This Game 2 bore way too many similarities to Game 2 against Atlanta. The Giants just weren’t the same scrappy, resourceful team with the lights-out bullpen and dependable fielding tonight. Every other game they’ve played this postseason, they’ve been the team they need to be, perhaps because they knew they had to. The Giants weren’t fully engaged on this evening, and it cost them.
Teams do this all the time after jumping out to a 1-0 lead in a seven game series on the road. They might not consciously know they’ve exhaled a little, but the “at least we’ve got a sweep” mindset is tough to shake, especially for a team that wasn’t expected to be here in the first place. And the Phillies played like a team on the ropes, with a pitcher named Roy who needed to pick up the other Roy.
Since Cody Ross was the only guy who really did what he was supposed to tonight (even Buster Posey seemed kind of out of it), Bruce Bochy’s mostly flawless playbook is going to get examined a bit. Especially with an off day tomorrow, which lends itself to introspection and irrational complaints.
I didn’t think Mike Fontenot should have played tonight, but that was before I heard Juan Uribe was hurt (uh oh). But before this game, who would have considered Sandoval to be the dependable fielder when comparing the two? Total hindsight there.
And after the season he’s had, you couldn’t bench Andres Torres today. Tuesday … that’s another story. Four strikeouts. Tentative plays both on a sinking line drive off Oswalt’s bat and when Oswalt stutter-stepped his way home for the Phillies’ third run. He wouldn’t dare admit it, but there’s a pretty decent chance that not only did Torres come back from his appendectomy too early, but that he still might not be healed.
But this wasn’t the Giants’ night. Bochy made the right move in putting his hottest pitcher, Santiago Casilla, against Jimmy Rollins. Even though Rollins is a former MVP and the bases were loaded by an intentional walk to face him, Rollins has been terrible against right-handed pitching this year and hasn’t looked like himself all season. Then he laced a strong double off the right field wall, and the crowd chanted “J-Roll” all through the night.
Bummer for Jonathan Sanchez, who deserved better than a non-existent offensive effort and extremely questionable home plate umpiring (on both sides, but still). If the Giants only score 1 run on a solo homer, they can’t expect to win. Not in Philadelphia. Not against a Phillies team that knew they absolutely had to win and played like it.
Did the wrong SF team win?
The 49ers and Raiders played the worst combined half of football that I have ever seen. And I’ve covered over 30 high school football games throughout the Bay Area.
Penalties and punts. Punts and penalties. Penalties during punts. FG attempts aborted due to only 9 Niners on the field, leading to another –Â you guessed it — punt.
But the Raiders’ quarterback was injured in the first half and isn’t any good anyway, and the 49ers’ defense in the second half played the best they have all season, and the 49ers got that first win they had been so desperately seeking. But is that such a good thing if you don’t pull a paycheck from the 49ers?
Forget tanking to get the No. 1 pick, at least for now. Sports Illustrated had a story this week about how with the current salary structure, teams like the Lions and Rams can’t get out of the high first round pick cycle, and it’s created financially lopsided, losing teams. And with the 49ers’ luck since the York regime took over, if they got the No. 1 overall pick they’d probably screw that up, too. If they picked Andrew Luck, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett would become All Pro quarterbacks. If they picked Locker, Luck would be Rookie of the Year.
Staying in the present, you can’t blame the 49ers for trying their hardest to get their first win, but it wasn’t exactly inspirational. Alex Smith didn’t have any of his crappy passes get picked off, and threw a few good ones in the second half. And … he gets to keep his job for another week or 10, even though he only completed 16-of-33 passes against the Raiders. That, and some great conversations on the sideline with Mike Singletary, should help Alex sleep soundly tonight.
All because he beat the Raiders, who I think are still balled up in the fetal position in some huge mud puddle in the Candlestick Park parking lot, after going into hibernation with 4 minutes left in the second quarter.
There’s some talent on the 49ers. Taylor Mays will be a starter for years. Navarro Bowman shows flashes from time to time. Manny Lawson made an amazing interception, although you get the feeling this will be his last season in San Francisco. Michael Crabtree, when he isn’t tipping passes up in the air, has it in him to take advantage of poor safety play when Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t blanketing him. Anthony Dixon is an absolute beast, and Brian Westbrook still looks like he has some plays left in him. Ted Ginn Jr. is the best returner they’ve had since … John Taylor? OK, Allen Rossum.
Besides Alex Smith, it’s the coaching staff that’s dragging this team down. Amazingly sloppy play (11 penalties for 143 yards) is one thing, but they don’t take advantage of the talent they have. Most teams stock up on wide receivers, and keep one back in on occasion. The 49ers are RB and TE-heavy, but instead of throwing some innovative offensive personnel groups out there (maybe Gore and Westbrook in the slot and split out wide, with Dixon in the backfield?), but instead it’s just a bunch of Gore and Moran Norris. That’s not going to work against non-Raider defenses. Except maybe the Panthers.
If the Raiders had Bruce Gradkowski, “Operation Singletanky, 2-14 Edition,” would probably still be full-speed ahead. Of course, now that the rest of the NFC West doesn’t look as bad as everyone thought, a record like is improbable … but not impossible. But human nature being what it is, the 49ers will probably fight their way to 5-11 or 6-10. They can’t help themselves.