Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bochy's Band of Misfits –The Giants – One Fistfight from Fall Classic

Scoring: Giants up 0-1, up 0-2, up 1-2, down 3-2, down 4-2, down 4-3, up 4-5, tied 5-5, walk off 5-6!

First off… Buster Posey! At this point, Posey doesn’t just have the keys to San Francisco. Posey has the keys to the adjacent cities as well, and those cities that are adjacent to the cities that are adjacent to San Francisco. That’s at a minimum.

Last night he went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles, he drove in two runs, and he basically had some of the most important hits on the night. In the first, he smashed a sharp ground ball single up the middle on a breaking ball to open the scoring. He did that with two strikes. In the third, he ripped a double that one hopped the left field wall on a 1-1 count and brought in another run. I told my buddy that Blanton was getting too aggressive with his changeup before that double. He was. He threw it, Posey was ready, and Blanton was lucky the Kid didn’t backspin it into the bleachers. In the 5th Posey showed off his other graceful talents. Posey nabbed a one hop throw – a great throw by Rowand, of all people – and laid a quick swipe tag to get Carlos Ruiz. That may have saved the game for the Giants as it was 1) one of three outs in a nightmarish inning and 2) one less run (4 instead of 5) in a horror showish inning. In the 7th (after striking out in the 5th) Posey doubled again, and once again after being down two strikes. And finally, in the 9th, Posey went down 0 and 2 to Roy Oswalt who dominated him in game two. Posey hit a near double down the line foul, nearly broke his bat on a pop up that dropped foul*, and then lined a single (his fourth of the night and third with two strikes) down the line for a single that moved Huff to third and set up the walk off sac fly. Asked about whether or not he knew his game was “epic,” not from the standpoint of a rookie but from any player, Posey smiled and coolly replied: “Well, thank you.”

*Krukow (on KNBR) said, Posey must be thinking: “I’m gonna stick with it, that ones had three hits in it.” Make that four.

The roughest inning for the Giants, I thought, may have been the 4th because it may have resulted in some repercussions in the 5th. Bumgarner labored hard in the 4th and was able to get out of a jam. In the bottom half, the Giants hitters were out in just 7 pitches. They certainly didn’t do Bumgarner any favors in terms of giving him a breather and he unraveled in the 5th. These are the types of innings the Giants offense must avoid, as "clutch" as they were on Wednesday night.

Bruce Bochy gave Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval a start tonight and boy did it pay off. Pablo did ground into one of his patented - seriously, look it up - double plays with the bases loaded, sure, but only after a very good at bat and a scorched ground ball rather than a roll over. But before that double play, Panda delivered one of the biggest hits of the postseason**. He seemingly doubled down the fight field line – it might have hit a sliver of chalk, or it might now have – earlier in the at bat. But with two strikes Durbin tried to put him away with a high fastball and Pablo laced it into the left center field gap to score two and reclaim the lead for the Giants. It was a swing of the bat that was so throwback 2009 Panda, and after a season in which Pablo hit .208 with runners in scoring position and was badly battered on balls in play, it truly proved that in AT&T as in the jungles of China, the Panda is not extinct.

**What would a postseason post be without a mention of can-do-no-wrong Ross? Ross hit a broken bat, grenade double down the left field line to set up the spot for Pablo.

Aubrey Huff contributed with another three hits, and two huge ones at that. Huff had a two out, run scoring, line drive up the middle single in the 5th that brought the Giants back within one. That was a huge swing of the bat as it got the fans back into it after the devastating top half, refreshing their memories of Ashkon’s “Don’t Stop, Believing… this could be the seeeeeaaason.” He also singled on one pitch in the 9th to set up the Posey single and the Uribe sacrifice fly. Huff hasn’t delivered the knock out blow thus far this postseason – a double, triple or homerun to break a teams back. But Huff has delivered huge singles in the middle of (or to start off) pivotal rallies more than once.

Bochy, I thought, also made another great (non) move. When Werth hit the chalk double off of Romo following the Howard double off of Lopez, the Giants were immediately thrust into a “here we go again” moment. Bochy could have panicked like he had in the divisional series. He didn’t. I might have. I was panicking. Bochy instead stuck with the Frisbee throwing righty, and he delivered. He delivered a fly out and back to back strike outs on six straight (five swing and miss) Frisbee sliders, which is of course, his specialty. That was a great vote of confidence by Bochy and a wonderful job by Romo. It also was a moment of success which Romo can draw back on and perhaps it will bear dividends later. It’s a lot easier to recall the homer Romo gave up to Hinske (and Manny in May) than to recall his 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio and over 10 strikeouts per 9 IP. It seems Bochy’s recollection was just fine last night.

Before we get into the bottom of the 9th, let’s not forget that in the top half, Uribe made an absolutely spectacular play on a ball in the hole. Ross Gload hit a ball to Uribe’s right and was getting down the line pretty good.  Uribe snared it and delivered a seed across the diamond to get Gload by an eyelash. Earlier in the game, Jeff Fletcher from AOL Fanhouse tweeted (after a nice play by Rollins): “#sfgiants fans, that’s what it looks like when you have a shortstop with an arm.” Ya, Jeff, we know.

Everyone in the world knew (or should have) that Oswalt was going to try to light Uribe’s hands on fire with inside fastballs given his sore wrist. Oswalt did, and did, and did, and did do just that. He threw a fastball at the top, inner corner of the zone at 95 by Uribe for strike one. He threw a fastball just under Uribe’s lips for a ball. He threw another inside fastball boring in on Uribe and it hit his hand, maybe, or the knob of the bat which is what the umpire went with. Then he threw yet another fastball up and in that glanced off of Uribe’s bat on a check swing. Apparently, Oswalt thought Uribe was set up for a changeup, some type of offspeed.  And maybe he was. He probably was. I half figured that at some point, either against Uribe or Posey, that Oswalt would throw the Bugs Bunny 64 MPH curveball. Instead, Oswalt threw an 83 MPH changeup. I think Oswalt would probably tell you he intended to throw that pitch below the strike zone with the count 1 and 2. He didn’t. Oswalt threw a good changeup. It would have been a great pitch 0-0. It would have been a great pitch 2 and 0. But 1 and 2 against Uribe, he threw it at the bottom of the strike zone – reachable for Uribe – and after Uribe flipped it relatively deep to left field and drew Francisco back, the game was all but comfortably over as Huff rushed home like life depended on it. Huff popped up from his slide and stretched both arms straight up in the air in stunning reminiscence of Rocky Balboa’s famous statue in the City of Brotherly Love, almost as if to add insult to injury. It was beautiful.

Brian Wilson would later say that Uribe was hitting in the cages in the late innings to test his hand. Whatever he was doing all game, Uribe found some way to muster the strength in the hand and get it done. OOOOO-Ribe!

The Giants need a single win to claim the National League pennant for only the fourth time since they came West in 1958 – the others in 1962 (Mays, Marichal, McCovey, Alou, Perry etc.) 1989 (Clark and Mitchell) and 2002 (Bonds and Kent). The Giants will not take this lightly, but rather will take it one game at a time. Tonight they’ll go with their long-locked, f-word spraying, humble Cy Young award winning Tim “The Franchise, The Freak” Lincecum. And no matter who the opponent or the opposing pitcher when he’s going, they like their chances.

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