San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain tames potent Philadelphia Phillies lineup in Game 3 of NLCS
It was a small moment in the third inning Tuesday afternoon, but a telling one.
Cain threw high and tight, and Hamels' instinct turned to terrified self-preservation. He fouled off the attempt on the way to a strikeout.
It went that way for nine unyielding innings (seven by Cain) against the powerful Phillies as the Giants took a 3-0 victory and a 2-to-1 lead in this best-of-seven National League championship series.
It's the way it must continue to go if the Giants plan to win their fourth pennant in their five-plus decades in San Francisco.
In front of a cheering, orange hankie-waving sellout crowd at AT&T Park, the Giants received their seventh quality start in seven postseason games. Javier Lopez and closer Brian Wilson handled the only six outs Cain left for them.
And for the first time in these playoffs, the Giants won by more than one run.
"You couldn't have asked him to do any better," said Wilson, after Cain handed Hamels his first loss in five career LCS starts. "Putting nerves aside, pounding the strike zone -- that's what he does. That's the way he carries himself, the way he works hard.
"When we get into Philly at 8:30 at night, he's out there running stadium (stairs). That's why he does well."
Cody Ross doesn't need to take the stairs. Levitation is more his style, at least in this postseason zone of his.
Ross didn't go deep again, but he left another Phillies pitcher shaking his head in disbelief. He hit an ankle-high fastball for a single that put the Giants on the board in the fourth inning. It scored Edgar Renteria with the game's first run. Another well-paid player forced to the back seat this summer, Aaron Rowand, doubled and scored on Freddy Sanchez's spinning infield single in the fifth.
Five hits from a reworked lineup is not a feast, but the Giants were satisfied to partake in a well-balanced meal. Entering the game, Ross had a .350 average this postseason, had hit four of their five homers and driven in six of their 16 runs. The rest of the club was hitting .190.
It looked to be more of the same when Hamels retired the first nine. But Renteria, who is staring at retirement and playing with a torn biceps, made the most of a rare start. He lined his leadoff single into right field, Sanchez sacrificed him to second base, Pat Burrell drew a two-out walk and Ross came through yet again.
"He's hitting pitches that most normal people can't hit at this time," Hamels said.
Ross nodded in agreement.
"He's right, it's probably a pitch I shouldn't have swung at," said Ross, who got bashful when asked about fans chanting his name. "It was down and away and somehow I hucked it down the line.
"But that's what happens when you're swinging the bat well or feeling good."
Aubrey Huff followed with another good swing, yanking an outside changeup for a single that scored Burrell.
The Giants lead the series because their starting trio has pitched a bit firmer than the Phillies' three aces. Cain issued three walks and hit two batters, but his misses seemed strategic while he held the Phillies to just two singles.
The flinty faced right-hander with the curly hair and tailing fastball became the first Giant to toss at least seven shutout innings in an NLCS game since Dave Dravecky threw a two-hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987.
And amazingly, the Phillies were shut out for the first time in 50 postseason games -- since Game 5 of the 1983 World Series, when Scott McGregor won the clincher for the Baltimore Orioles.
Even the Phillies hitters with robust numbers against Cain seemed to fidget in the box. Chase Utley (.467 average, three home runs in 15 at-bats) was 0 for 4 and twice grounded out to strand runners in scoring position.
"Getting ahead and trying to make them more defensive, that was my goal today," Cain said. "And that's what we just kept trying to do from start to finish."
Cain used the afternoon shadows to his advantage while changing eye levels against a fastball-hitting lineup. After striking out Hamels in the third, he buzzed an inside pitch that grazed Shane Victorino's stomach. The fiery leadoff hitter flung his bat in apparent anger as he walked down the line.
"I think that's just the way he pitches," catcher Buster Posey said. "He understands that when you go in, you've got to elevate sometimes."
And his changeup?
"Unbelievable," Renteria said. "It was "... perfect."
Cain had one more spot to escape, though, after his two-strike pitch hit a motionless Carlos Ruiz and Ross Gload drew a two-out pinch walk in the seventh. Giants manager Bruce Bochy walked to the mound, but not to take the baseball.
"There was no doubt I wanted to keep him out there," Bochy said. "But you have to check on him. That's all I was doing. And he had that look. He was great. So he stayed out there."
Cain got Victorino to ground out on a full-count pitch, then Posey waited at the dugout rail to give his batterymate a firm handshake.
"It was just a heater," Posey said. "A heater in. And he executed the pitch."
Did Posey see the same look Bochy did?
"I don't know," the rookie catcher said, smiling. "He's got it all the time. He does. It's a confident look, and determined. It's a good feeling when the guy out there is pitching without fear."
Another thing to feel good about: If there is a decisive Game 7
in this series, the assignment belongs to Cain.null
Giants lead series 2-1
(Best-of-7; x-if necessary)
TV: FOX Radio: 680-AM
GAME 1: Giants 4, Phillies 3
GAME 2: Phillies 6, Giants 1
GAME 3: Giants 3, Phillies 0
TODAY: Phillies (Blanton 9-6) at Giants (Bumgarner 7-6), 4:57 p.m.
THURSDAY: at Giants, 4:57 p.m.
x-SATURDAY: at Philadelphia, 12:57 p.m. or 4:57 p.m.
x-SUNDAY: at Philadelphia, 4:57 p.m.
Mark Purdy: Cody Ross continues his magical postseason. Page 4
Andres Torres likely to return to leadoff spot today. Page 4
Javier Lopez excelling as left-handed setup man. Page 5
Cumulative batting average (5 for 32) for the Phillies' 1-2-3 hitters (Victorino, Utley, Polanco) for the series.