the ALCS matchup after the Rays and Rangers series ends tomorrow evening.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Errors Cause Giants to Lose to Braves 5-4 in 11 Innings

Rick Ankiel’s 11th Inning Blast put the Braves in the lead but Giants errors opened the door for the Braves (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

In my NLCS predictions I said that the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves series would be the hardest to pick as the teams were so evenly matched. I gave the edge to the Giants based on how their starting pitching has done in the final month of the season and I still predict the Giants to win in four or five games.  Last night it looked like the Giants were on their way to going to Atlanta with a 2-0 series lead and then the improbable happened.  Leading 4-0 the Giants committed two Costly errors gave the Braves to opportunity to tie the game and eventually win it on Rick Ankiel’s 11th inning home run that landed among the kayaks in McCovey Cove.

Giants’ starter Matt Cain gave up just one run, an unearned one in the top of the 6th created by a fielding error by outfielder Pat Burrell on a Derek Lee single. Lee took second on the error and scored when the next batter, Brian McCann singled to make the score 4-1.  The Giants failed to capitalize in the 7th inning and the game went into the 8th with Sergio Romo coming into the game in relief.  Derek Lee and McCann singled and Romo was pulled for closer Brian Wilson.  Wilson faced Melkie Cabrera who hit a ground ball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval who whose errant throw pulled first baseman Aubrey Huff off the bag allowing Lee to score.  After a sacrifice bunt by Brooks Conrad sent the runners to second and third Alex Gonzalez doubled to left to score McCann and Cabrera to tie the game.

The game went into extra innings and in the bottom of the 10th the Giants had the bases loaded with one out.  Reliever Kyle Farnsworth got Buster Posey to hit into an inning ending double play.  Ramon Ramirez working his second inning of relief made one bad pitch which Ankiel slammed with such authority that Giants right fielder Nate Schierholtz didn’t even turn around.  The Giants did not score in the bottom half of the inning giving the Braves who led the majors in come from behind wins yet another improbably victory.

On Sunday the Giants will send Jonathan Sanchez (13-9 3.09 ERA) who has won 7 of his last 10 games to the mound.  Sanchez lost his last appearance against the Braves last only 4 innings giving up 4 runs on 5 hits. He will face Braves ace Tim Hudson (17-9 2.83 ERA) who won his last start against the Giants but struggled down the stretch going 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA.  Hudson has a career 13-13 record and 3.56 life time ERA against the Giants.

The Braves have the best record at home in the Majors this year and took their season series against the Giants 4 games to 3, and took 3 of 4 at home against the Giants this year which gives them a slight advantage in the next two games. I expect that the teams will manage a split in Atlanta and take the series back to San Francisco. This should continue to be the best and most interesting series of the 2010 Divisional Series playoffs.

Peace,

Steve+

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