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NLDS Game Three Review: San Francisco

Another Giants-Braves matchup, another one-run game. Unlike Friday’s splash hit special though, the drama ultimately went in San Francisco’s direction this time.

Through the seventh inning, I expected I’d mostly be writing about Jonathan Sanchez‘s terrific performance. Sanchez’s first seven innings were reminiscent of Tim Lincecum‘s outstanding series opener: he was a little shaky with his command in the first inning, but then settled into a groove and dominated. After a first inning walk to Derek Lee, he didn’t allow a hard-hit ball until Matt Diaz‘s flyout to right in the fifth, and didn’t allow a hit until Tim Hudson‘s soft line drive single in the sixth. Along the way, Sanchez struck out 11 and had retired 14 consecutive batters at one point.

Meanwhile, back on offense, the Giants couldn’t manage much more than an assortment of walks and groundballs against Hudson. The lone run they provided in support of Sanchez came courtesy of two shadow-assisted dropped flyballs; one by the soon-to-be infamous Brooks Conrad, whom we’ll get to in a moment.

Then came the second thing I thought I’d be writing about, the Braves comeback in the bottom of the eight. With a runner on and 105 pitches on his arm, Bruce Bochy pulled Sanchez for Sergio Romo. Here are my notes from the inning:

bot 8
2nd hit for ATL, sharp liner by Gonzales
Conrad with a chance to be a hero flubs a bunt
Glaus hitting for Ankiel
Romo in for Jonathan; gutsy move by Boch
Hinske in for Glaus
Hinske HR
Braves lead 2-1

I heard someone on the radio this morning quote Bochy as saying he was going to play the matchups from the sixth inning onward today, and in this case it obviously backfired as Bobby Cox had an extra bat. I usually try not to second guess managers, but for me it was a questionable call at the time, as the Braves hadn’t done anything with Sanchez and Romo had a rough outing on Friday.

Bochy stuck with his guys in the ninth inning, and didn’t use a pinch hitter other than Travis Ishikawa in the pitcher’s spot, while Cox worked his way through three pitchers. The Giants managed to keep runners on base long enough for Buster Posey to find Conrad with a hard groundball. In what seemed like an act of destiny, Conrad let the ball sail through the five-hole, giving Freddy Sanchez plenty of time to score the eventual winning run from second.

Which brings us to the third thing I thought I’d be writing about: Conrad’s defense. I was fully prepared to stick up for Conrad a bit here, particularly over the dropped flyball, but that last error was really inexcusable for a major league player in the post-season. The ball was hit right to him and the game was on the line; if he had even kept the ball in the infield it would have likely been a different game.

All in all though, it was the the third great game of the series.