Inman: Could San Francisco Giants be in for postseason power surge?

PHILADELPHIA —
Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff
took three smooth, mighty swings in Friday’s twilight. Just like
that, three consecutive pitches sailed over Citizens Bank Park’s
walls as a crisp wind blew toward right field during batting
practice.

Can the
Giants dig the long ball against the
favored Phillies and their proven pitchers in the National League
Championship Series that starts today?

Forgive the intrusion, but are home runs even allowed to join a
discussion so centered on dominant pitching? Absolutely, and not
just because winds could enhance Philadelphia’s hitter-friendly
park.

“In the playoffs, a lot of weird things happen,” Huff said.
“This is built as a pitching series, and sometimes in the playoffs,
they’ll slug it out.”

An unforeseen power surge boosted the
Giants in their run to the National
League West title. More home runs could be their ticket to an upset
in Game 1 and this entire series.

Home Run Derby, this is not. Great pitching matchups rightfully
hog the NLCS story lines.

But someone is going to have to score in today’s opener
featuring
Giants ace Tim Lincecum and the
Phillies’ Roy Halladay, who pitched a no-hitter last week to open
his team’s bid for a third consecutive World Series run.

Whiz kids everywhere are stressing the need for fundamentals, to
play small ball and not make defensive mistakes. Fair enough. So a
home run has no place here, right?

“It probably impacts it more,” said Phillies left-hander Cole
Hamels, who will start Game 3 Tuesday in San Francisco. “A home run
is a big momentum swing. “… Every single one of their guys can
hit a home run. They’re one pitch away from a big one. That’s what
it takes to be a postseason-caliber team.”

Not every single Giant is a home-run hitter. Nor is Barry Bonds
still around (although national writers asked many
Giants players Friday about Bonds’
ghost). Still, the
Giants definitely pose more of a
power threat than earlier this season.

“They can hit home runs,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
“They’ve got some guys in their lineup “… “

Manuel listed six
Giants, starting with Cody Ross,
whose solo home run Monday broke up Derek Lowe’s no-hitter in the
sixth inning and sparked the
Giants’ series-clinching victory at
Atlanta.

Also cited by Manuel were Huff (26 home runs this season), left
fielder Pat Burrell (20), infielder Juan Uribe (24) and reserve
infielders Pablo Sandoval (13) and Edgar Renteria (three), whose
reputation apparently precedes this season’s production.

Two guys not mentioned are among the
Giants’ offensive heroes: leadoff
hitter Andres Torres (16 home runs) and cleanup hitter Buster Posey
(18).

Torres is downsizing that tree he swings and will go with a
33-ounce bat tonight against the hard-throwing Halladay. Torres
definitely is not calling his shot.

“Right now we need to play smart,” Torres said. “I need to start
bunting and getting on base.”

Exactly, and the lumberjacks behind him can inflict damage with
a surprise home run.

Huff summed up that tested strategy as: “Mix in a walk and
somebody accidentally pops one. That’s the way we’ve been all year,
so why change?”

Aside from Ross’ Game 4 wake-up shot, Burrell hit a three-run
blast in Game 2 was the
Giants’ only other long ball in
their series against Atlanta.

The Phillies hit only one home run in their three-game,
playoff-opening sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, that provided by
Chase Utley. Other threats are Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Ryan
Howard, whose production dropped off to 31 home runs this season
after offseason tutoring from Bonds.

The
Giants’ home-run chances aren’t
great against Halladay (21-10). One way to beat him, however, is to
hit a home run, as was the case in eight of his defeats. The best
time to strike (according to statistics): in the fourth inning, on
a first-pitch offering.

“If he leaves a pitch up in the zone and it’s a pitch you can
handle, you can’t miss it,” Posey said. “Home runs a lot of times
will be game changers. It’s not something you try to do. You hope
it happens. We’ve shown through the course of this season we can
string some together.”

Backup catcher Eli Whiteside is the only Giant to ever homer off
Halladay, that coming in an April 26
Giants win in San Francisco.

“I don’t even remember it, it was so long ago,” Whiteside said.
“I ran into one, I guess. I think it was a slider in, and it was up
in the zone.”

See, it actually was an unforgettable homer. So will be any the
Giants hit here, at a ballpark that
four years ago surrendered the most home runs in the league (and
10th most this year).

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com . Follow him at
Twitter.com/CamInman .