Sunday, October 17, 2010

The San Francisco Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia last night to win Game One of the National League Championship Series.

The Giants punched out nine hits, eight of them against Phillies' ace Roy Halladay, and it was enough to make a winner out of Tim Lincecum. The much-anticipated "battle of the aces", hyped as though it were a heavyweight prizefight, turned out to be something of an afterthought. Lincecum pitched reasonably well, and pitched especially well when he was in trouble, which was most of the time. His only 1-2-3 innings were the first and the seventh, he gave up two homers, and he had repeated issues with home plate umpire Derryl Cousins' bite-sized strike zone. His opposite number, Halladay, also pitched respectably despite being in trouble throughout. Both teams' bullpens kept it a one-run game, but it was Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson of the Giants who closed it out by fanning five of the last seven Phillies.

The continuing heroics of Cody Ross saw the Giants' newest member personally de-mythologize Halladay with two long home runs. After the first seven Giants had gone down in order, Ross turned on a 2-0 fastball and sailed it into the left-field seats. After Philly catcher Carlos Ruiz tied it with a wind-aided opposite-field solo shot against Lincecum in the bottom of the third, Ross took Halladay downtown in the fifth for a 2-1 lead, one the Giants would not surrender.  For the postseason so far, Ross has three homers and five RBI in five games.

In the sixth, Buster Posey, who'd been swinging wildly at outside fastballs, lined a one-out single to right-center. Halladay's 0-2 pitch to Pat Burrell was called a ball, a victim of the same disappearing strike zone that had bedeviled Lincecum earlier. Like his opposite number, Hallday was visibly angry about the call, and on the next pitch Burrell smoked a shot off the wall in left, about three feet short of a homer and a foot or two wide of Raul Ibanez' glove. Posey scored easily, and Bruce Bochy, sensing blood in the water, immediately replaced Burrell with pinch-runner Nate Schierholz. Juan Uribe, who'd done absolutely nothing all postseason, made the skipper look like a bloomin' genius when he singled up the middle and Schierholz came racing around to score what turned out to be the winning run.

It didn't take long for the Phillies to make it a one-run ballgame. After Chase Utley singled off Lincecum's glove in the bottom of the sixth, Jayson Werth absolutely crushed one deep into the right-center field seats. But Lincecum actually appeared to get stronger after that mistake, and a palpable sense of calm settled over the proceedings after he retired the side in order in the seventh. Lopez got Utley and Ryan Howard in the eighth, and then in came Wilson for a four-out save, every one of them a K, sandwiched around an eighth-inning hit and a ninth-inning walk. Shane Victorino went down for the 27th out, and the Giants had the first game won, on the road.

The home-field advantage now belongs to the Giants, who can win out at AT&T Park even if they lose tonight's second game. It'll be Jonathan Sanchez tonight against Roy Oswalt, as Bruce Bochy has decided to go righty-lefty throughout the series. Sanchez, of course, was brilliant against Atlanta last week, while Oswalt was lit up by Cincinnati in a game the Phillies eventually came back to win anyway. Game time is slated for 8 PM EDT at Citizens Bank Park on what's become a banner weekend for Philadelphia sports; the football Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field, jut a block away, this very afternoon.

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