Giants hitters thrive by being aggressive;BEATING ROY HALLADAY

The Philly talk shows had involved one-sided chatter, naturally.
It wasn’t about which team would win the National League
Championship Series. It was about whether the Phillies would get it
done in a sweep or need to take it to a fifth game. Whatever the
duration, one thing was sure: Roy Halladay wasn’t going to drop the
opener.

Not the Doc.

Something went terribly wrong on the way to a Game 1 high-five
line for the Phillies.

The
Giants “attacked” Halladay –
baseball lingo for being aggressive early in the count – and made
him look ordinary 10 days after he no-hit the Reds in the Division
Series.

This time, Halladay surrendered eight hits, including two homers
to Cody Ross, and the
Giants beat the Phillies 4-3 to snag
the series’ early momentum, surely a shock to all talk-radio
devotees in this town.

How did the
Giants do it?

By studying how the Reds went after Halladay. And doing the
opposite.

In his pregame meeting, batting coach Hensley Meulens harped on
being aggressive at the plate and not falling behind in the count.
In his no-hitter, Halladay threw an astounding 25 first-pitch
strikes to 28 batters, and Meulens wanted no part of a repeat a la
Johnny Vander Meer, the only pitcher in history with consecutive
no-nos.

“We watched Halladay’s last couple of games, and he was getting
strike 1 repeatedly,” Meulens said. “Batters wanted to wait in the
count. It’s not what we wanted to do.”

So on the first pitch of the game, Andres Torres took a mighty
cut and lined out to center field. “Andres set the tone with the
first at-bat,” said Meulens, satisfied with the leadoff hitter’s
approach despite the quick out.

The strategy wasn’t necessarily swinging at the first pitch in
every at-bat. Halladay threw 22 first-pitch strikes to 29 batters,
and the
Giants swung at 13 of them. It was
more about going after a hittable pitch early enough so that the
count wouldn’t reach 0-2 or 1-2.

After Halladay retired his first seven batters, he threw a
decent 1-1 sinker to Ross, who was hacking. Ross homered to left
field for the game’s first run and went deep again in the fifth on
2-0. No, he wasn’t about to work the count.

“In the past, I’ve tried everything against him – waiting them
out, trying to be aggressive, going in between,” Ross said. “Just
trying to look for a pitch to drive. Luckily, I got it.”

Meulens said the
Giants used a similar approach when
handing Halladay his first loss of 2010 back on April 26. Eli
Whiteside and Mark DeRosa each had two RBIs, and the
Giants won 5-1.

Ross wasn’t a Giant then. He joined the team in August. But he
knew all about Halladay, who on May 29 threw a perfect game against
the Marlins, Ross’ team at the time. Ross went 0-for-3. Entering
Saturday, he was 3-for-16 in his career against Halladay.

“He’s got the potential to go out there and do that every night
he pitches,” Ross said of Halladay and his no-hit stuff.

Rookie Buster Posey faced Halladay for the first time. A few
days earlier, he was so uncertain about the legendary right-hander
that he didn’t know whether he’d study video or simply rely on his
instincts.

What was it, Buster?

“I went instincts,” he said.

Didn’t work his first two at-bats, both strikeouts. But in the
sixth, Posey got a huge hit, a two-out single to right that began a
decisive rally. Pat Burrell, one pitch after Halladay thought he
had an inning-ending strikeout, smacked an RBI double, and
pinch-runner Nate Schierholtz scored on Juan Uribe’s single.

If the
Giants face Halladay again in the
NLCS, they’ll no doubt try to be just as aggressive. So long as
it’s smart aggressiveness.

“A lot of his first-pitch strikes are quality pitches, so make
sure they’re in your area,” Meulens said. “It wasn’t like he was
throwing Strike 1 right down the middle. He was throwing sinkers
down and in to righties, cutters down and in to lefties. He was
working the corners. So try to hit the ball up the middle and don’t
try to do too much.

“Please don’t try to do too much.”

His hitters listened.

“If you see something early, you’ve got to go for it,” Aubrey
Huff said. “We’re such free-swingers, maybe he plays into our hands
a little bit.”

There’s that, too.

Halladay, who struck out seven and issued no walks, wasn’t
voluntarily crediting the
Giants as much as taking the blame
for not making the right pitches. He also had a beef with umpire
Derryl Cousins’ strike zone, especially with Burrell, and said the
fateful pitch to Burrell should have been away. Halladay left it
in.

“I guess we find out what we’re made of,” Halladay said. “We
make an adjustment. You take it and move on.”

Tell that to the talk-show callers.