NLCS 2010: Panda Sighting In Game 2, Pablo Sandoval Returning To SF Lineup?

Joe CasoloCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2010

#48 Pablo Sandoval bides his time, hoping to make an impact on the 2010 NLCS
#48 Pablo Sandoval bides his time, hoping to make an impact on the 2010 NLCSEzra Shaw/Getty Images

The 2010 NLCS showdown between the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants is underway in earnest. With the series tied at one game apiece, the NLCS almost takes on a 5-game set feel.

Game Three of this exciting series will be every bit as pivotal as Game One promised to be. With the series even again, both teams will be vying to take the advantage.

The Phillies would love nothing more than to ambush the Giants on their home field, taking the series lead and establishing big time momentum rolling into Game Four.

RHP Matt Cain will stand ready to fend off the Phillies in the third and possibly most epic of the 2010 NLCS to date. The task will be no easy one, as the Fighting Phillies found their offensive stride and gashed the stalwart Giants pitching for six runs in their last meeting.

If the Phillies are indeed beginning to erupt in the batters-box, the Giants will need to mount their own offensive charge and let the battle become a war in Game Three.

Is it time to take the Panda off 'Time-Out'? Has Pablo Sandoval served his penance? 

Sandoval, the furry face of the San Francisco Giants, at least in the advertising and marketing campaigns between the 2009 and 2010 - has been patiently waiting for this shot to contribute.

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Patiently is no under-exaggeration either. During the 2009 regular season, Sandoval only managed 47 walks in 563 plate appearances. With only six at bats in the post season, the patient Panda has already walked twice.

Let us trace the Panda tracks back a bit - the portly young slugger wowed the National League with his ability to drive just about any kind of pitch into play. Sandoval hit a very respectable .330 average in his first full season with the Giants.

The Kung-Fu Panda hats were made, commercials were shot, merchandising schemes rained down, San Francisco was ready to celebrate another outstanding season from their young star.

As if shy of the big stage, the Panda went into hibernation shortly after the 2010 season opened up. Sandoval's struggles at the plate this season have been widely regarded as something more concerning than a sophomore slump.

Sandoval not only lost his feel at the plate, slowly but steadily his fielding also declined. He led the team in errors (13) during the regular season.

Mike Fontenot was acquired from the Chicago Cubs during the mid-season mayhem that was the Giants front office. Fontenot proved to be a steady and dependable utility infielder. Fontenot didn't give you exciting, he gave you consistency.

Whatever Fontenot was selling, Manager Bruce Bochy was buying. He was now able to remove the struggling Pablo Sandoval and inject a sturdy Mike Fontenot onto his starting lineup card for the NLDS and NLCS.

With Fontenot starting, and Sandoval barely able to get into the Championship series, we must take a look and make sure we aren't keeping crucial runs off the board by making the safe choice in starting Fontentot.

First of all, how safe is Fontenot? Fontenot made a very rare but crucial bad throw in Game Two. He just got out of being charged a second error in the game after letting an unclaimed pop-up drop four feet in front of him.

How about the batting? Fontenot in the post season has had 12 at bats. He has a single and a triple, and scored a run. Fontenot has also walked once and struck out three times. His average is .167 so far in October.

Pablo Sandoval is also hitting .167 so far in October, in six at bats.

What we were supposed to be getting in Fontenot was a better glove at third base, and more consistent at bats. Sure he was never expected to have the pop that Sandoval packs, but he was expected to produce a base runner more often.

So far with some glaring mistakes by Fontenot, fueling big innings instead of vital outs for the Phillies, are we getting what we benched Sandoval for?

Again, in six at-bats, Sandoval has actually walked twice. Whether he learned his lesson, had time to reflect on his approach or just needed some time out of the big lights - I think it's time Bochy gave Sandoval a shot in Game Three.

Cody Ross is hitting home runs like they are going out of style. If Sandoval can run into a few of those pitches, the thump the Giants have been looking for may be found just in time.

Pablo Sandoval's numbers against Cole Hamels: .333 average, 1 double, a homer, and 1.178 OPS.

Mike Fontenot's numbers against Cole Hamels: Zilch, in two at-bats.


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