Friday, October 8, 2010

The San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves, 1-0, at AT&T Park last night to win Game One of their National League division series.

Tim Lincecum pitched a brilliant, complete-game, two-hit shutout, striking out fourteen; without question the zenith of his young career so far. The well-known mantra of  "pitching, pitching, pitching" once again led the 2010 Giants to a crucial victory. 

Buster Posey, naturally enough, scored the only run of the game. Opening the bottom of the fourth with a base hit, Posey took off for second on a full-count pitch to Pat Burrell. Braves catcher Brian McCann fired a good throw to second as Burrell struck out swinging, and Posey slid in awkwardly, bouncing over the bag with his right ankle and then with his posterior. The swipe tag by second baseman Brooks Conrad appeared to be in time, but umpire Paul Emmel called Posey safe. The tag may have missed, or the ump may have missed; but either way Posey was in scoring position. With two out the Braves walked Pablo Sandoval intentionally to get to Cody Ross, and the young outfielder grounded one just past the glove of Carlos Infante at third, on into left field, as Posey came around to score. If Infante had managed to knock the ball down, he had no play, but Posey would have been obliged to stop at third and the Giants would have had the bases loaded with Linccum up. As it happened, this would be the only run Lincecum needed.

Braves starter Derek Lowe pitched pretty well himself, enough to win on most nights, but this night belonged to "The Freak." As strong in the ninth-- after 110 pitches-- as he had been in the first, Lincecum did it with his patented mix of diving, twisting fastballs and sliders, with the occasional changeup tossed in for good measure. Perhaps more than any pitcher in the game, Lincecum keeps hitters off-balance and guessing wrong time after time. A good pitcher can stay ahead of a lineup of good hitters one time, and maybe two times, through the lineup. Lincecum had proven sluggers like Derrek Lee as confused in the ninth as they'd been in the first. Half his strikeouts seemed to be called third strikes, including the beast of a pitch to Lee that ended the game. Though it will be overshadowed by Roy Halladay's epic no-hitter from the night before (only the second such in baseball postseason history, and the first in 54 years) this two-hit one-walk 14-K masterpiece was exactly what the Giants needed to open this series. And it may well have been the greatest postseason pitching debut since Howard Ehmke dominated the Chicago Cubs for the Philadelphia A's back in 1929.

The teams meet again tonight, and it will be Matt Cain taking the baton for the Giants against Atlanta's Tommy Hanson. If you toss out his most recent appearance--that forgettable outing against San Diego last Friday-- Cain has been brilliant down the stretch, with a string of quality starts dating back to August 23. Hanson's only start against San Francisco came in early August, a fine pitchers' duel with Barry Zito that ultimately was resolved in 11 innings. Game time is slated for 6:35 PM PDT (9:35 EDT).

Except for Halladay's historic no-hitter, most of the postseason attention has been focused on the doings over in the American League, where the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees each have won their first two playoff games on the road. Heck, the ALDS could be over as early as tomorrow night. Meanwhile, Halladay's teammates, the Phillies, have a chance to take a 2-0 edge on Dusty Baker's Cincinnati Reds this afternoon, prior to the Giants-Braves matchup.

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