The San Francisco Giants face the Philadelphia Phillies at AT&T Park this afternoon in Game Three of the National League Championship Series. Game time is slated for 4:30 PM EDT (1:30 PDT).
Matt Cain will take the hill for the Giants against Phillies' lefthander Cole Hamels. While the G-men generally have trouble with lefties, they've hit Hamels hard this year; he's 0-1 with 16 hits allowed in two starts. Manager Bruce Bochy may tinker with the lineup a bit to get more right-handed hitters in there; switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval, for one, will likely start in Mike Fontenot's place and Aaron Rowand may replace slumping Andres Torres in center field and the leadoff spot. Such moves would leave only one lefty-- Aubrey Huff-- batting against Hamels.
The series is all tied up at one game apiece. After the Giants' opening victory on Saturday night, Philadelphia came back with a late-inning surge to win the second game going away, 6-1. For the second time in this postseason, San Francisco's bullpen suffered a letdown as Bochy waltzed his way through the familiar lefty-righty processional, with a couple of why-did-I-do-that intentional walks thrown in.
Starter Jonathan Sanchez endured a brutal 35-pitch first inning in which one of his three walks forced in a run, a bases-loaded situation exacerbated by Fontenot's infield error. But the young lefthander settled down afterward, did not issue another base on balls, and was briefly rewarded when the unsinkable Cody Ross, San Francisco's own "Instant Offense", belted his third home run in two days, a shot to left off Roy Oswalt that was almost a carbon copy of the two blasts he launched off Roy Halladay the night before. The FOX-TV announcers were lost in a discussion about Pat Burrell's previous at-bat and missed the home-run call entirely; for a moment we thought somebody had randomly inserted a replay video from Game One. But it was for real, all right, and it tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fifth.
Oswalt, whom the Phillies picked up from Houston at mid-season, was the whole story Sunday night, or just about. The Giants have handled him in the past, but it was his turn to do the handling, and he did it: a three-hitter, with Ross' shot the only real threat. And leading off the bottom of the seventh with a one-run lead, Oswalt smacked a single into center to chase Sanchez, advanced to second on Shane Victorino's bunt, and came around to score on Placido Polanco's single, beating Huff's relay on a bang-bang play at the plate. Rafael Ramirez had intentionally walked Chase Utley to get to Polanco, and now the "big inning" for which the Phillies are noted was in full swing. In came Jeremy Affeldt in his first playoff appearance to face Ryan Howard lefty-on-lefty. He got Howard, but in the process Utley and Polanco uncorked a double steal, and Bochy then ordered the second intentional walk of the inning, to Jayson Werth. In came Santiago Casilla to face the slumping, injury-prone Jimmy Rollins. Hitless in the series up to this point, Rollins drilled a double off the right-field wall, and all three runners came around to score and put the game away. Any good news? Well, Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless eighth, his best outing of the postseason, and the Giants did get two men aboard in the ninth before Ryan Madson retired Edgar Renteria to end it.
Renteria was starting at shortstop in place of Juan Uribe, who jammed his wrist while sliding into second after delivering the game-winning RBI in Game One. Uribe remains a game-time decision for tonight... Torres has six K's in 8 at-bats against the Phillies. While Rowand is not a real leadoff hitter, he did well in that spot for brief periods during the year, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him there tonight... Ross was moved up to sixth in the order for Game Two... Much ado has been made over whether Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel will come back with Roy Halladay tomorrow if the Giants win today... In the American League series, the other "greatest pitcher money can buy," Texas Rangers lefthander Cliff Lee, pitched a dominating shutout Monday night as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead on the New York Yankees. Lee, of course, was Philadelphia's ace a year ago.