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 .