Urban: NLDS Live Playoff Blog, Game 4


Urban: NLDS Live Playoff Blog, Game 4

Oct. 11, 2010

Mychael Urban
UPDATED: 7:16 p.m.

ATLANTA -- Loved, loved, loved the decision to send Santiago Casilla back out for the eighth inning.Casilla, who has steadily climbed the ladder of responsibility in theGiants bullpen all year, got off to a shaky start in the seventhinning when he fell behind 3-1 to the first batter he faced. Fivestrikes later, including three foul balls, the at-bat was over, and thenext two Braves taped harmlessly back to the righty.it had to be tempting to turn to a matchup game for the eighth, but theGiants made the right call in sticking with Casilla, who is well-restedand bursting with confidence.He struck out Derrek Lee to open the bottom of the eighth, and after asingle by Brian McCann, who is hitting .429 in the series (it seemslike hes batting .942), Casilla got Alex Gonzalez on a little looperto shortstop Edgar Renteria.With lefty Jason Heyward up next, that was it for Casilla, who just climbed another rung -- passing Sergio Romo along the way.
UPDATED: 6:53 p.m.

Why wasnt Nate Schierholtz running for Pat Burrell there in the seventh? Probably because Bruce Bochy wanted Burrell in the game for his bat incase Cody Ross didnt come through and the score had remained tied.Ross did come through, of course, and Burrell was gunned down at theplate while trying to score from second behind Buster Posey on Rossclutch single to left.Its a 20-20 hindsight thing, I guess, but do you really want Burrellout there in left field late in a tie game? Tough call, to be sure. Im not sure what Id have done in that situation. All I know is thatRay Rattos multi-colored scorecard is starting to look like somethingmy 6-year-old would draw on acid, and Aaron Rowand owes Ross a fatsteak.

UPDATED: 6:33 p.m.

Bobby Cox is no dummy. With the Giants threatening -- two on, one out in the seventh -- theBraves esteemed skipper slowly walked from the dugout to the mound fora chat with his starter, Derek Lowe. Most times the manager makes that walk, its to make a change, and thecrowd was not pleased. Cox was booed every step of the way.Crazy old coot, the crowd seemed to be thinking.Crazy like a fox, maybe. He talked to Lowe, turned around and went back to the dugout. The crowd went wild.Cox knew it would, too. Thats what he was doing. Trying to get them back into full froth.Mission accomplished -- momentarily.Lowe buzzkilled it, though, by walking Pat Burrell to load the bases,so Cox had to come right back out. And this time he had no choice butthe give Lowe the hook.UPDATED: 6:20 p.m.

Not exactly the shutdown inning for which Madison Bumgarner was looking.As quickly as Cody Ross tied things up with his homer in the top of thesixth, Brian McCann untied them by lining Bumgarners first pitch inthe bottom of the sixth over the wall in right.The kid bounced right back, though, by striking out Alex Gonzalez and,after a one-out single by Jason Heyward, coolly escaping the inningwithout further incident. Its going to be interesting to see how long Bruce Bochy and DaveRighetti let their prize rookie roll. His pitch count is at 85, thesame as Derek Lowes after six innings, and if the Giants were leadingright now that might be it for the kid.The Giants bullpen, remember, is mostly fresh, and Tuesday is a dayoff even if this bad boy goes to a fifth game. Chances are, Bumgarnergets one more inning -- with a very short leash.UPDATED: 6:12 p.m.
Well, that was quite the bolt out of the blue. Bunt, schmunt. Jerk one out.Cody Ross did just that with one out in the sixth inning, sending ascud into the shallows of the left-field bleachers. And just like thatDerek Lowes no-hitter, shutout and lead are gone. Troy Glaus, by the way, is now playing so far in on the infield grassthat he can tell what kind of nose-hair trimmer Andres Torres uses.UPDATED: 5:59 p.m.

Anyone wondering why the Giants havent yet tested Troy Glaus at third base?Its not like their offense is this close to breaking out. Time to make something happen. Edgar Renteria successfully bunted on Glaus in Game 2. And yeah, Glausis surely expecting more of that. Hes inching in, constantly.Fine. Test him anyway. Hes rusty, hes big, hes not fast and hes not been asked to throw on the run in a long, long time.Mike Fontenot. Cody Ross. Andres Torres. Freddy Sanchez. Somebody. Anybody.If this game passes without Glaus having to try to make some kind ofathletic play, the Giants dont deserve to win it -- on the grounds ofignoring the obvious.UPDATED: 5:34 p.m.

OK, Derek Lowe is officially badass. Three innings, zero hits, zero walks, four strikeouts. His sinker isdiving nearly straight down like a splitter, and early in the counthes starting it just off the outside corner to right-handed hitters,running it back over the black.Later in the count, hes throwing it right down the middle, starting itat the knees. Swing at it and its in the dirt, slipping under yourbat. The result is a lot of 180s by the Giants, and when they hit theball at all, theyre grazing it at best.Single-handedly, Lowe has kept the huge and desperate Atlanta crowdinto the game. They cranked up the Tomahawk Chop between while MadisonBumgarner was warming up for the bottom of the third, and a pair ofsingles and a pair of fly balls rewarded their enthusiasm with a 1-0lead.As quiet as Lowe had kept the Giants bats thus far, thats how loud alot of the balls coming off Braves bats have been. Bumgarner doesnthave his best stuff -- at least not yet -- and its starting to feellike Atlanta is close to a big-time breakthrough if something doesntchange in a hurry.As I banged out that last line, another line drive put runners at firstand second with two out, setting up a BumgarnerJason Heywardconfrontation that had this place buzzing like the gigantic flying bugsyou see here giving people rides to their car after the game.Heyward popped up, but trouble still seems to be a-brewin for MadBum.UPDATED: 5:12 p.m.
Giants third baseman Mike Fontenot just made a bad decision and abad throw in the bottom of the second inning, a physical errorcompounding the mental.With Jason Heyward at first base and two out, Troy Glaus hit a fairlyslow roller to Fontenot, whose momentum was taking him in the directionof first base. But rather than ride the wave and throw across the diamond for whatwould have been an easy inning-ending out Glaus is to fast what friedTwinkies are to heart-healthy Fontenot threw across his body andnearly air-mailed it into right field.Rookie Madison Bumgarner promptly walked the bases loaded, but dontthink for a second that he was unnerved by Fontenots brain cramp.Who would you rather face Rock Ankiel or Derek Lowe? Exactly. Lowe popped out, no harm done.UPDATED: 4:53 p.m.

Derek Lowe seems to be just fine, short rest and all. Two groundersto short and a lazy fly ball to shallow left in the top of the first,and thats about what you should expect as long as hes in the game.Sinkerballers typically hold up better on short rest than, say, a powerpitcher. Being a tad tired, in fact, isnt a bad thing for asinkerballer at all. In fact, Tim Hudson -- another guy with big-timesink often throws about 20 more pitches in the bullpen than otherstarters. He doesnt want to be too strong because that can lead tothrowing too hard, a k a through the sink.Lowe didnt need to throw extra in the bullpen before tonights gamebecause hes already a little tired. Or so youd think. Right now, helooks pretty damn good.As for Madison Bumgarner, he better start getting the ball down. Allthree outs he got in the bottom of the first inning were on fly ballsto center field, and the ball was flying pretty well during BP today.
UPDATED: 4:33 P.M.
Before the first pitch is thrown, a glimpse into the glamorous life of an MLB Insider There were more than 53,000 people at Turner Field on Sunday night. Twoof them almost didnt make it out: CSN Bay Area anchor Scott Reiss andme. When I was done writing for the night, which at this point had morphedinto morning, I went down to the field to see if anyone on our coverageteam here in Atlanta was also done with their duties for the night.Were all staying in the same hotel, so I figured Id check if someonewanted to share a cab back in the wee hours.Scott was the only one finished, so off we went.And went. And went. And went.Ill take much of the blame for what happened, because Ive been herebefore. Granted, it was five years ago, but still. I should know how toget out of the place.Alas, I had forgotten, and you have no idea how difficult it is to getout of a big-league stadium a few hours after the paying customers haveleft. Theres typically one door through which anyone with postgamework to do can exit, and for some reason its often unmarked, randomlyplaced, and harder to find than a supermodel at Sizzler.On the bright side, Scott and I did get to see all there is to see onthe concourses here. Despite both having a comically low level ofconfidence in the advice we received upon asking some troll in anoversized Tonka truck loaded with empty beer kegs, we indeed went insearch of the magic elevator our friend had told us was our salvation. Never found it. But 30 minutes later, we found our way outside. Throughan unmarked door under a staircase. It was like starring in Being JohnMalkovich.Alls well that ends well, though. A cabbie stationed at a bar acrossthe street from the stadium actually saw us looking clueless inside andknew exactly what was going on, so he followed our follies and wasthere waiting for us when we got out.And guess where that exit was? About 20 feet from where we started our journey. Nice.UPDATED: 3:34 P.M.
There is bad and there is Brooks Conrad Bad.

Plain ol bad gets you booed; call it Barry Zito Bad.

Brook Conrad Bad is worse, but because many, many people are kind-hearted deep down, Brooks Conrad Bad gets you something of a pass.

Booing or vilifying poor Conrad at this point would be not just to pick low-hanging fruit, but to pick it and throw it against a wall draped with barbed wire until it looks less like fruit and more like something one of the werewolves in True Blood would pull from the sternum of an unsuspecting mortal whod made a wrong turn in the woods.

So Brooks took the field for batting practice here Monday without the accompaniment of heckling or boos or signage suggesting he do unnatural things to himself.

He did, however, take the field as a non-starter for the first time in the National League Division Series between the Braves and the Giants. As it should be. The man has to be the mental equivalent of a squid in a blender on low, grinding in a gross, unsightly slog. So its Troy Glaus at third, All-Star utilityman Omar Infante at second.

Ideal for Atlanta? No. This will be Glaus first start of the year at the hot corner, mostly because hes about as agile as a Fathead sticker, and hes already air-mailed two throws during BP; one nearly decapitated a cameraman.

So perhaps the fielding fun shifts to the left side of the infield tonight. Whatever the case, Derek Lowe might be wise to pound the outside part of the plate against right-handed hitters.

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.


Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.