Saturday, October 23, 2010

Game six NLCS recap

By Kshell

With one team already punching their ticket to the World Series in a game six another team was looking to do the same. The San Francisco Giants were hoping for the first time in franchise history to win a postseason series when up 3-2 on the road. The Giants missed a great chance losing game five at home with ace Tim Lincecum on the mound. The Philadelphia Phillies won game five behind their ace Roy Halladay gave the ball to game four loser Roy Oswalt. Oswalt won game two but lost game four out of the bullpen. The Giants bullpen who has been shaky this series came up huge in today's contest.

Giants win NLCS 3-2 over Phillies; Bullpen pitches 7 shutout innings

The San Francisco Giants had their season rest on the shoulders of their all-star closer Brian Wilson. With the Giants holding a one run lead in the ninth Wilson had first and second two outs for former NL MVP Ryan Howard. He was a bit wild and had Howard on a full count then Wilson froze Howard for strike three to end the game which capped the greatest bullpen outing during this playoffs. The Giants had advanced to the World Series with a 3-2 win at Philadelphia.

The two time defending National League champion Phillies got off to a great start off Giants starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. In the very first inning the Phillies got to Sanchez early. Chase Utley hit a double scoring Polanco then after a Howard base hit, Jason Werth hit the ball to deep left field just missing a home run to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead on the sacrifice fly. With the Giants struggling to hit and Roy Oswalt on the mound the situation didn't look good for the Giants at all.

The game completely changed in the third inning. First in the top third with the Giants finally having a rally with second and third and only out Huff singled up the middle to score the pitcher Sanchez but Torres was thrown out at the plate for the second out. The Giants cut the game to 2-1 and Huff advanced to second on the play. Then catcher Buster Posey was safe on Ryan Howard's fielding error scoring Huff from second on the play to tie the score at 2-2. Then in the bottom half of the inning the game really got crazy and a managerial decision might have saved the game for the Giants.

In the bottom of the third Sanchez was continueing to be wild. Sanchez walked the leadoff hitter Polanco then he hit Utley in the back. Utley as he was running to first tossed the ball gently back to the pitchers mound. Sanchez then took that as an insult and started to bark at Utley. The benches cleared and nothing had happened as there were no player ejections. Sanchez was hot and livid which is why Bochy despite being up 3-2 in the series and the game was tied at just 2-2 in the third inning he pulled Sanchez and brought in lefty set up man Jerramy Affeldt. It was a gutsy call by Bochy knowing he was putting his bullpen in a tough spot especially if there was a game seven. Bochy was playing agressive which most managers who are up in the series do not. Why worry about a game seven? If you win today the series is over. Affeldt struck out Howard then retired the next two batters to escape the jam. Bochy's gamble appeared to have paid off.

The Giants bullpen were asked to carry the team as their manager made a strong statement to win the game today and not even wait until a game seven. Affeldt gave him two shutout innings then Bochy brought in game four starter Madison Bumgarner to pitch the fifth inning. Bumgarner found himself in a jam with bases loaded and two outs facing Shane Victorino who Bumgarner got to ground out to him to end the threat. Bumgarner would also give Bochy two shutout innings of relief.

The Phillies received great pitching from Roy Oswalt who battled. Oswalt who shut down the Giants in game two but received the loss in relief in game four pitched six innings, allowed two runs only one was earned and struck out five. Then Charlie Manuel turned the game over to his bullpen Ryan Madson who was great all postseason. Madson would make just one mistake and it was costly. With two outs in the top of the eighth inning and having already struck out two Giants hitters Madson allowed a home run to Juan Uribe. Uribe who is typically a pull hitter went the other way for only his second career home run to give the Giants a 3-2 lead.

Even though Lincecum threw in game five Bochy was managing this game like this was a game seven and he went with his ace in the eighth inning. Lincecum struck out the first batter he would face. After Lincecum gave up back to back hits Bochy again didn't waste any time and went with his closer Brian Wilson to get the five out save. Last time he asked Wilson to get a multi inning save Wilson blew the save in game two of the NLDS. This time Wilson on the first pitch would get Carlos Ruiz to line out to first base for the double play as Huff threw the ball to second since Victorino was running.

The Giants who had never won a clinching game six on the road in franchise history were just three outs away. In typical Brian Wilson fasion the game got pretty intense in the ninth. Wilson would get the leadoff hitter but then walk Jimmy Rollins. Wilson got Polanco to ground out in a fielders choice with his hustle he beat out the throw to first base. Wilson then had Utley 2-2 but lost him and walked him. Now came up former MVP Ryan Howard who had zero RBI's on the series and struck out 11 times. A base hit and the game is tied, a double in the gap and the Phillies win. Wilson had yet another full count but struck out Howard on a back door slider that froze Howard for his 12th strikeout of the series. The Giants are champions of the National League. The team that clinched the division on the very last day of the season is going to the World Series.

The Giants are an unlikely team but they are a team who is advancing in the World Series. Since the National League won the All-star game for the first time since 1996 the Giants will host game one of the World Series on Wednesday by clinching today Lincecum should be ready to pitch the game one against Cliff Lee and Texas. Cody Ross who was let go on waivers by the Florida Marlins was NLCS MVP hitting 7 for 20(.350) having an OBP of (.409) belting three home runs and driving in five guys while scoring four runs on the series. The Giants also had great work from their closer Brian Wilson who was 1-0 with three saves in the series and gave up zero runs.

I must hand it to Giants manager Bruce Bochy for finding a way to win all these close games. The Giants in seven playoff wins have won by one run in six of those games. Those close wins are because Bochy knows how to use his bullpen. I also love the fact that Bochy was agressive today when he didn't need to win this game. Most managers would have left Sanchez in there to bury the team and save the bullpen for a must win game seven. Most managers wouldn't have used Lincecum or their closer for five outs with a possible game the next day. I like that Bochy treated today like a game seven which is smart. When you are up 3-1 you don't want to let Philly win two in a row and face a must win in Philly. Bochy took a mid market team the Padres to the World Series in 1998 and I know his record isn't great but he also doesn't manage teams who have high payrolls. Bochy is proving time and time again he is one of the better managers in the game.

This upcoming World Series should be fun. First of all this World Series will feature a first time champion to that teams city. The fans of San Francisco and Texas have never tasted a World Championship in baseball before. This series will feature Tim Lincecum against Cliff Lee in one of the better game one World Series pitching matchups we have seen. Unlike the World Series from 2004-2008 I expect this series to be a great one. The Giants-Phillies was one of the best league championship series I've ever seen. With the exception of game two which was closer than the score indicates the series came down to the ninth every game. I expect this World Series to be the same. The betting line in game one should be interesting can Tim Lincecum really be an underdog at home?! Well when Cliff Lee is on the mound I think he can. Ultimately I think Texas has to much offense for the Giants and look for the offense to come through. Then again I picked against both these teams so what do I know. Should be a great World Series and congrats to the Giants and mainly manager Bruce Bochy for going for the throat.

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