A terrific NLCS between the Phillies and Giants will continue Saturday in Philadelphia. Notes from Game 5 are below:
- Buster Posey was a vacuum behind the plate. He wouldn't allow a pitch to get away from him no matter the location, giving Tim Lincecum the confidence to consistently bury his changeup low.
- The Phillies clearly had a different approach against Posey, consistently attacking him on the inner half of the plate. The strategy worked as the young star catcher went hitless a night after dominating the Phils' pitching staff with four hits.
- Ryan Howard has given the Phillies nothing so far this series.
- If Charlie Manuel doesn't want to hit Placido Polanco between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard consistently, why not use Jayson Werth to break up the left-handed combination? Is there a downside to this?
- Howard made a nice play on a sharp liner by Aubrey Huff in the first inning with two on and no outs. After that however, The Big Piece (probably my least favorite nickname for an athlete ever) misplayed two ground balls. One was ruled an error while the other, incorrectly, was not.
- Freddy Sanchez scares me. The guy is a perfect No. 2 hitter and the hit and run Bochy called for in the first inning was executed perfectly.
- Chase Utley continues to look shaky in the field as well as at the plate. Every time he slips into a slump, local media is quick to play the 'injury card' but hey, maybe the guy isn't otherworldly anymore and falls into rough patches like the rest of the Major League population.
- While Jimmy Rollins has continued his poor approach at the plate, his defense has been sparkling.
- Despite the Phillies mini-rally in the top of the *third inning, they continue to lack the ability to sustain innings without help from poor pitching or poor defense. The team isn't maximizing its chances and while home runs are often referred to as "rally killers" what better way to maximize a big inning than a two- or three-run blast? Jayson Werth stroked an opposite-field home run to right field in the top of the ninth for an insurance run, but aside from his Game 1 two-run bomb against Lincecum, the Phillies' vaunted power has been shut down by the Giants.
- Cody Ross isn't as good as he's playing right now. Hitting is such a mental aspect of baseball and Ross simply believes he's better than he is, if that makes sense. And I'm not taking a shot at the guy; his confidence is off the charts as he continues to lock in on each and every at-bat. Ross is locked in and reacting to, not guessing at pitches.
- As good as Ross has been, it was beautiful to watch Werth hose him in the bottom of the fourth. Ross committed the cardinal sin of baseball: making the third out at third base and it took a perfect strike by Starfox to get the job done.
- I find it strange that there are benches on the playing field in San Francisco. I can only assume this is an old-school style tradition? Either way, it's a bit odd to me.
- The Giants really made Halladay work forcing him to go deep in counts batter after batter. Even when Doc got ahead of the Giants, he often lacked the ability to put them away immediately, most likely due to his injured groin.
- My wife found it funny that several Giants players were "itching their armpits with their bats" during the bottom of the sixth. I kindly explained that this tactic was used to keep their bats dry in the rain.
- Posey led off with a walk in the bottom of the sixth after two close pitches called for balls on 2-2 and 3-2 counts. As a Phillies fan I wanted those pitches, but I was impressed by Home Plate umpire Jeff Nelson. A lesser man would have been easily intimidated by Roy Halladay, but Nelson stuck to his guns.
- It was a great sign to see Rollins steal both second and third base in the top of the seventh inning. A great at-bat by Chooch put runners on first and third and I thought Bruce Bochy made a huge mistake leaving Lincecum in to pitch to pinch-hitter Ross Gload. Gload smashed the first pitch he saw, which was caught by Huff and turned into a double play.
- I've never been to San Francisco, but I can't imagine a better representation of the difference between the two cities than the lady who came out to sing 'God Bless America' during the seventh inning stretch.
- I'd like a few less closeups from Fox of those hideous black playoff beards sported by Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson. I think I dislike Romo's more, but it's a tough call.
- I did enjoy the shots of the San Fran crowd. They were into the game from the first pitch and showed an excited, expectant attitude throughout. They believe in their bunch, and now it's time for Philadelphians to help fuel their team.
- The Phillies bullpen came up huge. JC Romero hadn't pitched since Game 2 of the NLDS but got an important out, and Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge dominated. Lidge relied heavily on throwing his slider as a strike, not to get hitters to chase, which is often his plan. The Big Truck, Jose Contreras, came up big yet again as well.
- Madson mowed down the most dangerous section of the Giants lineup, striking out the trio of Posey, Burrell and Ross in the eighth.
- Jayson Werth, like Ryan Howard, is at his best when he's going the opposite way. Maybe Howard took notes on Werth's opposite-field insurance bomb and will keep his front shoulder from flying out in Game 6, a key, particularly against the left-handed Jonathan Sanchez.
- I thought Bochy made another bad call when he brought in the left-handed Jeremy Affeldt to pitch to Shane Victorino. Vic looked bad at the plate and hit nearly 90 points higher from the right side on the year. Like the Lincecum vs. Gload move, this one didn't backfire, but why turn a struggling lefty around?
- White towels > Orange Pom-poms
*The top of the third inning turned the tide. The Phillies looked helpless and harmless against Lincecum through the first two frames. Raul Ibanez's punched a leadoff single into no-man's land and after the Giants ace hit Carlos Ruiz in the arm, the inning got strange.
Roy Halladay is a very poor bunter. I'd be surprised if there were five other starting pitchers in the National League who failed more consistently at laying down a solid bunt than Doc. (Maybe the MLB should organize an off-season "Bunt Off" competition between pitchers similar to the Home-Run Derby? I'd watch!)
But anyway, Halladay had a chance to advance two runners into scoring position with just one out. And somehow, someway, he got the job done. It was a crazy play and Pablo Sandoval certainly handed the Phillies a break when he failed to be in position to get the force at third.
After Halladay's fair/foul bunt The Struggling Shane Victorino stepped to the plate. Victorino hit the ball hard, but right at Aubrey Huff. It wasn't a difficult play for the first baseman, but he managed to make it look so as he booted the ball into shallow right field. Two runs scored and Victorino, in contrast to Game 4, alertly moved into scoring position.
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