Friday, October 22, 2010

Giants Flinch, Fail to Clinch in Frisco

The Giants’ game five cinching effort, that started off so well, ended so disappointingly. If someone would have told you that: 1) Roy Halladay would not be sharp and would need a mound visit in the first inning before getting an out, 2) Halladay would pull his groin in the second inning and finally 3) Andres Torres would reach base in four of four plate appearances, would you have believed  the Giants would lose? I certainly would not have. The slightly inclement weather didn’t play a factor, but shoddy defense assuredly did.
The Giants were essentially sunk by a single inning, and were it not for a comeback the previous evening it would have been two nights in a row. Writing is therapy – and my fiancĂ© is a doctoral candidate so I would know – so here goes. The calamitous top of the third went something like this:
1) Lincecum gives up a jam shot (grenade) single to center to Raul Ibanez – his first hit of the series. 2) Lincecum promptly gets Placido Palanco down 0 and 2. 3) A Timmy changeup slips from his forked fingers and hits Polanco – perhaps foreshadowing doom. 4) Roy Halladay bunts a ball just foul. 5) The umpire calls the ball fair. 6) Posey throws a seed strike to Pablo Sandoval to get the out at third. 7) Not. Pablo “Not so Kung Fu” Panda cannot make it to the bag in time and Ibanez is safe. 8) Pablo throws the ball across the diamond to throw out Roy Halladay, who was not running… 9) …because the ball was foul. 10) Victorino grounds out to first baseman, Aubrey Huff, to score one. 11) Psyche. Huff – who would later admit to having aspirations of throwing out the slow Ibanez at home – muffs the grounder which spits out to center field, scoring both runs and advancing the would-be out Victorino to second. 12) Placido Palanco singles on a ball to left center, scoring would-be out Victorino… 13) …and the damage is done. The rest isn’t of much importance - Howard whiffed, Utley stole second and Werth* flew out.
*Dave Cameron just yesterday wondered how the Phillies could possibly just let Werth walk at seasons end. I see where he’s coming from. Werth is a good player that can do more than a few things very, very well. He has power, speed, plays good defense, runs the bases well, and he’s patient. I replied because, “…the Phillies are overpaying Howard and have no choice.” Anyway, I think there’s a strong likelihood he does walk, and that the Phillies simply can’t work out a way to keep him. But, with an aging lineup – Utley, Rollins, Polanco and especially Ibanez – plus a somewhat precipitously declining Ryan Howard, I just don’t see the Phillies’ lineup being nearly as formidable as people believe they are now and know they were two years ago. I think that a loss of Werth without a stepping up of the aging vets or the rookie Brown would knock the Phillies out of the NL’s elite, at least offensively. They clearly have the starting pitching.
Halladay wasn’t terribly sharp the rest of the way or at any point during the game, as he threw a ton of pitches in the second (despite setting them down in order) after managing to wriggle out of the first. But he managed to be effective. The Giants did manage to scratch one more run off of him with an RBI double by Cody Ross in the fourth, but that was all they would get. Halladay got Sandoval to fly out to right and Ross rather foolishly tried to take third on the play. They got two more on in the fifth with two outs, but Huff grounded out. They got two more on in the sixth, but Uribe struck out on a ball to end the threat. Halladay gave way to the pen and Torres got on again in the seventh, but never scored.
And then there was the eighth inning. Ryan Madson came out and I was happy. He had to be a bit gassed after his hefty workload the previous evening, but so much for that. Madson usually throws quite a few changeups. He didn’t. He threw one. He struck out the side on 12 pitches with an array of mostly filthy cutters. He cut threw the most productive part of the Giants’ lineup thus far this postseason like a hot Samurai sword through room temperature butter.
Bonehead Bochy had an easy decision to go with closer Brian Wilson in the top of the ninth – he’d thrown a relatively few pitches the previous two nights and would rest on Friday with the day off. He went with the Giants’ fourth or fifth or sixth best reliever instead, Ramon Ramirez, whom promptly gave up an impressive solo homerun to Werth. And with that, the Giants’ clinch which was still within reach given the one run deficit, was all but squelched. The fans were deflated and Lidge was likely energized. Lidge went right at the Giants and rather impressively spun a few get-it-in sliders – I think, anyway, I haven’t taken the time to look them up – for strikes and retried San Francisco in order.
The Giants now head back to Philadelphia clinging to a 3-2 series lead. Don’t allow the once true thought that the Phillies “still have to win three in a row to beat them” to delude you. That would be as foolish as putting stock in the very purposefully placed, previously hit numbers board at the roulette table. The Giants now must win Game 6 or Game 7 to ignite the bubbly bath, and they’ll have to do it on the road. This resilient team has found a way to do it all year, and I’m sincerely hopeful they can do it again. Don’t stop believing.
And I assure you, the squalid Phillies fans will be sure to greet the Giants with all the class they can muster.

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