Aaron Rowand

Playoff baseball makes you think too much

It’s a lot easier to look at a team and predict whether they’ll win 92 games in a season than if they’ll win the one game they’re playing tomorrow. With the Giants, it wasn’t even that easy to predict the 92 games over a full season part. Nearly impossible, actually.

So we’re left with two teams. Two very good starting pitchers. One distinct advantage for the Phillies (the fact that the Giants’ offense has been terrible), and home field advantage swinging back to San Francisco. And as much as we go over things like career numbers against Matt Cain and Pablo Sandoval hitting right handed at home instead of on the road, Game 3 will probably come down to something weird like a ground ball going through an infielder’s legs or a pop fly landing in between four infielders. Because it’s baseball, and that’s what just what happens.

But we’ll look for any difference we can notice, which is yet another reason why playoff baseball is so great. So, we’ll wait for the lineups. The Phillies lineup we can all recite in our sleep, but all morning we’ll be wondering if there will be a surprise appearance by Juan Uribe. Or if Andres Torres will get moved down in the order, or removed from the lineup entirely. If Aaron Rowand replaces Torres, would Bochy possibly hit him leadoff … again? Even if the weather ends up being the sunny 70 degrees that they’re predicting, will the park play big or small?

The Giants played tight on Sunday night, like a team that respected the Phillies too much. They played tentatively, and besides Cody Ross handled at-bats against Roy Oswalt with all the grace and confidence of a desperate animal stuck in quicksand.

In the end, home field might not be as important in terms of noise, or rally rags (although to come back and experience that again, for the first time in 11 days, will be a welcome sensation). It’s the opportunity to throw the first punch and have a fighter’s chance at connecting.

Torres has clearly put too much pressure on himself to get on base to lead off the game over four straight road games, and when he hasn’t, he’s looked worse as the games have gone on. Then the Giants’ starter has a long bottom of the first to get out of, and the game’s already stressful and it’s barely started. If Cain can come out tomorrow and finish off the Phillies quickly in the first, it won’t mean certain victory, but it certainly won’t hurt the Giants’ chances, either.

Game 3 Lineup

Here’s the lineup I wish I could see tomorrow.

Lineup 1

1. Ross CF

2. Sanchez 2B

3. Huff 1B

4. Posey C

5. Burrell LF

6. Uribe 3B

7. Renteria SS

8. Schierholtz RF

Yeah, “Lineup 1” has -37% chance of happening, for several reasons. Here’s the probable lineup you’d get if you polled a group consisting of the beat writers and the top 100 Giants fans who care way too much about day-to-day lineups. (What do you mean, “look in the mirror”?)

Lineup 2:

1. Ross RF

2. Sanchez 2B

3. Huff 1B

4. Posey C

5. Burrell LF

6. Sandoval 3B

7. Rowand CF

8. Renteria SS

And there’s always the “let’s not change ruin the chances of Torres helping later” lineup:

Lineup 3:

1. Ross RF

2. Sanchez 2B

3. Huff 1B

4. Posey C

5. Burrell LF

6. Torres CF

7. Sandoval 3B

8. Renteria SS

And, for fun, here’s the lineup that would cause several well-known Giants blogs to explode.

Lineup 4:

1. Rowand CF

2. Velez 2B

3. Sandoval 3B

4. B-Weezy LF

5. Ishikawa 1B

6. Schierholtz RF

7. Fontenot SS

8. Whiteside C

Oh, screw it. You know what this entire game rests on: whoever pitches better. Cole “Young Zeets” Hamels is coming off a CG shutout, Cain is coming off an almost forgotten but still very good performance against the Braves about two months ago (or so it seems). Like I said earlier, two very good starting pitchers are throwing on Tuesday afternoon.

Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins have absolutely mashed against Matt Cain throughout their careers, and while Ryan Howard’s only 2-for-10 lifetime against Cain, both hits are home runs. Then again, the Giants scored 9 ER against Hamels in 14 innings. Then again, you could bring up how Cain gave up 5 runs in 6 innings in his only game against the Phillies this season (only 2 of the earned, due to an error by … Mike Fontenot).

None of it matters. If it’s meant to be for the Giants, their starters will pitch better the rest of the way than Jonathan Sanchez pitched on Sunday. That’s how precise they need to be. It’s all up to Cain now, although as I write this at midnight Bruce Bochy is probably considering the relative merits of Lineup No. 4. Managers can think too much too, you know.

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