In Game Four of the NLCS, she clearly smiled at the Giants and all was right with the world. In Game Five, the witch walked to the center of the diamond and purposefully gave all of us who bleed orange and black The Finger.
Tim Lincecum was masterful, the offense non existent, and the defense woeful. As a result, the Giants blew their one opportunity to clinch the series at home and now head back to Philly up three games to two but very much in a defensive crouch.
Giants fans have come to expect this. Heck, this week's Sports Illustrated has a feature article on the many ways the faithful have been tormented and tortured over the years. I've often lamented on the gut-wrenching way the Giants find ways to foul up. Game Four was case in point. It wasn't a setback, it was a meltdown.
Everything seemed set up for a celebration. An injured Roy Halladay was shaky, the Giants grabbed an early lead, and Tim Lincecum was on his game. Then came the third inning.
First of all, the plate umpire absolutely blew the call. Halladay's bunt attempt with two men on was so clearly foul that Halladay didn't even move from the batter's box. But the call of "fair" was made, and the Giants got jobbed. Still, they had an opportunity to turn it in their favor.
That old adage about looking a gift horse in the mouth? The Giants spit in its face. You don't do that and expect the baseball gods not to take vengenance.
Pablo Sandoval again proved that he's not ready to be a Major Leaguer. He may have had one great season at the plate in 2009, but 2010 has shown him to be ill-prepared. He didn't take care of himself physically, and mentally he's been on a six-month vacation. Last night it bit the Giants firmly on the backside.
One would think the one thing you could take for granted from a third baseman is that he would know where third base is. Yes, Sandoval was charging on the poor bunt. but he also gave up on the play. Raul Ibanez, running from second, didn't. Buster Posey, from his catcher's position, didn't. Posey acknowledged afterward what every player is taught from T-ball upward. Until the umpire makes a call, you play every ball like it's fair. He did. Ibanez did. Halladay didn't, and it presented an opportunity.
|Weebles wobble, and sometimes they DO fall down.|
Think one play can't decide a series? I'll get Don Denkinger's phone number for you.
Both runers can score on anything hit safely to the outfield, even if the ball reaches ceneter field by clanging off the first-baseman's mitt. Aubrey Huff had made four errors all year. The last was in late May. This routine grounder eluded him. What should have been an easy put-out instead gets handballed into center field the Phillies have a lead they never relinquished.
Lincecum did allow three hits (and a hit batsman) in the frame -- the only hits he'd allow until a seventh-inning single. But you simply can't make your pitcher have to get five and six outs in an inning. It'll explode like Krakatoa. Lincecum should actually be credited for limiting the damage...for all the good it did him.
The bullpen was again shaky with Ramon Ramirez giving up an opposite-field blast, Sergio Romo walking one of the two hitters he faced and (ironically) falling on his ass on the one guy he did retire, and Jeremy Affeldt nearly blowing an 0-2 advantage before retiring the one man he battled. Only Javier Lopez was solid.
|Romo goes slip-sliding away, just like the Giants' chances to clinch at home.|
Even that performance pales next to the outing by the offense. Things started out well, buit again it was the inability to get a hit when it mattered. For once the table setters did their jobs. Andres Torres and Freddy Snachez were a combined 4-for-7 with a walk. The 3-4-5 of Huff, Posey and Pat Burrell was a dismal 1-for-11. Huff stranded two runners in the fifth with a two-out, full-swinging bunt. He also stranded runners in the third and seventh, and failed to produce with runners at the corners and none out in the first, although the Giants did plate one run.
The Giants also ran themselves out of an inning when Cody Ross tried to take third on a fly ball to right, committing a cardinal sin of basball by making the third out at third base. Dude, you're already in scoring position. What was the friggin' point?
So the Giants find themsleves in an unenviable position. They still hold a 3-2 lead but they effectively burned their ace and now they go back east for a game the Phillies are thrilled to be in and the Giants never wanted to play. Baseball is a game of momentum, and right now the Phillies have it.
And now the Giants fans must once again hear the two most cursed words in the team's recent history: "Game Six." Oh God, not again.
I won't say the Giants are doomed, but I've seen this flic before. The only thing missing is Jose Oquendo. Dropping three straight to lose the series would be an epic failure and leave a most bitter taste in the mouths of Giants fans who, quite frankly, are sick of watching others sip champagne from a victory cup while we chug vinegar. This wouldn't be a loss, it would be a full on choke job.
Momentum is supposed to be only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. The Giants have Sanchez and Cain. The Phillies have Oswalt, Hamels and the home turf. The Giants have history -- they've never lost when up 3-1. They'd also won five straight Game Fives when holding such a lead -- so much for history.
That gnawing in the back of my mind? That's Kharma, and she's in a bad mood.