PHILADELPHIA – In a pitching matchup for the ages, which this
National League Championship Series was billed to be, all games
were to be low-scoring, close and gripping. Late Sunday night,
however, Game 2 was so one-sided that both teams’ closers might as
well have been in street clothes sitting on the bus bound for the
Philadelphia International Airport.
That’s how much they were needed.
The Giants played five straight one-run
postseason adventures before finally giving in. The Phillies, known
for solid pitching and an offense that was supposed to be better
than the numbers indicate, quickly built up Jonathan Sanchez’s
pitch count, scored four runs in the seventh inning and cruised to
a 6-1 victory.
“Pitching has been pushed to the forefront in this series,”
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said, “so when you can get an
outburst of runs, you’ll definitely take it. If we can win every
game 6-1, we’d love that. If we have to win 2-1, we’ll take that,
One night after Tim Lincecum outdueled Roy Halladay in what was
to be the Mother of All Pitching Duels, Roy Oswalt bettered them
both Sunday, lasting eight innings and surrendering one run and
Sanchez wasn’t so fortunate, facing a lineup that was far more
patient than Atlanta’s in Game 3 of the Division Series. The Braves
chased most everything Sanchez threw near the plate, especially his
sliders, and he struck out 11 and walked just one in 7 1/2
The story was different in Philly, where Charlie Manuel reminded
his hitters beforehand that Sanchez led the league in walks and was
susceptible to a high pitch count with a bit of plate
One night after the Giants carried out a game plan of
aggressive hitting against Halladay, the Phillies did the opposite
and made Sanchez work. The lefty struck out the side in a hitless
first inning but required 35 pitches to get through it. Long plate
appearances made Sanchez labor and assured the Giants’ bullpen would be active.
Manuel wasn’t hiding his strategy, saying before the game,
“We’ve got to make him throw the ball over the plate. He’s got a
real hard slider, and it’s a late-breaker. If you watch his games,
the hitters chase – especially when he gets ahead of them. They
chase his slider a lot, down and out of the strike zone. At times,
he can get wild. He’ll walk some guys, usually around four or five.
Maybe even more.”
In many ways, that was the old Sanchez. On Sunday, he walked
three. To his credit, he rebounded from a sloppy start and lasted
into the seventh – one batter too long, it turned out. Through six,
Sanchez had surrendered two runs one earned and four hits. Manager
Bruce Bochy let him start the seventh, and Oswalt – of all people –
singled on Sanchez’s 100th pitch.
Bochy immediately summoned the bullpen, but the four-run rally
was underway. Four pitchers threw in the inning, which was
highlighted by Jimmy Rollins’ three-run double off Santiago
Maybe it would have been a better ending for Sanchez if the
Phillies were more free-swinging like the Braves, but several
Philly hitters said the goal was to not do Sanchez any favors.
“You make him throw strikes, and when he throws ’em, hit ’em,”
Placido Polanco said. “When he threw that slider, we tried to lay
Howard had struggled against Sanchez 3-for-14 with seven
strikeouts but walked, doubled and singled Sunday. “It was about
being patient,” Howard said. “He has a tendency to get wild, and
you try to make him throw strikes.”
Speaking of strikes: The Phillies thought
center fielder Andres Torres made a good enough throw to nail
Oswalt – who ran through third-base coach Sam Perlozzo’s stop sign
– on Polanco’s single during the seventh-inning rally. First
baseman Aubrey Huff cut it off, and Oswalt scored easily.
“I actually thought the ball was going to go through,” Perlozzo
said. “It looked like he was out by a lot, I thought.”
Howard added, “I was in a pure and utter panic. Luckily, I
looked up and saw Huff cut it off. He’d have been out. He’d have
been way out.”
The Phillies breathed easier after tying the series 1-1 and were
eager to head to San Francisco for Tuesday’s Game 3.
Rollins coming home: Rollins, who has Oakland
roots and a degree from Alameda’s Encinal High, would have been
more pleased about playing the A’s in the World Series, but an NLCS
date with the Giants is OK, too.
“That’s going to be fun,” Rollins said. “I’ve got quite a ticket
list, and I love playing in front of my family and friends, also
the fans. They’re on the fence. Do they boo me, do they get on me,
do they cheer me? It makes the game fun. It’s what you live for. If
they don’t boo you, you’re probably not a good player.”
Bonds fan: Howard is looking forward to
chatting with Barry Bonds, who has tutored Howard in the past.
Bonds is expected to be part of a pregame ceremony acknowledging
the Giants’ NLCS team from 2002.
“It’ll be fun. He’ll talk some trash,” Howard said.