Ratto: Pitching Duel in Game 1 Hardly a Sure Thing

October 16, 2010, 12:37 am
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Ray Ratto

JimmyRollins has always said he was an As fan growing up. He lived inAlameda, you can spit from Alameda to the Coliseum, and the rest isbasic math.On the other hand, he did finally get a chance to see the Giantsballpark as a citizen this past season and decided that Its the bestballpark Ive ever been in, after this one.Very politically wise by the plucky veteran shortstop. Dont diss thehome folks digs, especially when the home folks can flay the hide offyou with their pointed sandpapery tongues.Rollins, the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop whose season has beendefined more by his absences than his presence (hes had two calfinjuries this year and is now nursing a bad quad), is an important partof the defending NL champions lineup, and being gone as long as he wasdid clearly depress the mostly vaunted Phillies lineup.But with Game 1 of the NL Championship Series less than a day away, hisP.R.-motivated love affair with his own ballpark reminds us that thereare factors mitigating against the much-craved Lincecum-Halladaymatchup.And Factor One is the ballpark. Citizens Bank, a romantic name if everthere was one, is the latest in a long line of hitter-friendlyballyards in this town, going back to the absurdly cockeyed Baker Bowlin the 30s and 40s, then Connie Mack Stadium, then the Vet. They haveall treated hitters kindly, and so does the Bank.
The dimensions are friendly enough (average down the lines, short inthe alleys, no great fly ball graveyard like the one in San Francisco),the hitters muscle up well enough, the humidity helps, and mostintriguingly Friday, the late autumn wind was up and standing the flagsin center field to full attention.More wind is expected for Saturdays first game, and if that forecastproves true, any fly ball threatens the pitching matchup of the ages.Yes, for all the hype about Timmy and Roy, both could be undone by the vine-draped conditions.They could also be undone by the pressure of the moment, or by thevagaries of the game, but the point here is that when so many peoplesee dueling perfect games, one should be very careful to rule out thepossibility of an 11-9 game.All right, a 7-4 game. The Giants arent going to get nine runs in anygame in this series, let alone lose one. The pitching is that deep onboth sides.Deep, but not infallible. And while this theory hangs on the singlepiling of Everybody cant be right, thats not a bad way to go attimes. And at 7 p.m. EDT last night, with the flags blowing towardright field, the long line of Phillies left-handed hitters loomedlarger and larger and larger still.In short, there are plenty ways to crush a hype machine, even one asforegone-conclusion-ish as this one. No park in baseball is better ableto turn pitchers into base-backer-uppers. No team is more capable onany given night of turning 3-2 into 10-2.And in fairness, the Giants can do this as well. It just isnt nearlyas likely because theyre not as left-handed, and theyre not asPhillie-ish.Instead, they are banking heavily on their mutant Giant-hood toneutralize not only the conventional wisdom, but the unconventionalanti-wisdom as well. In a five-game series, that works more often, butanything is technically possible.Even the classic pitching matchup that everyone has already assumed is a mortal lock.Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area