The weekend took your faithful Phillie correspondents to places we didn’t expect, and none of those places featured wifi and a comfy moment to kick back and review the first two games of the NLCS. Better late than never. The Phillies and Giants split the weekend, which wasn’t great for the maroon marauders because the series tilted lightly in the Giants’ favor with those results – teams that win one of two games on the road in a seven-game MLB series win the series 56.2% of the time.
Game One was just one of those games, it seems. Seven innings, eight hits, seven strikeouts, no walks and more ground balls than fly balls doesn’t seem like a line that would normally produce four earned runs, but that’s what happened to Roy Halladay Saturday night. The difference between excellent and a -8.8% WPA night for the Doc could have been summed up in two fly balls from Cody Ross that ended up in the seats. This same Cody Ross had exactly average power this year (.145 ISO) and had gone -for-16 against Halladay in his career. The same Cody Ross that was Cody Ross the Marlin until Brian Sabean briefly made him Randy Myers by supposedly claiming him just to block the Padres. Then the Giants then realized that he was better than Jose Guillen, at least in the field, so that he could become the Cody Ross, Giant, that the Bay Area now knows and loves. Either way, you read that fateful name backward as Grant did on the McCovey Chronicles, and you get “ssoR y doC,” which is about all that can be said to Halladay, who pitched well enough to win.
It did seem like the Phillie offense could have put together a five spot – Tim Lincecum wasn’t at his best either. He walked more (three), and gave up equal numbers of fly balls and ground balls, but he also struck out eight – one of which was Ryan Howard with two batters on in a tie game in the third inning (worth 6.6% in WPA alone). Though the two teams had the same amount of baserunners, and the Phillies showed a better slugging percentage as a team, it was the Giants that strung together the hits in the big moments.
The following may seem random – and most likely was – but the big lineup change between games one and two may have had a little bit to do with the different outcomes. As Rob Neyer noted before the game Sunday, Charlie Manuel reversed Placido Polanco and Chase Utley in the batting order so that the heart of the order did not include two straight lefties in Utley and Howard.
It’s a little strange to see Polanco and his lack of power batting third, and it may feel like separating two lefties isn’t that big of a deal, but just look at what the Giants did in the two games for your pudding-based proof. In Game One, Javier Lopez brought his lefty sidearm release to the mound to get Utley to ground out and Howard to strike out before leaving in a double switch that would have made Dusty Baker proud. In Game Two, Bruce Bochy brought Ramon Ramirez out to pitch to the righty Shane Victorino, but after Victorino sacrificed, he was faced with the choice of walking the lefty Utley to keep Ramirez in the game and pitch to Polanco, or burning Lopez on Utley, bringing in Sergio Romo to pitch to Polanco, and then summoning Jeremy Affeldt to get Howard. That is a lot of relievers, but with the off-day coming today, the second move-heavy approach is probably what Bochy should have done. Instead, this is what happened:
Bottom 7th: Philadelphia
– R. Oswalt singled to shallow center
– R. Ramirez relieved J. Sanchez
– S. Victorino sacrificed to third, R. Oswalt to second
– C. Utley intentionally walked
– P. Polanco singled to shallow center, R. Oswalt scored, C. Utley to second
– J. Affeldt relieved R. Ramirez
– C. Utley stole third, P. Polanco stole second
– R. Howard struck out swinging
– J. Werth intentionally walked
– P. Sandoval at third
– S. Casilla relieved J. Affeldt
– J. Rollins doubled to deep center, C. Utley, P. Polanco and J. Werth scored
– R. Ibanez lined out to third
4 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors
San Francisco 1, Philadelphia 6
Don’t underestimate the difference the new lineup made, as it obviously made Bochy’s life difficult in the seventh inning Sunday night (and then he went and made some dubious decisions of his own). Now it’s clear that he’ll have to use both of his lefties to get through the heart of the order late in game three, provided his starter once again gets the job done against the new-look lineup.