Urban: NLCS Playoff Blog, Game 6


Urban: NLCS Playoff Blog, Game 6

Oct. 23, 2010


UPDATED: 7:25 P.M.
Mychael Urban

PHILADELPHIA-- And now its crystal clear: The Giants and Phillies cant stand each other, and the National League Championship Series is better for it.

The first three games played out without much emotional incident, but everything changed with Juan Uribes game-winning sacrifice fly in Game 4.

The Phillies were not phond of Uribes little bat flip, and a few players told me they werent all that big on Aubrey Huffs triumphant pose upon scoring the winning run.

Then came the Game 5 stare-downs between Pat Burrell and Roy Halladay, who glared at each other from across the diamond like gunslingers at 50 paces.

Game 6, of course, brought the previously blogged-about Jonathan SanchezChase Utley dustup, and just moments ago we saw Roy Oswalt cast a highly disapproving glance at Edgar Renteria, who tried to sell a fairly obvious foul ball as a hit-by-pitch.

Playoff baseball with an edge. Rare but welcome.

UPDATED: 6:22 P.M.
The Jonathan Sanchez who used to aggravate Giants fans to no end showed up tonight, and it wasnt pretty. In the biggest game of his life, he could neither control his pitches or his emotions.After giving up a pair of runs in the first inning, in large part the result of a one-out walk and a wild pitch, Sanchez cruised through the second inning but came apart at the seams in the third.It was a shutdown inning for the Giants, who had tied the game in the top of the frame, but all Sanchez did was shut down his own night when the better route would have been to shut up.First, he issued a leadoff walk during which he appeared in desperate need of a GPS to find the strike zone. Then he drilled Chase Utley in the upper back, and when the ball bounced high in the air and back up next to Utley as he made his way to first base, Phillys All-Star second baseman casually flipped the ball in Sanchezs direction. Was it necessary? Not really. But it wasnt malicious or totally out of line. If anything, it was something along the lines of, Is this yours? You seem to have lost it.But Sanchez couldnt let it go. Just had to say something. So when Utley reached first base, Sanchez told him what he thought of the toss. Apparently he thought it was bull droppings, but with a different word instead of droppings.Surprised that hed been called out, Utley said, Whats bulldroppings?And thats all it took. Sanchez took a few steps toward first, and suddenly both benches were empty. No punches were thrown, of course. Rare is the bench-clearing in baseball that results in anything more than a push here, a shove there, perhaps a recipe or two exchanged on the sly.But Sanchez kept everyone on the field by continuing to make a scene of himself, and that was all Giants manager Bruce Bochy had to see. He pulled his starter right then and there. So heres the recap. Sanchez lost his command, lost his composure and lost his shot at leading his team into history. Embarrassing.UPDATED: 2:30 P.M.The lineups for Game 6 of the NLCS have been posted, and theres atleast one spot in each thats second-guessable before the game evenstarts.For the Phillies, its moving Jimmy Rollins back to the top of the order, up from sixth.Makes sense from here. Rollins has been swinging the bat quite a bitbetter over the past few days, and he had a huge game here in Game 2.Hes also a potential beast on the bases, and Jonathan Sanchez isntexactly a savant when it comes to controlling the running game.As for the Giants, manager Bruce Bochy has decided to go with EdgarRenteria and Juan Uribe on the left side of the infield instead ofgiving Pablo Sandoval another start at third base.A few different forces at work here. The RenteriaUribe combo is betterdefensively, Renteria has better career numbers against Philliesstarter Roy Oswalt than does Sandoval, and Bochy, as we all know, loveshim some veterans. And Sandovals home-road splits are jarring in favor of home.That said, Sandoval swings much better from the left side than theright, and facing Oswalt would have him in the left box. Theres alsothe charge factor, as in Sandoval seems to put a charge into the restof the Giants when he has a big day.Uribe in the lineup is a no-brainer. Renteria? Far from it.

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

49ers: Solomon Thomas capable of playing anywhere on D-line

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected defensive linemen with their top picks in the final two drafts under general manager Trent Baalke.

The 49ers fired Baalke at the conclusion of the team’s 2-14 season, and new general manager John Lynch stepped into a tear-down project.

That complete rebuild began Thursday evening with Lynch’s selection of another defensive lineman. The 49ers traded back one spot and selected Solomon Thomas of Stanford with the No. 3 overall pick.

“We see a special football player, disruptive football player, who has tremendous versatility,” Lynch said. “I think he fits in with the current group that we have because he’s a little different than the guys we have. And when I think of Solomon, I think of speed and quickness and disruption.”

The 49ers expect to play more of an aggressive, attacking style of defense under first-year coordinator Robert Saleh. Perhaps, the team’s biggest need is at the “Leo” position, the weak side end that is considered more of a pass-rusher.

Thomas appears better-suited at the other end or at a defensive tackle position, but the 49ers are keeping an open mind about using him at nearly every spot along the defensive line in the team’s new 4-3 scheme.

“There are four defensive linemen and what’s intriguing about Solomon is he has the ability to play all four of them,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s what makes him so unique. That’s why I think John says he’s a little bit different than some of the guys we have, because you can move him around. He has the quickness and speed to play on the outside. He has enough sides to play on the inside, so you don’t want to put him in one spot.

“We don’t think he has to be one specific role. Obviously, he is a defensive lineman, but there’s four spots he can play at and I think that’s going to depend on down and distance, whether we’re expecting run, whether we’re expecting pass and the type of personnel we’re going against.”

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

ANAHEIM — The A’s collection of individual highlights during their visit to Angel Stadium shouldn’t have equated to a three-game sweep for their opponent.

Jesse Hahn fired eight one-hit innings Tuesday, the same night Josh Phegley delivered a pinch-hit homer in the 10th before the A’s lost in 11 innings. On Thursday, Kendall Graveman turned in perhaps the defensive play of the 2017 season by a pitcher, recording an unassisted double play that was the first by an A’s pitcher in 46 years.

All great moments to relive in the clubhouse afterward, but surely they ring a bit hollow given the final outcomes. The A’s were swept by an Angels team that, like Oakland, has been hit hard by the injury bug. Los Angeles is without key relievers Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Cam Bedrosian and Mike Morin, not to mention starter Garrett Richards among others.

Yet the Angels pitching staff twice held the A’s to one run over the three-game series, including Thursday’s 2-1 defeat, when the A’s mustered just three hits.

“We’re a little streaky right now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “… Give them credit, they pitched really well, and they really are down a lot of guys in the bullpen. We would expect to do a little more damage.”

They couldn’t Thursday, and that it made it tough to savor Graveman’s incredible play the way they should have.

With runners on the corners and no outs, he fielded Juan Graterol’s comebacker and caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. Graveman ran him down and after applying the tag, hurdled Revere and made the tag on Cliff Pennington, who was trying to advance from first to third in the chaos.

“That’s probably the best play I’ve ever seen a pitcher make, hurdling over an (opponent) to get the second out unassisted,” Melvin said. “I didn’t even know how to put that one down on my card.”

Graveman, one of the A’s better overall athletes, was asked if he’d ever recorded an unassisted double play before.

“Never. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “(Ryan) Madson said he’s never seen one and he’s watched over 2,000 games.”

Incredibly, the last A’s pitcher to pull off an unassisted double play previously was in attendance Thursday night. John “Blue Moon” Odom did it back on July 11, 1971, also against the Angels. Odom attends most of the A’s games in Anaheim, and he’s struck up a friendship with Graveman over the years.

“Every time we come here and even in spring training, I try to catch up with Blue Moon Odom and see how he’s doing,” Graveman said. “He and Wash (former A’s infield coach Ron Washington) are friends so we always cut up about Wash. He’s a great guy. He sits in the front row. He came in and saw me right before stretch and told me ‘I’m gonna be front row watching you.’ That is pretty neat that that happened.”

A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso said he’s never surprised to see Graveman make a great defensive play.

“The guy’s a pitcher, but it feels like he’s a shortstop playing the position.”

Graveman was visited by trainers after the fifth-inning play, but Melvin said it was mainly to give the pitcher a breather and let him get his adrenaline under control. Neither Graveman nor his manager revealed anything specific that bothered Graveman. Seeing him stay in the game and complete six innings of two-run ball had to be encouraging for Melvin.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘What’d you fall on?’” Melvin said. “He said, ‘My butt.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re all right then.’ But you’re not gonna see that play again probably.”

The A’s are giving their manager and fans some accomplishments to marvel over. As they move on to Houston trying to halt a four-game losing streak, they just need to figure things out on the scoreboard.