Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 NLDS Game 3: SF 3, ATL 2

The San Francisco Giants showed tonight that they can rally back just as well as the Atlanta Braves, with a little help and a few errahs. Through 7, the star of the game was Jonathan Sanchez, who exceeded all possible expectations for his playoff debut. I was worried last night that Sanchez just might not be able to handle the pressure of a playoff game on the road. As good as he has been, he isn't Cain or Lincecum. But Sanchez was more than able to handle it. He was superb, striking out 11 Braves in 7.1 innings of work, allowing only 2 hits (and none till Tim Hudson's 6th inning single) and most importantly, only 1 walk. With Barry Zito being dropped from the rotation and NLDS roster, the Giants asked for Sanchez to be something of a third ace, and he delivered. The Giants held a 1-0 lead after 7 1/2 innings. They had made Tim Hudson work, but only had the one run to show for it, hitting dismally with runners in scoring position.

It looked like maybe 1 was gonna have to be enough, as happened in Game 1. But as we said before, Sanchez, at his best, still isn't Lincecum, so Bruce Bochy couldn't keep him on the mound forever. With 1 out and a runner on in the 8th inning, it appeared Bobby Cox was going to have Troy Glaus pinch hit. Bochy brought in Sergio Romo, and Cox promptly pulled back Glaus in favor of left handed hitting Eric Hinske. Hinske, after falling behind in the count, got a hanging changeup and homered just left of the foul pole in right field, to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. This was a crushing blow. The question is, did Bruce Bochy make a mistake?

Well, maybe. Although I think it would have been ridiculous for Bochy to not let Romo pitch simply because of a bad outing on Friday, facing Hinske wasn't a great matchup at all. But would Jonathan Sanchez against Troy Glaus have been safer? I don't know. And when Romo was brought in, and Hinske was announced, there was no way to fix it. Romo had to face him. It was hard to watch Bochy get out managed there by Bobby Cox, but I can't honestly say how I'd have done it differently. And you'll see soon, that Cox using Glaus AND Hinske in that 8th inning did not help him later.

Because the Giants would not be put away. Travis Ishikawa worked a walk with 1 out in the 9th. Andres Torres struck out on a very questionable pitch. Then Freddy Sanchez singled up the middle. The Giants had hope. And Aubrey Huff, the best hitter all year, but slumping badly so far in the series, reached out and pulled a ball into right field that Jason Heyward just couldn't quite get to. Ishikawa scored and the game was tied. Then Buster Posey came up, and he too reached for a pitch, hitting it somewhat hard towards 2nd baseman Brooks Conrad. And Conrad, the poor guy, did what he had been doing all game. He fucked it up. He let the ball go under his glove. The Giants took the lead with 2 outs in the top of the 9th, a completely improbable happening.

Bochy went to his closer, Brian Wilson, to get the final 3 outs against the heart of the Braves order. Wilson struck out Jason Heyward on a very low outside fastball. Heyward had reason to complain, but then again so did Andres Torres in the top of the inning. Derrek Lee, who just is not a scary hitter anymore, popped up. Brian McCann, the one big threat in the Braves lineup, singled on a groundball that Freddy Sanchez ranged to get to, but couldn't handle. The Braves would have had Matt Diaz coming up, but he was replaced for defense in the top of the inning by Nate McClouth. Perhaps if Bobby Cox hadn't used two of his powerful pinch hitters in the 8th inning, the weak hitting McClouth could have been replaced. But he had to bat, and grounded out to end the game. It looked like the Giants couldn't lose Friday's game, but they managed to. After Hinske's Turner shaking HR in the 8th, there seemed to be no way for the Giants, who had been quiet with the bats all day, to win this game. But they managed to.

This means Madison Bumgarner will pitch tomorrow instead of Tim Lincecum. It's the right move. Considering it is not an elimination game, there is no reason to pitch Lincecum on short rest. In the case that he is tired and the Giants lose, they have to win Game 5 without him. Instead, they go with a very competent pitcher, Bumgarner, and try to win. And if they don't, they have Lincecum fully rested on Tuesday at AT&T for Game 5.

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