2010 SF Giants – Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose, And Sometimes It Rains

2010 SF Giants

You knew it wasn’t going to be easy right?

I think most Giants fans knew the team wasn’t going to sweep the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though the Giants put the odds in their favor by winning game one (and also beating the universally loved best pitcher in baseball Roy Halladay), in no way did I think they were on their way to a sweep and I cross my tortured heart that I thought this thing was going six or seven games all along.

There are many things you can learn about baseball by watching the playoffs that you can’t really see in the regular season. But I think the biggest thing you learn about a team is their testicular fortitude. Because the playoffs are basically a “best of” series of games, every loss can make a team feel like their backs are against the walls. The teams who fight and don’t panic can bounce back. The Phillies have been here before. They know what it takes. The teams who get tight and tense up might not.

What we can say is that the Phillies are still confident and have their swagger, even down 1-0.

Giants fans felt comfortable facing Phillies’ game two starter Roy Oswalt because the Giants beat him three times this season. But you know the saying, you can beat a guy three times, but it’s hard to beat him four times. Ok, I don’t think that’s a real saying and there’s no proof that it’s hard to beat a guy four times, but there has to be a reason that he dominated them tonight and I’m going with that one.

Even though the Giants beat him three times, they were tough luck losses. On at least two of those occasions, he faced Giants starter Tim Lincecum and the Astros didn’t hit Lincecum all year. But take away his opening day start against the Giants when he gave up three earned runs in six innings, he threw some of the best ball the Giants have seen all year.

In those three starts (one as a member of the Phillies), he threw 21 innings, gave up 18 hits, and only seven earned runs. More impressively, he struck out 19 Giants hitters while only walking one, making his WHIP under one. Maybe my brain deceived me when I thought that the Giants had his number. They don’t, and they sure didn’t on this night.

Oswalt then pitched even better. He limited the Giants to just three hits and one run while striking out nine in eight innings. The only run he gave up was a home run to Dashing Cody Ross. And at this point, when you give up a home run to Dashing Cody Ross, it’s not really your fault. It’s his.

Ross looks like part NLCS 1987 Jeffrey “Hac-man” Leonard and part 2002 World Series Barry Bonds. It’s not like he’s scorching singles all over the park. He’s hitting everything out of the ball park. Whatever he hits, he destroys.

The Giants never put a rally together that gave anyone hope. Even in the 8th and 9th innings when they finally had more than one baserunner on at a time, there wasn’t a hint of a comeback. It just didn’t feel right.

If the Giants can learn something from this game, it’s not necessarily how a champion fights back. It’s how a champion strategically can score runs when needed. In the bottom of the 5th, right after the Giants tied the game on a dashing home run, the Phillies methodically struck back.

Shane Victorino lead off the inning by lashing a double past Mike Fontenot down the third base line. And like clockwork, Chase Utley hit a fly ball to right field to get him to third and Placido Polanco hit a sacrifice fly to score him. Just like that, without hitting a home run or needing an extra base hit, the Phillies scored. The Giants have so much trouble playing that kind of offensive baseball, and if they don’t advance to the World Series, that’s going to be a big reason why.

Not to pick on just one guy, but Andres Torres is struggling more than any good baseball player has any right to struggle. Roy Oswalt used the baseball like a yo-yo with Torres at the plate, striking him out four times. Torres’ kryptonite was the high and outside fastball, which he struck out on three times. It was painful to watch. I was talking to my dad who is a former college pitcher and I told him that Oswalt didn’t have to mix any pitches with Torres. He could’ve only thrown high fastballs over and over again and I was certain Torres would strike out all the same. The last strike out came on a change-up that was several feet outside, which my dad called. We could both see that Torres wasn’t touching Oswalt.

When your table setter tries to hit the ball like his name is Cody Ross and strikes out four times, only bad things can happen. But it’s not only his fault. The middle part of the order was 0-11 and in four at-bats, Aubrey Huff only worked Oswalt for twelve pitches. The offense can’t generate runs unless they hit extra base hits, and those are harder and harder to come by.

Giants’ starter Jonathan Sanchez pitched well, especially after it looked like he was in for a long night. In the first inning, he walked three (including walking in a run) and struck out three, totaling 35 pitches in all. He went all the way into the 7th when he was taken out after giving up a base hit to Oswalt. While at that point, he was at 100 pitches, you could argue that he could’ve stayed in the game as once he came out, it went all down hill.

Ramon Ramirez gave up a base hit to Polanco that scored Oswalt and then Santiago Casilla came in to give up a bases loaded double to Jimmy Rollins which blew the game wide open and gave the Phillies a 6-1 cushion, which was the final score. Some of it has to come down on Bruce Bochy who ordered two intentional walks in the inning, both of whom scored. I don’t understand putting more runners on base, especially when the Phillies have proved that they do whatever it takes to score runs.

(On Polanco’s base hit the center that scored Oswalt from second, Andres Torres made a throw that looked to be right on the money, but Aubrey Huff cut it off and had to hurriedly make a throw to Posey that was too little too late. On first glance, it looked like had he not cut the ball off, Oswalt would’ve been dead meat. But color commentator Tim McCarver said that the throw would’ve hit the mound and was offline. I looked at the same replay that he did and was convinced that he had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.

AOL Fanhouse baseball writer Jeff Fletcher was tweeting with KNBR’s Marty Lurie and said that while watching live in the park, he thought Torres’ throw was more of a lob as if he thought there was no way Oswalt would try to score. Oswalt did run through the stop sign. I tweeted Jeff what I saw and he replied that the throw looked to be dying and it might’ve two-hopped the plate. While listening to the radio replay, I heard Giants’ broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper both say they thought Oswalt would’ve been thrown out had Huff let the ball go through. Fletcher then tweeted out later that Huff himself said that he made a mistake and if he hadn’t cut the ball off, Oswalt would’ve been out.

Twitter has made it much more fun to be a hardcore baseball fan. Through what other technology would I be able to communicate so easily with a really good baseball writer who covers this stuff for a living and go back and forth with him like we were watching the game at the same place? Get on Twitter people.)

Good teams learn from their losses. They look at what they did wrong and make adjustments. The Phillies tipped their caps at the Giants for beating them in game one, and they came back to take game two. The next three games are at AT&T Park, which should give the Giants an advantage. But can the Giants make those same adjustments? Can they get runners on, move them over, and play smart offensive baseball?

Or will they continue to rely on the big hit and hope Dashing Cody Ross hits more home runs? Maybe that’s just who they are and they will live by the sword and die by the sword. If that’s the case, Matt Cain will have his work cut out for him on Tuesday. He may need to be as good as he’s ever been to put the ball back in the Giants’ court.

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