Matt Cain was on his game, shutting out the Phillies with seven solid innings Tuesday. That Giants take a 2-1 series lead with a 3-0 victory at home. Now all the Giants need to do is split at home and split on the road. Of course, we’d be perfectly happy with two more wins at home.
The Giants starters have posted three quality starts in three games. And the Giants have produced just enough runs to get the wins.
It bodes well for the Giants that Cain will be in position to pitch Game 7, if the series goes that far. He has yet to give up a run in two starts in the postseason.
CODY ROSS: The postseason continues to be the Cody Ross Story. For the first time in five postseason games, Ross DID NOT get the Giants’ first hit of the game. But for the fourth consecutive game, Ross’s first hit of the game drove in the Giants’ first run. In fact, if you go back to Game 3 of the NLDS, the fly ball that was dropped by the Braves’ Brooks Conrad, allowing Mike Fontenot to score from third, came off the bat of … Cody Ross.
On Tuesday, Ross came up with two on and two out when he dug out a low pitch from Cole Hamels and raked it into left field to score Edgar Renteria.
Ross opened the series hitting No. 8. In Game 2, he moved up to the No. 6 spot. On Tuesday, he was batting No. 5. Ross made Bruce Bochy looked smart.
EARLY-INNING BLUES: For the fourth consecutive game, the Giants failed to muster a hit in the first or second innings.
Atlanta’s Derek Lowe had a no-hitter in the sixth inning when Ross homered for the Giants first hit.
Roy Halladay had set down the first seven batters he faced when Ross homered with one out in the third inning.
Roy Oswalt did not allow a hit through 4 1/3 innings when Ross homered in the fifth for the first hit.
On Tuesday, Cole Hamels set the Giants down in order the first time through the order. Edgar Renteria got the first hit with a lead-off single in the fourth.
Beating the Phillies is not going to be easy. But it would be easier if the Giants could get some baserunners on early in the game.
TWO-OUT MAGIC: All three of the Giants’ runs in Game 3 were scored with two outs.
In the fourth, Renteria led off with a single to right. Freddy Sanchez sacrificed him to second (is it me, or does Sanchez look really uncomfortable getting down a bunt; not what you want to see from your No. 2 hitter).
It looked like the Giants’ chance to score may get away when Buster Posey swung and missed on ball four. It was the kind of swing on a head-high fastball that you would expect from Pablo Sandoval, Juan Uribe or Andres Torres. But not Buster Posey.
But then Pat Burrell worked a walk and Ross connected with the big hit. Then Aubrey Huff got another hit to single the squirted off Chase Utley’s glove.
In the fifth, Aaron Rowand led off with a double to left. But he was still there with two outs and looked like he might remain there when Freddy Sanchez hit the ball to Chase Utley. But it turned into a bad-hop single off Utley into center, scoring Rowand.
Little things going the Giants’ way. We’ll take it as a good sign.
NEW LINEUP: Bochy realized that Andres Torres was struggling and it wasn’t likely going to get any better with him batting right-handed against a tough left-hander. So Torres went to the bench. The move worked when Renteria, who moved into the leadoff spot by default, had a big hit to get the Giants’ rally started. And Rowand, starting in place of Torres in center, got a double in the fifth.
The revamped lineup was a product of facing a tough lefty in Hamels. Bochy said that Torres should be back in the lineup Wednesday against righty Joe Blanton. But will we see Pablo Sandoval at 3B instead of Mike Fontenot against the right-hander?
It’s been a mantra all season for moresplashhits. We’ve been thinking it all season, even when we haven’t been posting it.
Win series at home. Play .500 ball on the road.
And that’s what the Giants need to do now. They got the split in Philly, now they need to win 2 of 3 in San Francisco.
Roy Oswalt was on Sunday night, and there wasn’t much the Giants could do about it but move on. But there are some points we’d like to make.
The Mike Fontenot-for-Pablo Sandoval experiement is over. Or at least it should be. Bruce Bochy made this move after Game 2 of the NLDS for two reasons: Braves pitchers Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe were groundball pitchers and Sandoval is a double-play machine. The second reason was defense. In Game 2, Fontenot made a key error in the first inning. With one out and Chase Utley on second, Fontenot fielded a grounder by Placido Polanco. With Utley holding at second, Fontenot made a wide throw to first allowing Polanco to reach and Utley to take third. After Ryan Howard walked, Jayson Werth struck out. It would have ended the inning if not for Fontenot’s error. Jimmy Rollins then drew a bases-loaded walk for the Phillies’ first run. In the fourth inning, Fontenot led an infield popup by Rollins drop for an infield single. If Fontenot is not going to give the Giants better fielding, then he needs to come out, because he’s not adding much with the bat. He’s 2 for 12 in the postseason. Left-hander Cole Hamles pitches Tuesday. The Giants would be better with switch-hitting Sandoval than the left-hand hitting Fontenot. Sandoval is 3 for 9 career against Hamels, including a double and a home run this season against Hamels.
ANDRE THE STRIKEOUT GIANT:
Andres Torres flew home to San Francisco wearing a golden sombrero, courtesy of Roy Oswalt. Torres fanned four times Sunday against the Phillies pitcher. That makes Torres 3 for 25 (.120) with 12 strikeouts and no runs in the postseason. He’s 1 for 9 with six whiffs in the NLCS. The Giants need offense to beat the Phillies and that has to start with Torres.
A LITTLE DEFENSE:
The Giants reached the NLDS with a little help from the Braves’ defense. In Game 2, they helped the Phillies out by not making plays in the field. There was Fontenot’s first-inning error, which led to an unearned run. Fontenot allowing a pop-up fall for a single. In the seventh, Torres could not make a solid throw home on Polanco’s single. Oswalt ran through a stop sign, and a good throw gets him out by a mile. Instead, he scored and the Phillies led 3-1. If he’s out, Rollins doesn’t bat with the bases loaded and deliver a three-run double. Since the Giants only scored one run, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Put them all together, and it is a big deal. The Phillies are the stronger team, so the Giants need to do all the little things right to win.
Cody Ross belted two home runs as the San Francisco Giants won Game 1 with a fifth consecutive one-run game in the postseason, beating the Phillies 4-3 in a tense victory.
Ross was the hero, hitting solo home runs of Roy Halladay in the third and fifth innings.
But another key component to the win was three consecutive two-out hits in the sixth inning to bring home the third and fourth runs.
In the sixth, Buster Posey had a two-out single, Pat Burrell hit a long double to the left field wall that was almost caught by Raul Ibanez, and Juan Uribe singled to center.
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s game.
GAME 1 SUCCESS: Saturday’s win was the seventh consecutive Game 1 victory for the Giants in the postseason, following Game 1 wins in the 2010 NLDS (vs. Braves), 2003 NLDS (vs. Marlins), 2002 World Series (vs. Angels), 2002 NLCS (vs. Cardinals), 2002 NLDS (vs. Braves) and 2000 NLDS (vs. Mets). In Game 2 of all of the previous six series, the Giants were 1-5, winning only Game 2 of the 2002 NLCS.
ROSS IS RIGHT: Cody Ross was picked off waivers in August in a purely defensive move. The Giants wanted to make sure the Padres didn’t put in a claim on the outfielder. The Giants were heavy on outfielders and Ross really saw most of his time with the Giants as a late-inning defensive replacement. But he’s been an offensive force for the Giants in the postseason, hitting three of the Giants four postseason home runs. Remember, Ross hit near the top of the lineup for the Marlins, but he’s been a real asset hitting in the No. 8 hole for the Giants. For all those Sabean-haters out there, this is a move that has really paid off for the Giants GM, not only adding Ross but putting him on the postseason roster and starting him.
OFF-SPEED WILSON: Normally, when Brian Wilson gets into the game, you expect him to rear back and bring the heat. But against the Phillies in Game 1, Wilson depended more on his slider. Against Jimmy Rollins in the eighth inning, he threw six consecutive off-speed pitches before finally striking him out with a 96 mph fastball. Similarly in the ninth, he seemed to go heavy with the slider, falling behind 3-0 to Shane Victorino before finishing him off to end the game with three straight fastballs.
OW! MY SIDE! Since Andres Torres returned from his appendectomy in September, he hasn’t been quite right. And it’s getting frustrating watching him fail to put the ball in play in contact situations. In Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves, after Edgar Renteria reached on a bunt single, Torres could not get a bunt down to push Renteria over on two attempt. And then he struck out. On Saturday, Torres came up with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth after Brad Lidge had walked Cody Ross and hit Travis Ishikawa with a pitch. Lidge is known for losing the strike zone. So what does Torres? He swings at Lidge’s first pitch and fouls it off. It was a low borderline pitch. On the second pitch, he did the same thing. After watching a pitch sail wide for a ball, he s struck out on a pitch in the dirt. Torres has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Giants and a far better option at leadoff than Aaron Rowand or anyone else the Giants have. But he strikes out FAR TOO OFTEN for a leadoff hitter. The Giants really need to think about talking to Torres about maybe using a smaller bat next season and focus more on making contact and using his speed.
The Giants and Phillies split the season series 3-3, with the Giants winning two of three in San Francisco in April, and the Phillies taking two of three in Philadelphia in August.
Monday, April 26,
At San Francisco
Giants 5, Phillies 1
The Giants handed Roy Halladay his first loss of the season, scoring three runs in the first three inning. Jonathan Sanchez gave up one run on three hits over five innings. He also walked five, leading to his early exit. Mark DeRosa (remember him?) has a two-out, two-run single in the first. Eli Whiteside doubled in a run and homered off Halladay. Halladay gave up five earned in seven innings.
Tuesday, April 27
At San Francisco
Giants 6, Phillies 2
Todd Wellemeyer beat Jamie Moyer. Neither pitcher finished the season on the active roster. Aubrey Huff and Matt Downs homered in the second to give the Giants a 2-1 lead. Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval added RBI singles in the fifth, and again in the seventh.
Wednesday, April 28
At San Francisco
Phillies 7, Giants 6, 11 innings
Tim Lincecum limited the Phillies to two runs on three hits in 8.1 innings, striking out 11. But Brian Wilson blew the save, giving up a two-out, bases-loaded double to Jayson Werth as the Phils scored three in the ninth to tie the game 5-5. In Wilson’s defense, Werth’s double was a flare to right that landed on the foul line. Both teams scored a run in the 10th. The Phillies scored a pair of two-out runs in the 11th. Nate Schierholtz’s double got one run back in the bottom of the 11th for the Giants, but Juan Uribe was thrown out at home on an infield grounder to Ryan Howard, helping the Phillies seal the win. Cole Hamels struck out 10 Giants in six innings of work.
Tuesday, August 17
Phillies 9, Giants 3
The Giants got to Roy Oswalt early, scoring two runs in the first inning, including a solo home run by Pat Burrell. Barry Zito kept the Phillies scoreless for four inning. But Philly tallied two in the fifth on Jimmy Rollins’ two-run single, and two more in the sixth on Shane Victorino’s two-run double, chasing Zito. Jose Guillen homered in the seventh off Oswalt get the Giants within 4-3. But Chris Ray was tagged for four runs in the eighth without recording an out. The Phillies ended up scoring five in the frame for the victory. The win pushed Philadelphia into the wild-card lead over the Giants.
Wednesday, August 18
Phillies 8, Giants 2
Andres Torres led off with a home run off Joe Blanton. A run-scoring groundout by Chase Utley tied the game in the third. Jimmy Rollins had a two-out, three-run home run to cap a four-run fourth for the Phillies, an inning that was extended by a Mike Fontenot error. The Phillies added two runs in the seventh, and one in the eighth on a Dominic Brown home run. Matt Cain gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings. But only two of the runs were earned. Blanton struck out seven Giants in 6.1 innings, giving up solo homers to Torres and Pat Burrell.
Thursday, April 19
Giants 5, Phillies 2
The Giants scored three runs in the first inning off Cole Hamels on a double by Buster Posey and RBI singles by Jose Guilen and Juan Uribe. A Posey double in the third made 4-0 and Pablo Sandoval homered in the fifth. Hamels gave up five runs in five innings. Jonathan Sanchez pitched eight scoreless innings, giving up just one hit. He started the ninth by giving up a single to Shane Victorino was was relieved by Sergio Romo. Romo got two out, but also gave up a single to Chase Utley and a two-run double to Mike Sweeney. Brian Wilson came and got Raul Ibanez to fly to center for the final out. Sanchez struck out seven and walked two.
Well, that was annoying.
With the way the Giants hit on Sunday — and the very telling post-game comments from Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny — the Giants didn’t figure to have much of a chance against the Phillies’ Roy Halladay.
And then the Giants went out and did the clutch hitting that they’ve been lacking all season and beat Halladay and the Phillies 5-1.
It all started in the first inning, when Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval had back-to-back one-out singles. After both players advanced on a groundout by Aubrey Huff, Mark DeRosa worked the count full to Halladay, then connected on a two-run single to left.
The Giants added another run in the second on consecutive doubles from John Bowker and Eli Whiteside.
In the sixth, Sandoval doubled and Huff singled him home. And in the seventh, Whiteside homered off Halladay, driving one off the base of the foul pole in left.
So after going 5 for 54 with runners in scoring position over the previous week — and four of those hits never left the infield — the Giants went 3 for 7 with RISP against Halladay.
On the flip side, it was another solid outing from Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants bullpen.
Sanchez worked his way in and out of trouble to get through five innings of work. He needed a nice catch in center from Andres Torres to get him out of trouble with two-on in the first. And he pitched his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third.
It was the ninth consecutive game in which Giants pitching had held opponents to two runs or fewer in games not started by a guy whose name rhymes with “Smelly dyer.”
In fact, if you took the ERAs of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez and added them together, it would still be lower than that of Todd Wellemeyer (7.97 to 8.16).
Wellemeyer gets the chance to lower his ERA today as the Giants face the Phillies and Jamie Moyer in Game 2 of the series.