2010 SF Giants – There’s Something About This Team

2010 SF Giants

As I sat (and stood whenever a Phillies batter had two strikes) at AT&T Park yesterday I had the same feeling I’ve had all year long whenever I’ve watched this team. It’s the feeling of awe and shock mixed in with some head scratching and “I can’t believe these guys” on top.

In short, I really can’t tell if the Giants are that good or that lucky, but then again, that lucky is part of being that good. The Giants are hitting a putrid .202 as a team in the playoffs. But their team ERA is brilliant 2.11. They don’t have any team speed and while they’ll field it if you hit it at them, their entire infield has below average range.

Conventional wisdom says that the Giants’ feel-good story should end against the Phillies. The Phillies are better than the Atlanta Braves in every way and the Giants didn’t really blow the Braves out of the water. But up until this point, the Giants had played the Phillies straight up.

Thanks to the guts and determination of Tim Lincecum and the big bat of Cody Ross, the Giants took game one. Roy Oswalt and smart hitting tied up the series for the Phillies. But the series would shift back to San Francisco, where the Giants love to play their brand of grind-it-out baseball.

Matt Cain took the mound for the Giants against Cole Hamels. Hamels’ was undefeated in the NLCS before this game, going 3-0 in 2008 and 2009. This would only be Cain’s second ever postseason start. And on this day, Cain was better.

Cain wasn’t the best Cain Giants fans have ever seen. That Cain would’ve been the one who pitched a one-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this year while walking no one and striking out nine. But he was still really good.

This Cain only gave up two hits in seven innings using a lively fastball and keeping the Phillies off-balanced with change-ups and breaking balls. He had to pitch out of jams in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th. In the 7th, with two outs, he hit Carlos Ruiz (but to be fair, Ruiz didn’t flinch and could’ve easily moved and not been touched) and walked pinch-hitter Ross Gload, but got Shane Victorino to ground out to end the threat.

Cole Hamels looked like he was going to have an easy time with this Giants line-up which featured Edgar Renteria and Aaron Rowand, who barely played near the end of the season and during the first round of the playoffs. Bochy sat Andres Torres and moved Juan Uribe to third base in an eye opening move. The left-side of the Giants infield featured a shortstop with a torn biceps tendon (Renteria) and someone who the day before had an MRI on his wrist (Uribe).

After cruising through the first three innings without even the hint of a threat, Hamels got into trouble in the 4th. Renteria led off the inning with a base hit and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Freddy Sanchez. Hamels buckled down and struck out Buster Posey, but then made really the only mistake of the day by walking Pat Burrell. Usually, walking Burrell to get to the next hitter isn’t the end of the world, but not when the next batter is Dashing Cody Ross.

At this point in the game, Ross was the only Giants player in the series who had more than two hits. He had three. And they were all home runs. He hit a low fastball from Hamels into left field for a single and Renteria scored, giving the Giants a 1-0 lead. In the end, it was all the Giants needed. They’d score again in the inning when Aubrey Huff slapped a single to score Burrell and again in the following inning.

Aaron Rowand doubled to lead off the 5th. This is the same Aaron Rowand who I saw walking the streets of downtown San Francisco on Monday wearing the most rag-tag sweat suit you can imagine a pro athlete wearing. With two outs, Freddy Sanchez hit a sharp ground ball that Chase Utley couldn’t handle and it gave the Giants a three-run lead and the Giants eventually won by the same margin after Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson closed it out in non-torturous fashion.

It’s the first time this playoffs that the Giants have won a game by more than one run. And with two games left in San Francisco, they can close out the defending National League champs and 2008 World Series champs in their home park.

None of it really makes sense, and Giants fans don’t really care. They’ll worry about explanations of how it’s happening later.

The only way I can explain it is to say that there’s just something about this team.

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