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.”