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NLCS #3: Giants Stick It To Cards

nlcsg3Willie McCovey was in the building, and that made the Giants’ 5-4 victory in Game Three even sweeter as they took a 2-1 lead in the National League Championship Series at Candlestick Park. Oh, wait. It was actually AT&T Park, although McCovey might have wondered if he was driven to the wrong building as Candlestick-like winds blasted through the ballpark. The revered Giants legend had been fighting a serious leg infection for weeks in the hospital, and his return became not only a feel-good story, but as it turned out, also triggered memories of one of the craziest weather-related baseball moments in San Francisco Giants history. On July 15, 1960, in a game at Candlestick against the Dodgers, McCovey launched a towering drive to deep right field. Thick fog had been rolling in, and when Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider looked up, the ball had disappeared. Instead of a long out, McCovey ended up at third with a triple. The umpires deemed the fog at that point to be unplayable, resulting in a 24-minute-delay.

McCovey’s triple in the fog may have been topped in Game Three.

This time, it was a towering blast to deep right center by the Giants Travis Ishikawa with the bases loaded that created the chaos. The ball at first looked like it was headed for the seats in the arcade, until the violent crosswind blowing from right to left field took over. Cardinals right fielder Randal Grichuk appeared to be in a fog as the wind confounded his coordinates to put him about 25 feet out of position as the ball now appeared ready to strike near the top of the 24-foot-high brick wall. Yet, he still might have had a shot at a catch if he read that the ball was being carried back into play. Finally, the ball landed somewhat innocently at the base of the wall where many an outfielder had tracked down many a long blasts in this unforgiving area of the ballpark. If the Cardinals lose the series, the iconic moment might be pitcher John Lackey’s frustrating reaction aimed at Grichuk’s misplay. You can talk all night about 25 guys pulling for each other, but when a vet like Lackey shows up a younger player like Grichuk with that type of reaction on the big stage, that is a damaging shot at team chemistry. Lackey should be reminded that Ishikawa’s bolt not only would have been a grand slam in many parks, but would have landed in the stands or smacked high against the wall at AT&T if not for the mini-hurricane.

It was appropriate based on the quirky ways the Giants are scoring runs that even a bases-loaded triple that gave them a 4-0 lead would be tainted.

The pledge: I’m ready to take the Bochy pledge. “I, Joe Konte, will refrain from first or second guessing Giants manager Bruce Bochy as long as wears the black and orange.” Do you care to join me? In Game Three, Bochy makes one minor, minor, minor change in the order, moving Ishikawa to seventh and Brandon Crawford down to eighth. Now, everyone else was looking for a major, major, major move that would have dropped the non-producing Gregor Blanco from the leadoff spot and possibly putting Hunter Pence up there. So of course, Ishikawa delivers the hit of the game from the seventh spot, just as Bochy planned. In the 10th inning of a tied game, weak-hitting Juan Perez twice fails to bunt over Brandon Crawford, but many would argue to have him keep trying. So Bochy takes the bunt sign off and Perez singles to left. Of course. Then up comes Blanco in his leadoff spot, and he puts down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Except Cardinals pitcher Randy Choate, in his hurry to get Blanco at first, throws the ball away, and the Giants win. Just like Bochy planned. So after all that, how am I to going make a case that Bochy erred in leaving tiring starter Tim Hudson in too long so that Grichuk could tie it 4-4 with a shot off the left-field foul pole in the seventh? I can’t. I took the pledge.

Cash grab: Most of the talk about how many millions Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval will pull in when he signs his next contract with somebody focuses on his offense. But The Panda might have snared some extra dollars as well as the ball when he gloved Matt Holliday’s smash down the third-base line in the 10th with a runner on first and two outs. That shot almost certainly would have put the Cardinals in front, and could have affected how the Giants played their bottom half of the inning. Sandoval’s defense has been spectacular much of the second half of the year. Some might envision him signing with an American League team where he could DH, but he’s looking like an everyday third baseman who not only can win a game with his bat, but can save some with the glove.

Memories: Former Giants Jeffrey Leonard, Dave Dravecky and Kevin Mitchell, stars of the 1987 squad, shared the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game Three. While it was great to see them out there to hear the grateful applause, I’m not sure if Giants fans needed a reminder of that 1987 league championship series against the Cardinals. The Giants led the best-of-seven matchup 3-2, but were shut out in games six and seven. The Giants, in fact, finished the series by going scoreless in the last 23 innings. It was, however, an incredibly close series, as both clubs finished with 23 runs and Cards had just two more hits at 56 to 54.

World Series: Here is a sneak preview of the storylines, assuming the Kansas City Royals advance. If the Giants win, it will be the matchup of the wild-card survivors. If the Cardinals win, the question will be how will they possibly stop the Royals running game with catcher Yadier Molina sidelined or limited because of his injury?

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