Ratto: 'Pat the Bat' Swinging Toothpick for Giants

October 31, 2010, 3:06 am
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Pat Burrell walked toward the horde-let of reporters and asked with an I-know-how-this-is-going-to-go smirk, You guys looking for me?

An existential question if ever there was one. Burrell has been the one persistently absent Giant in this postseason, and he capped it off in magnificently grotesque style in Game 3 of the World Series.

Four strikeouts, the most in a World Series game by a Giant since Josh Devore in 1911, a battle to the death with a first-inning line drive single by Michael Young, and in all, a frustrated neo-spectators view of Texas 4-2 victory over San Francisco -- the kind of dream a baseball player has right before he decides to stop drinking gin so close to bedtime.

He owned the evening for whomever wanted to see him do so, saying You gotta be accountable for what you do. But its what he hasnt done that has been the most jaw-dropping.

Make contact.

He is 0-for-9 with a walk and eight strikeouts in the Series. He was 2-for-10 with four strikeouts, two walks and a home run in the NL Division Series. He was 4-for-19 with four walks and seven strikeouts in the NL Championship Series.

In all, he is 6-for-38 (.157.289 on-base percentage.609 OPS) with 19 strikeouts and seven walks. He is a .315 hitter when he actually puts the ball in play, but he only puts it in play 42 percent of the time.

My night wasnt good, my night wasnt good, he said, stating the tortuously obvious. "Its obviously frustrating. You prepare yourself for the World Series, but you dont plan it to go this way.

In fact, you dont plan for it to go half as bad as it has gone for Burrell. Nobody noticed this much when the Giants were rolling, but they did know that Burrell wasnt doing much. Now that he has tunneled through the bottom of the minimal standard, it is now Bruce Bochys Job 1.

In fact, that job is probably already done. Bochy makes up a lot of his mind about any necessary changes before he even arrives in the interview room to deny hes made up his mind.

But he has. Bochy does not wait for the staff to come and say, You know, I think our guy isnt working out quite the way we were hoping.

His timing is off probably a little bit, Bochy said, protecting the exposed left fielder as much as he dared. Sure you hope he comes out of it, and it was a tough night for him. But he can handle it.

But hes a little bit off with his timing.

When Bochy makes a point twice, hes making sure it escapes nobodys notice. In short, Burrell will sit as Andres Torres sat after his golden sombrero in Game 2 of the NLCS. Torres sat out the next two games and returned in Game 5 to go 2-for-3 with a walk and a run, and then go 3-for-5 in Game 6.

Whether some time off will be a curative for Burrell, though, is a more open question. The Giants dont have another leadoff hitter. They have another left fielder, though, in Cody Ross, who hit his fifth home run of the postseason to break up Colby Lewis shutout, and they have a replacement for Ross in right in Nate Schierholtz.

And even Burrell admits these struggles are worse than the ones he had in the 2008 postseason, when he was 10-for-44 with 13 strikeouts. That year, he at least kicked in three homers and drove in eight runs. This year, he has been thoroughly inert, and though he wants to remain in the lineup in hopes of some sort of epiphany, he knows that wont be an easy sell.

Id be disappointed, of course, he said when asked if he thought he might not play Sunday in Game 4. I want to play. This is a terribly important time. So Ill show up ready to play tomorrow, and well see.

Yeah, well see, but I think we know what we, and Texas starter Tommy Hunter, will see. Ross fifth, Juan Uribe sixth, Edgar Renteria seventh, Aaron Rowand eighth and Schierholtz ninth.

Indeed, Burrells few services Saturday were to snare a slicing liner in the left field corner from Vladimir Guerrero, and provide media cover for losing starter Jonathan Sanchez, who couldnt finish the fifth after giving homers to left-handed hitters Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton.

But Sunday is a new game, and a narrower margin. He is striking out more than twice in every five at-bats this postseason, and the Giants already have minimal margin for error offensively. They had their monthly breakout in Game 1 and faked like they pounded the Ranger bullpen in Game 2.

But the squeeze gets tighter now. They need Game 4, on the assumption that Cliff Lee will be a different Cliff Lee in Game 5, and they need Matt Cain to be the decider in Game 6, because Sanchez looks iffy as the choice in Game 7. Bochy doesnt like leaving things like championships to the last moment, so change is coming hard and fast to the middle of the order and the left side of the outfield. Pat Burrell is almost surely, for the moment anyway, in time out.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.