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Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS

Buster Posey hits a Grand Slam in the 5th Inning (AP Photo- David Kohl) 

Bruce Botchy’s San Francisco Giants appeared to be done. Their bats were lifeless and the Dusty Baker’s Cincinnati Reds looked like they would easily defeat the NL West Champion Giants as they went back to Cincinnati following their 9-0 drubbing of the Giants in San Francisco. But as the Giants have showed all season, the the going gets tough, the Giants get going and did so in a never been done before way.

Scott Rolen’s critical error in Game 3 (Jonathan Daniel Getty Images)

The Giants were the first team in the history of baseball in a 5 game series to lose the first two games at home and then win the remaining three games on the road. It was a remarkable feat made even more impressive by the dominance of the Reds pitching and slugging at the Great American Ballpark in the regular season.

Tim Lincecum in Relief (Andrew Weber US Presswire) 

In game three the Giants faced Homer Bailey who had thrown a no hitter in the final week of the season. Bailey was still hot. He went 7 innings and struck out ten Giants and allowing just one hit. However the Giants eeked out a run in the top of the third inning when Angel Pagan hit a sacrifice fly to score Gregor Blanco who had gotten on board after being hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. The score remained tied at one into the top of the 10th inning. Giants catcher Buster Posey led off with a single and advanced to second base on a single by Hunter Pence. Then reliever Jonathan Broxton struck out Brandon Belt and Xavier Nady. Joaquin Arias then hit a grounder to Gold Glove third baseman Scott Rolen, Rolen bobbled the ball and Arias beat the throw to first as Posey running on the pitch scored the go ahead run. Giants’ closer Sergio Romo downed the Reds in order in the bottom half of the inning to secure the win.

Reds Starter Matt Latos after being pulled following Buster Posey’s Grand Slam in Game 5 (AP Photo Michael Keating) 

On Wednesday the Giants got out to an early 3-1 lead but starter Barry Zito began to have control problems and gave up a lead off home run to Ryan Ludwig and with two outs in the bottom of the third inning Botchy pulled Zito for George Kontos. Kontos stayed in the game until the 4th inning when he gave up a one out single to Zach Cozart. Botchy brought in Jose Mijares to face Reds slugger Joey Votto who he struck out. This gave Botchy the chance to double switch bringing Joaquin Arias to shortstop and bring in former starter and two time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum into the game. Lincecum pitched 4.1 innings giving up a run on one hit while striking out six Reds. While Lincecum shut down the Reds the Giants bats erupted for 2 runs in the top of the 5th inning and 3 more in the top of the 7th. Santiago Casilla came on in the 9th to finish the game and pull the Giants even in the series and send the series into the deciding game 5.

Today the Giants starter Matt Cain and Reds starter Matt Latos had a pitcher’s duel going through the first 4 innings, then things fell apart for Latos and the Reds. Gregor Blanco singled and scored when Brandon Crawford tripled. Crawford scored when Zack Cozart committed an error on a ground ball hit by Joaquin Arias. Latos then walked Marco Scutero and gave up a single to Pablo Sandoval. With the bases loaded Buster Posey homered to deep left center to make the score 6-0. That would be enough. The Reds scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 5th and a run in the bottom of the 6th to make the score 6-3. Botchy used 5 relievers in the final three innings and the Reds threatened but were not able to score again.

The Giants had done what no one thought was possible. They had won three on the road against the Reds, and their offense which had been dormant in San Francisco plated 14 runs in the final two games of the series. In games one and two the Reds had done everything right but after the error by Rolen in game three nothing seemed to go right and the Big Red Machine broke down.

Dusty Baker disappointed again (Getty Images)

The loss of the series was another disappointment for Reds manager Dusty Baker who having suffered through a mini-stroke in the final week of the season and had come back to manage following several days in hospital. Baker who was the manager of the Giants in 2002 lost in the World Series when his team was leading the series against the Angels and in 2003 now managing the Chicago Cubs got to the NLCS against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs led the series 3 games to 2 and had a 3-0 lead going into the top of the 8th inning. That inning was a nightmare. With a runner on second and one out  Luis Castillo hit a foul ball to left field. The ball drifted into the first row of the stands and into the outstretched hand of Cub fan Steve Bartman. The Cubs plead for a call of fan interference but that was denied. The rest is history, a critical error and some clutch hitting by the Marlins gave them an 8-3 lead and the win. The Cubs lost game seven and Baker was stung by much criticism for the Cubs loss.

Giants Celebrate (AP Photo Michael Keating)

The Giants who had battled injuries, a suspension of their leading hitter for the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs and pitching that was not what it has been the past couple of years proved to be the gritty and tough team that won the NL West. They will move on the face the winner of the NLDS series between the Cardinals and Nationals which the Nationals forced into game five when Jason Werth hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th inning at National’s Field this afternoon.

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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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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