The Giants and Dodgers didn't disappoint with another competitive series full of quirks and plenty of entertaining drama. All three games resulted in a tension-filled, one-run wins for San Francisco. A sweep didn't come easy, but nothing does when it comes to historic rivalries.
Friday night's game was a mind-boggler, which is no shock when it comes to a Giants-Dodgers game. Clayton Kershaw, dealing with the recent loss of his father, pitched admirably through seven innings against one of his favorite opponents. Kershaw's career mastery of San Francisco continued to the tune of no hitting the Giants until the sixth inning.
Barry Zito got several double play balls through five innings to allow only one earned run. The Giants looked like the more familiar version of recent past seasons leaning on their pitching and defense to keep them in games. Despite 11 hits to the Giants four, Los Angeles left thirteen runners on base. They had to have felt their lead should have been bigger than 1-0. But the bullpen picked up where Zito left off. Chaud Gaudin, George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo threw up scoreless outings.
Zito had the best looking at bat until Marco Scutaro broke up the no hit bid with a triple in the sixth. Buster Posey came through twice Friday. His double in the sixth tied the game and his walk off home run in the ninth sent everyone at AT&T home happy. Even more impressive was that Posey had yet to have a hit against Belisario before the home run. Despite the low-scoring, well-pitched affair, the time of game approached the area commonly associated with a Red Sox-Yankee rivalry game at over three hours long.
Saturday saw good fortune go in San Francisco's favor before the game started. Adrian Gonzalez was scratched with a neck injury sustained earlier in the week. Ted Lilly was scheduled to start but ended up on the disabled list with back issues. And Hanley Ramirez went back on the disabled list himself with an injured hamstring after Hunter Pence threw him out at third base on Friday.
The luck continued with an Angel Pagan leadoff pop fly that went for a double that got lost in the twilight. It opened the door for a three run first inning and eventually got to a 6-1 lead for Ryan Vogelsong. It looked like Los Angeles was in for a long night once Matt Magill was jumped on for five runs and didn't make it out of the second inning. His start was reminiscent of Nathan Eovaldi's spot start for Los Angeles last season in June, when the Giants jumped on him early and cruised 8-0. But this game took the opposite path. A back and forth slugfest ensued inside AT&T.
Everything changed once the fifth inning hit, and not for the better. Vogelsong looked solid through four innings, but fell apart in the fifth. He gave up RBI hits to Matt Kemp, Skip Schumaker, and Juan Uribe. Jean Machi came in and gave up additional hits to Dee Gordon and Nick Punto. Los Angeles somehow found themselves ahead 8-6. What's worse, Angel Pagan had to come out of the game with a hamstring strain.
To no one's surprise the Giants battled back with an Andres Torres home run and tied things up in the seventh off Ronald Belisario. Guillermo Quiroz added to the unpredictability of it all by being the walk off hero. The 31 year old well-traveled catcher became a pinch hit legend. Bochy admitted postgame to not expecting a home run from Quiroz. Indeed, there couldn't have been a more random player to win it for the Giants. It happened off his old battery mate in Toronto, Brandon League, complete with a bat flip once he knew it was gone.
The series finale got tight late. Hunter Pence was responsible for all four RBIs in the game, including a two run double in the fifth to make it 4-0 Giants. Francisco Peguero also filled in admirably over the weekend with the loss of Pagan Saturday. He was active in left field diving for fly balls all over the place. Peguero had a double, scored a run, and stole a base Saturday night. Matt Cain looked more like himself going into the eighth with only one run allowed. Though the runs were charged to George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt gave up an Adrian Gonzalez two run single and a Dee Gordon infield single. Jean Machi got the big out with two runners on to end the threat. Romo pitched a clean ninth inning, and the Giants improved to 11-4 at home.
The sweep also enabled the 19-12 squad to overtake Colorado for first place by one game in the N.L. West. The television and radio audience witnessed it all on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, which is never bad for national recognition reigning champions deserve.
The Philadelphia Phillies come to AT&T Park Monday to kick off a three game set in San Francisco. A lot of the promos and commercials for the series over the weekend had the Giants pinned against Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Halladay. In fact, Lee is the only arm of those three who will pitch in this series. Believe it or not, that might behoove Philadelphia. Like the Giants, manager Charlie Manuel and his staff were banking on contending with their high priced pitching staff that was put together with the additions of Roy Halladay in 2010 and Cliff Lee in 2011. The loss of Jayson Werth to free agency, injuries to sluggers Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, and the implosion of Brad Lidge prompted the acquisition of elite closer Jonathan Papelbon to seal up the void last offseason. Since 2010, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves have emerged as the stronger powers in the N.L. East after the Phillies run in the mid 2000s, which included a 2008 World Series.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz was suspended the first 25 games of the season for performance-enhancers and Michael Young was brought in from Texas to replace Placido Polanco. Young has rebounded nicely from the down season he had for himself in Texas. He leads the team in hitting with a .318 average. Chase Utley appears to be free of his chronic knee injuries that have robbed him the majority of the past two seasons. Utley leads the Phils with six home runs and 21 RBIs. Howard missed most of 2012 due to a blown-achilles injury suffered against the Cardinals in the 2011 NLCS. He is off to a decent start with five home runs and a .275 average. Of course, the real leader of the Phillies is veteran shortstop and Bay Area native Jimmy Rollins, even at 34-years-old. This team consists of a lot household names to baseball fans in their mid thirties with a small time frame to contend. There are All Stars, Hall of Famers, but they are all on the wrong side of 30. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. didn't build this roster in 2010 with thoughts of 2018, 2019, and 2020 per se.
The youth exhibited on this team is in the outfield with Dominic Brown, Ben Revere, and Delmon Young from left to right field. John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix spell these guys, but Young has recently made his 2013 debut after recovering from ankle surgery. Brown, a highly touted prospect a few years ago, has five home runs and a .250 average. Revere is known for his defense and can cover a lot of ground, but his bat is still be adjusting to the National League as he was a Minnesota Twin in prior years.
Bad news hit the Phillies right out of spring training concerning Roy Halladay and his throwing shoulder. Halladay's 2013 start is similar to the implosions he had as a young member of the Toronto Blue Jays, but this time it appears health related instead of something mechanical. "Doc" has been slowly regressing since his first season with the Phillies in 2010 and his 8.65 ERA through seven starts should have Philadelphia worried. The 35 year old Halladay and 35 year old Ryan Vogelsong seem like examples of what lots of innings in regular and postseason games can do to older pitchers the following season.
Cole Hamels got his six year $144 million deal last summer, but is off to a 1-4 start with a 4.34 ERA. Left-handed stud Cliff Lee has proved his worth as a free agent acquisition once he returned to Philadelphia, but he has been the victim of poor run support much like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in past seasons. Lee had a 2.16 ERA in 2011 and a 3.16 ERA in 2012, but the Phillies injury depleted offense left him with a 6-9 record last season.
Your guess for the best Phillies pitcher thus far then? How about Texan Kyle Kendrick to the tune of a 3-1 record a 2.43 ERA. Kendrick will go Tuesday against Lincecum. Twenty two-year-old right hander Jonathan Pettibone, a top Philly farmhand, has been called up to replace injured lefty John Lannan. The Giants will see him Wednesday afternoon. Pettibone has MLB pedigree since his father Jay pitched for the Minnesota Twins in 1983.
Philadelphia split their four game series at home against one of the worst teams in baseball, the Miami Marlins. It was ugly the last two games for the Phillies after two convincing wins over the Marlins. They were shut out Saturday night by 20 year old Jose Fernandez 2-0. Roy Halladay gave up nine earned runs to one of the weakest offenses in baseball as the Phillies lost 14-2 on Sunday. Philadelphia is treading water at 14-18, with an 8-10 home record.
In theory, the pitching matchup to watch in this series is Cliff Lee versus Madison Bumgarner Monday night. Bumgarner has been great with a 1.55 ERA. He hasn't earned a decision in his last three starts, but has allowed a meager three earned runs in that stretch. Since debuting in the National League in 2009, Lee has owned the Giants in all but one game. That one game happened to be the first game of the 2010 World Series, but Lee has doe his best to erase that hiccup in a what have you done for me lately industry. Last season, he threw a career high 10 innings as he dueled with Matt Cain at AT&T, but the Giants won 1-0 in 11 innings.
If you think the opening game might be pitching dominant, so does Las Vegas. The over-under for the total runs scored in this one is pegged at a whopping six. If both lefties are on their games as the total suggests, offense will be at a minimum. One more nugget regarding the Phillies is their inconsistent hitting. In their last two losses to the Marlins, the offense mustered five hits and two runs. They sit second to last in baseball when it comes to hitting left handers at a .207 clip. The way Bumgarner has been pitching, perhaps that over-under should be five or 5.5.
The Giants are on a six game win streak after dropping five games in a row. They also have the advantage of resting at home while the Phillies had to hop on a plane and fly across the country. Former Giant second baseman Kevin Frandsen will be back in town to see his old team. Hunter Pence will square off against the team that traded for him out of Houston.
Angel Pagan's hamstring lists him as day-to-day, and hopefully the status doesn't result in a disabled list stint. That could mean a little more Andres Torres and Francisco Peguero if he cannot go. San Francisco took four of six from Philadelphia last season. On paper, no Hamels and Halladay seemingly increase the odds of winning another series. But their struggles might warrant wanting to face them in a weird way instead of a hot pitcher like Kendrick. San Francisco's offense is potent and scrappy enough to score on any pitcher from elite hurlers to number four starters on a hot streak. If that fails, Philadelphia's bullpen can allow another Giants comeback.