There has been enough charity in this best-of-five between San Francisco and Atlanta to keep a PBS pledge drive happy for a millenium.
Let's face it, this National League Division Series hasn't been an artisitc masterpiece. The Giants have given away two games, and the only reason they find themselves up two games to one instead of down by that same count is because the Braves turned around and gave the second gift right back.
So with the Giants poised to advance to the NLCS for the first time in eight years, who's the MVP?
My vote goes to Brooks Conrad. I'm not saying he's having a bad series, but he got back to the clubhouse after Game Three only to receive a text message about available land in Montana from Bill Buckner.
I feel bad for the guy, but not nearly as bad as I felt for Jonathan Sanchez. As much as I've bagged on this guy all year, somewhere along the line he's found that elusive groove. Last year the guy "threw" a no-hitter. Right now he's "pitching". He still falls behind too many guys to suit me, but he has swing-through stuff. When his slider is on, he's deadly. As long as he holds it together mentally, he's as good as anyone in the NL.
He showed some attitude in Game Three. Did anyone catch the stare-down with Jason Heyward? The TBS announce team missed it, but Mike Krukow picked up on it immediately (another reason to turn down the sound and crank KNBR). In his first AB, Heyward gave Sanchez the evil eye. Sanchez returned the glare. As Krukow said, a good pitcher needs to have a bit of "screw you" in his demeanor. Heyward wanted the phsycological upper hand. Sanchez didn't budge. Eleven strikeouts later, you knew who was the better man.
Unfortunately, that's when Mighty Mouse failed to save the day. Sanchez went 7-plus and allowed just two hits. Sergio Romo needed just one batter to mess that up. After Friday's meltdown, he never should have been in the game. And Bruce Bochy should be ashamed.
With Eric Hinske summoned to pinch hit, that frisbee slider was a disaster waiting to happen. You simply can't throw that pitch to a lefty with power. If you do, you gotta miss off the plate...in. Something that tails back to hitter in the center of the plate is an invitation to go deep when a pitcher is throwing well, and right now Romo isn't. Forced to pitch because of the substition rules, Romo should have been relegated to fastballs off the plate away and sliders WAY in. But, like Ramon Ramirez on Friday, a Giants releiver put a ball belt high in the center of the plate, and it got launched.
Romo's second meltdown again overshadowed the incredible run the starters have put up. In three games they've allowed eactly one earned run, and the starter wasn't even in the game when that runner scored. Atlanta has done absolutely nothing against Liuncecum, Cain and Sanchez. So why is this series still underway?
Because the bullpen and offense have been nonexistent.
Five runners left on base in the first two innings in Game Three were a harbinger of doom. The Giants had every opportunity to put that game away, to push the score to a point where Hinske could have hit a ball to Florida and it would have been nothing but a brief clip on SportsCenter. But the Giants have failed to gerate any kind of timely offense.
Look at the numbers. Until his single in the ninth, Huff had contribnuted nothing. Uribe? Nothing. Sandoval? Less than nothing. Only Posey has decent numbers, and he's missed on a couple of golden RBI opportunities. As a team, the Giants have repeatedly come up short in that all-important "runner at third, less than two out" situation. They were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Game Three, and their best option for offense has been hititng the ball to second base. This needs to turn around quickly or they can start making vacation plans.
The Giants' offensive ineptitude made Game Three's ninth frame all that more improbable. It's funny to think that one of the biggest offensive moments may be been Travis Ishikawa's one-out walk (by the way, when he got to second base with two out was anyone besides me having flashbacks of JT Snow circa 2003?)
Freddy Sanchez's single was big, but I still wonder why he got a hanging breaker in that situation when he's looked awaful on high fastalls. Tell me the Braves didn't miss Billy Wagner. Then Huff parachuted the game-tying hit into right, Ishikawa beat a poor throw, and the stage was set for Conrad's, uh, heroics.
If you look at all of the elements that have conspired to get the Giants to this point, you gotta wonder when their luck is gonna run out. Chipper Jones and Martin Prado are out with injuries. Wagner departs after three pitches, headed for the DL. Heyward claims he was never right after crashing into the wall, and I believe that's why he got a horrid jump on Huff's doinker. Then add in Conrad's ongoing soap opera, and you start to wonder when other shoe's gonna drop.
Perhaps the baseball gods are finally making up for Scott Spezio and Jose Oquendo.
But, regardless of how they got there, the Giants are one win from the NLDS with Madison Bumgarner on the hill. There has been plenty said about bringing Lincecum back on short rest, but I like the move of going with the rookie. Worst case scenario, the Giants throw their ace in a fifth game -- pitcher's park, home crowd, full rest. If MadBum continues the trend and the Giants win in four, it's Lincecum versus Halladay to start the NLCS, and that's Must See TV.
In the meantime, we hope the starters can go until their arms fall off, the bullpen phone is disconnected, and the Giants find a way to sneak a corked bat or two into the game.
In Game Four, we hope for a perfect world. The Giants score early and often, and Bumgarner throws a four-hit shutout.
Conrad can have all four.