Ratto: Redemption for Sanchez, Win for Giants

Ratto: Redemption for Sanchez, Win for Giants
October 28, 2010, 5:09 am
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Once upon a time -- well, OK, three games ago, the top of the Giants batting order was essentially useless. Through Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, they were hitting a sprightly .153 with four runs scored, and somehow the Giants were winning despite their complete absence.

But in the last three games, they are hitting .611 with five runs scored, and whatever Freddy Sanchez remembers from winning the NL batting title two years ago has come back in a flood of muscle memories.

Wednesday, they had to come back that way for the Giants to survive their World Series Game 1 piefight victory over the Texas Rangers.

Sanchez doubled three times, drove in three runs (more than the Giants average per game in the postseason) and helped shred Ranger starter Cliff Lee in a game the Giants almost tried to return.

And in doing so, he rehabilitated his image in Snap Judgment World, a.k.a. the ballpark.

Hes a great player, manager Bruce Bochy said. I mean, the guy did win the batting title one year. He can hit, and he can hit good pitching, and he showed that tonight. I know hes having fun with this.

At the beginning of the post-season, I was feeling real anxious and not relaxed at the plate, Sanchez said of his grisly start. But as the postseason went on, I started to get more comfortable and started to find my swing a little bit.

He not only found it, but kept it throughout Game 1. His three doubles covered the entire ballpark land mass (going off the end of the bat down the right field line, then two solid shots down the left field line and the left-center gap), setting a record for consecutive doubles to start a postseason series, and though he didnt help wear down Lee by working counts, he forced him into the stretch and made him worry about men in scoring position, which hadnt been a concern up until Wednesday night.

I didnt know (that he was one of the best hitters in the game against left-handed pitchers this year), he said. When I dont feel good, I feel like anybody can get me out, and when I am, I feel like I can hit anybody. I dont really look at it as me hitting good against lefties.

As far as the psychological stuff goes, I dont look too far into that at all.

No, after a few pitches and a quick round of San Francisco, it was all ball at the park. Weird ball, strange ball, ball we dont often see in these parts, but ball nonetheless.

And Sanchez says he still isnt 100 percent. Im still not where I need to be strength-wise and physically, but Im good enough.

In fairness, the Giants were also greatly benefitted by Texas disastrous defense.

Four errors, two by the hopelessly overmatched right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, helped drive the engine in Game 1, and now the Giants have been the beneficiaries of 14 errors in 11 games, which have produced or helped produce 11 of their 41 runs and were directly material to their wins in Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS against Atlanta, and hang around in Game 6 of the NLCS against Philadelphia.

Jitters didnt have anything to do with it, Texas manager Ron Washington said of the four kicks his team offered in Game 1. They put 11 runs on the board. They beat us. Well get it back tomorrow.

Thats probably not the talk he gave the team, though, if he did talk to them at all. Many managers ignore mistakes when they are freshly committed and drive home the salient points the next day.

He wouldnt even say that the Guerrero experiment is over, declining to reconsider the decision to put him in right to mangle the two balls hit his way by Sanchez and Edgar Renteria.

But lets just say it is a self-evident truth that he will have a different plan for Thursday, in much the same way that studies show the parents eat as much as half of a childs Halloween candy. Of course they do. Someone has to eat those nasty Butterfingers.

Yeah, studies. And you dont mess with science.

But we digress.

The Giants blew up the notion that series can be explained by turning the big pitching matchup into Tee-Ball With Tony Bennett. That isnt likely to occur again, but this wasnt supposed to happen, either.

In other words, figure this series at your peril.

The Giants were neither clean nor elegant Wednesday night. Nor were the Rangers. But amid the head-scratching, the confounding and the one predictable truth -- Javier Alfonso Lopez, Destroyer Of Worlds -- there is at least the knowledge that the Giants have a leg up, and the Rangers best pitcher in their rear-view mirror for four more days.

They wont get 11 runs again, you can bet that with confidence. But at least they know they can get more than three, and that theyll probably have to. Its no more complicated than that.

In fact, its easy. Easy as taking candy from your kids come Sunday night.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.