Ross aside, Giants in an NLCS funk

Cody Ross is going to miss that familiar spot in the left-center
seats where his homers landed in the hands of Phillies fans.

His surprising postseason power surge was about the only spark
for a San Francisco offense that’s headed west looking for
rally-igniting hits. Ross has three solo homers in two NLCS games,
equal the amount he hit in 33 games with the Giants since he was
selected off waivers in August.

The Giants need more than his solo homers to advance to the
World Series, though.

Ross’ fifth-inning blast was one of only three hits against Roy
Oswalt in Philadelphia’s 6-1 win over the Giants on Sunday night.
The Giants earned a nice split in Philadelphia, but they couldn’t
give Jonathan Sanchez much run support in Game 2.

The Giants received no production at the top of the order –
leadoff hitter Andres Torres struck out swinging in all four
at-bats.

”It’s obvious, his timing is off,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy
said. ”He’s had a great year for us, and he’s one of the reasons
we’re here. But it’d be nice to get him going.”

Torres isn’t alone in the punchless lineup.

The 3-4-5 batters of Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey and Pat Burrell
went a woeful 0 for 11, and the Giants struck out 10 times overall.
They had just four hits, tied for the fewest in team history in 23
NLCS games.

But hey, it wasn’t all bad news. Freddy Sanchez singled in the
sixth and eighth inning.

”We’ve got to find a way to manufacture more runs,” Huff
said.

One way might be a new-look lineup in Game 3 against left-hander
Cole Hamels. After facing right-handers Roy Halladay and Oswalt,
Aaron Rowand and Pablo Sandoval could get starts against a lefty.
Rowand could start for Torres in center and Sandoval at third for
Mike Fontenot.

”You’ll see a couple of changes,” Bochy said.

The Giants fizzled against Oswalt a night after doing just
enough to get by Halladay. Ross, who grew up wanting to be a rodeo
clown, has three homers all to a similar spot a few rows deep in
left-center.

His two solo shots helped beat Halladay 4-3 in Game 1. In the NL
division series, he drove in the only run in Tim Lincecum’s 1-0
Game 1 win over Atlanta.

The offense all but crippled any chance Sanchez had of winning.
He was solid, allowing five hits and three runs with seven
strikeouts in 6-plus innings. He threw 100 pitches. Sanchez
defeated the Phillies twice during the regular season, holding them
to two runs in 13 innings. That still wouldn’t have been enough for
a win in Game 2.

Ross did give San Francisco a moment of brief hope when his
fourth homer of the postseason with one out in the fifth tied the
game at 1. Ross had a little hop in his step as he watched the ball
fly out again, but it was the last time the Giants would
celebrate.

”He’s been amazing, the way he’s been swinging,” Huff said.
”He’s carried this team the whole postseason. He’s getting the
pitches to hit. We’re all getting some of them, but we’re fouling
them off and he’s hitting them.”

Ross is one of four players in Giants history with at least four
home runs in a single postseason. This from a player who made only
17 starts in his 33 regular-season games with San Francisco and
batted .288 with three home runs and seven RBIs. Bochy named him
the starting right fielder in the NL division series anyway against
Atlanta in place of the injured Jose Guillen.

Oswalt had one tip for Hamels in Game 3, with regards to Ross:
”Don’t throw it down and in.”

”If you miss down and in,” Oswalt said, ”that’s pretty much
where he’s hitting them.”

While the timing is poor, San Francisco’s offensive funk is
hardly a surprise. The Giants hit a league-low .248 with runners in
scoring position overall, and only .212 with runners in scoring
position and two outs.

Only twice did they put two runners on base in an inning. They
had runners on first and second in the eighth, but Huff flied out
to center to end a rally. By then, the Giants already trailed
6-1.

They put runners on the corners in the ninth, but Edgar Renteria
grounded out to end the game.

Hitting woes aside, the trip wasn’t a total loss.

”We’re 1-1,” Huff said. ”And we can’t ask for much more than
that.”