San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has shuffled his starting rotation for the NL championship series against the Philadelphia Phillies, pushing Jonathan Sanchez(notes) up for Game 2 on Sunday night.
One of the reasons Bochy decided for the change is because Sanchez was stellar in his two regular-season starts against the Phillies this year. The manager is hoping he can continue this dominance and help the Giants take a 2-0 lead back to San Francisco.
“It’s tons of confidence, but I think it’s more about winning Game 1 for us, setting the pace,” Lincecum said.
Halladay, who tossed a no-hitter against Cincinnati last week in his postseason debut, retired the first seven Giants hitters before Cody Ross(notes) homered with one out in the third inning. Ross hit another solo homer in the fifth, and San Francisco scored two more times off Halladay in the sixth for a 4-1 lead.
“It’s just awesome to be in this situation right now,” said Ross, who came up with two clutch hits in the Giants’ 3-2 division series-clinching win over Atlanta on Monday.
Ross hit just .146 (6 for 41) with no extra-base hits against the Phillies in the regular season, and is 2 for 9 with a double and five strikeouts lifetime against Roy Oswalt(notes), Philadelphia’s scheduled Game 2 starter.
The Phillies pulled within one Saturday on Jayson Werth’s(notes) two-run homer in the sixth off Lincecum, who tossed a two-hitter in the Giants’ NLDS opener, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Philadelphia lost its first series opener since getting swept by Colorado in 2007, having won Game 1 in its previous seven postseason series.
“I don’t think we can do nothing to bring this game back,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “It’s a loss. So we come out (Sunday), and we come out and play in that moment, try to win that game. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
The Giants haven’t opened a series 2-0 since taking the first two at St. Louis in the 2002 NLCS en route to capturing the pennant. They appear to have the right man taking the mound to help achieve this with Sanchez moving up a game.
Bochy also said he tweaked the rotation because of Sanchez’s success against Philadelphia.
At home against the Phillies on April 26, Sanchez allowed one run, three hits and five walks while striking out six in five innings of a 5-1 win. He was much sharper in Philadelphia on Aug. 19, yielding a run, two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in eight innings of a 5-2 victory.
The left-hander has shut down some of the Phillies’ top hitters, as Jimmy Rollins(notes) is 1 for 16, Ryan Howard(notes) is 3 for 14 and Werth is hitless in 12 at-bats. Rollins is also 1 for 15 in this year’s playoffs.
“As long as you keep them off balance, it’s hard for them to drive the ball off you,” Sanchez told the Giants’ official website.
Sanchez, who led the majors with a .204 opponents’ batting average, has been one of San Francisco’s most reliable pitchers over the past seven weeks, going 4-1 with a 1.06 ERA and 59 strikeouts over 51 innings in eight starts. This includes his outing against Atlanta in Game 3 of the NLDS last Sunday, when he gave up one run, two hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings. The Giants rallied for two runs in the ninth to win 3-2.
As well as Sanchez has been pitching lately, he has been at his best on the road, and that could have also factored into Bochy’s decision to have him take the ball at Citizens Bank Park.
Starting with his outing in Philadelphia in August and including last week’s game at Turner Field, Sanchez is 2-1 with a 0.82 ERA in his last five road starts.
Like Sanchez, Oswalt was Philadelphia’s best pitcher down the stretch, going 7-0 with a 1.41 ERA in 12 outings since the start of August, but he was a little shaky in his postseason appearance.
Against Cincinnati in Game 2 of the NLDS on Oct. 8, Oswalt allowed a leadoff homer and ended up giving up four runs and five hits in five innings of a 7-4 victory, but didn’t get a decision. The right-hander never seemed to find his groove and appeared out of sync with catcher Carlos Ruiz(notes).
Oswalt was making his first start in 10 days and admitted he was rusty. He could run into similar problems in this contest, considering he’ll be pitching on eight days’ rest.
The Giants were also one of the few teams to give Oswalt trouble since his trade to Philadelphia.
The three-time All-Star allowed three runs and six hits - including solo homers to Pat Burrell(notes) and Jose Guillen(notes) - while striking out seven in seven innings of a 9-3 victory over San Francisco on Aug. 17.