2010 SF Giants – The Giants Pick A Great Time To Play One Of Their Best Games Of The Season

2010 SF Giants

Jazz Hands

World Series teams win these kinds of games.

I tweeted that out a couple of times during game four of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies. What kinds of games are “these games?” “These games” are back and forth struggles. “These games” are ones in which the offense picks up the pitching, like the pitching has done for the offense all season long.

And this is not to say that by winning a game like this, the Giants are headed to the World Series. Winning games like this can help a team prove to themselves that they can win in more ways than one. That confidence can help them get to the World Series.

The way the Giants usually win games is with strong starting pitching. They’ll score a couple runs before the bullpen then cleans it up. It’s a great way to win baseball games. But you can’t always win games like that. Sometimes, you have to score ten runs. Sometimes you have to come back from a deficit and win a game in the 9th inning.

On this night, the lead would change in the 5th, 6th, and 9th inning. Both teams played stellar baseball. But there can only be one winner in baseball and on this night, the Giants had the last at-bat.

According to Phillies starting pitcher Joe Blanton, his team didn’t lose.

“We didn’t lose; we just ran out of innings tonight.”

I think I understand what he meant. His team came back from a 2-0 and 5-4 deficit and tied the game in the 8th inning when worse teams would’ve rolled over and not come back. You get the feeling that both teams could’ve played twenty innings if need be.

Some analysts are criticizing Phillies manager Charlie Manuel for starting Blanton instead of ace Roy Halladay. They’re also criticizing him for failing to take out Blanton in the 5th inning before he gave up a single to Aubrey Huff to make it a 4-3 game. You could criticize Giants manager Bruce Bochy for taking out Madison Bumgarner with the Giants leading 2-1 in the 4th inning after Chase Utley singled. Santiago Casilla came in and when the inning was over, the Phillies had a 4-2 lead.

There are many decisions in which fans and the baseball analysts can second guess and that’s what makes the sport good for water cooler talk the next morning. But it’s a cop out to say that the Phillies lost because of their manager or that the Giants won because of theirs. Do they affect the game? Sure, someone has to call the shots. Someone has to push the right buttons. But in the end, it’s about the players. They have to execute.

You have to give it up for Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey who were a combined 5-8 with three RBI. What about Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard who were 3-5 combined with two runs scored, two RBI and two walks. Jose Contreras came in to face Buster Posey in the 5th with a runner on first and the Giants trying to tie the score. He battled Posey and struck him out to end the inning. Those players were great tonight.

To me, two players on the Giants really helped tell the story of the game. Pablo Sandoval has been nothing short of a disappointment this season. And the reason is because of expectation. He had such a great 2009 season. But his free swinging style, the pressure from Operation Panda (an off-season weight loss plan that was very much publicized) and possible marital issues caused him be in such a funk on the field, that it was easy to blame him when the offense struggled. He was supposed to be their number three hitter and the center point of their offense.

He ended the season with a .268 average and only 13 home runs. But if you look at it in perspective, what you’ll see is that his numbers weren’t all that different from Andres Torres’ final numbers (.268, 16 HRs, and .20 points higher OBP). One was the offensive goat and one the offensive hero.

In the 6th inning with the Giants down 4-3, it was Sandoval who hit a double deep into left center that scored two runs and gave the Giants the lead. Even though the Phillies would tie the game in the 8th, the Giants offense still had momentum from Sandoval’s big hit.

That momentum would carry into the 9th inning. Charlie Manuel decided that rather than bring in closer Brad Lidge to pitch the 9th like Bochy did with Brian Wilson, he’d bring in game two starter Roy Oswalt. Oswalt had the Giants completely befuddled in Philadelphia, but not so much on this night in San Francisco.

Freddy Sanchez led off the inning with a laser that looked like a surefire hit until Jayson Werth crept into the picture and made an easy snag. Aubrey Huff hit one past Ryan Howard to get on in front of Buster Posey. Posey singled to right and Huff went to third. With runners on first and third, Juan Uribe came to the plate.

Uribe didn’t start the game because Bochy felt that he wasn’t healthy enough to start. He was still smarting from a sore wrist and didn’t have a good game hitting in game three. He came in on a double switch and immediately made one of his best plays all year, going far to his right and wheeling around to unleash a cannon to get out Ryan Gload at first base on a bang bang play.

Now he was batting in his most important at-bat as a member of the Giants and I had two thoughts. One was that he had to hit a fly ball. And the other was that if he couldn’t hit a fly ball, I’d hope he struck out because on deck was none other than Dashing Cody Ross. I didn’t want to see a ground ball for fear of a double play (even though the infield was in) and I didn’t want to see a line-out that could’ve been turned into a double play.

The at-bat was torture. He swung and missed at the first pitch. After throwing a ball, Oswalt threw two pitches that nearly hit him, but ended up as foul balls because Uribe couldn’t get his bat out of the way. And then it happened. Uribe pulled a ball deep into left field and to him, it was a home run. He flipped his bat, threw up his jazz hands, and started his trot. In reality, it was a sacrifice fly, driving in Aubrey Huff to win the game.

Guys like Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe only succeed on teams like the Giants. They are unconventional in their hitting styles, don’t play great defense, and aren’t starting for any other good teams. But for this team, they are guys you can get behind and root on, while cursing their name the inning before because of something dumb they did prior. Sandoval and Uribe define the Giants. They show the flaws and blemishes. But they also show the fire and heart. This team is all of that.

Before the game, the 1989 NLCS winning Giants’ starting infield of Will Clark, Robby Thompson, and Matt Williams threw out the first pitch. My friend from high school Bob Maloney pointed out to me that the infield wasn’t complete. There was a guy missing. His name was Jose Uribe and he was the anchor at shortstop. On December 8, 2006, Jose was killed in a car accident near his hometown of Juan Baron, Palenque, Dominican Republic. But I’m sure Jose was there in spirit. He had to see his nephew Juan win the game and show his jazz hands.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation