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.