ST. LOUIS On a team with pandas and giraffes and even awater buffalo, Hunter Pence chose a less popular place in the menagerie.
Im the goat today, said Pence, who went 0 for 4 andfailed to advance or score any of the five runners on base during the Giants3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS Wednesday night.
Pence has been the Giants motivational speaker, but the Rin RBI doesnt stand for rhetoric. The Giants No. 5 hitter hasnt driven in arun in eight postseason games. And thats especially troubling when Pence isthe hitter who is supposed to ensure that NL batting champion Buster Posey getspitches to hit.
RATTO: Protection for Posey key to Giants' chances
Posey was 1 for 2 with two walks one intentional.Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse said he wasnt going to let the presumptiveNL MVP be the player that beat him.
Pence is supposed to make Lohse regret that tact. He didnot.
I didnt get the job done, said Pence, who grounded into adouble play after Posey was intentionally walked in the third and struck out afterPablo Sandoval and Posey hit one-out singles in the seventh.
Ill learn from what happened, and come back tomorrow andbe hungry. Jim Thome said something I liked: when he has a bad game, he goeshome and it makes him better. Im going to get ready for (Game 4 starter Adam)Wainwright. Weve got a lot of series left.
Pence only hit .219 in 59 games as a Giant after coming overfrom the Phillies at the trade deadline, but he drove in 43 runs. Pence battedfourth or fifth in all but one of his starts since the trade.
But Bochy did not rule out dropping him in the order forGame 4.
We might talk about it, Bochy said. Again, these guys area big reason why were here. But Ill talk about the lineup (later Wednesdaynight).
Bochy doesnt have many other alternatives to protect Posey, even if he really starts sliding the pieces. (Gregor Blanco third, Pablo Sandoval fifth, and Pence oreven Xavier Nady seventh?) There is a difference, too, between a tinker and anoverhaul -- both in the deed itself and its effect on the clubhouse.
The cleaner fix might be to flip-flop Posey and Sandoval in the 3-4 spots.
But if Pence does find himself hitting lower in the order,he said hed have no issue with it.
Ill try to have a good approach and try to take what theygive me, Pence said. Just dont swing at balls. Swing at strikes and hit ithard.
In every respect, Pence has done the opposite while hitting.161 (5 for 31) in the postseason with no extra-base hits. He keeps tapping outon long-armed lunges at outside sliders.
Yet Pence said he does not lack for confidence at the plate,no matter what it looks like.
I always feel good with the bat in my hand, he said. Icome to hit. I feel pretty calm. I love to hit and tonight, it just didnthappen.
If youve ever watched me hit, Im always moving, he said.Movement is rhythm.
So youre doing what youve always done?
I mean, I dont always get out every time he said, tolaughs that broke the clubhouse silence.
Pence only smiled for an instant. He did not laugh. He issupposed to be Poseys shield, and there is nothing funny about tin armor. Orbeing the goat.
Im in the 5-hole. Im supposed to be driving in runs, hesaid. Thats about execution, and when you dont get that run in, it hurts.
But every time I go up there, I feel like Im on fire and Imgoing to catch something.
Pence brings tongues of fire in the dugout before the first pitch. His sermons have become a ritual ever since Game 3 in Cincinnati. But perhaps someone will slip a pocket mirror into the scrum for the next gathering. It couldn't hurt for Pence to look into his own eyes.