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• The change in location was apparent. In homer-happy Texas, all six runs were scored via the long ball. While the Giants only managed solo shots from Cody Ross and Andres Torres, the Rangers got a three-run blast from Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton.
• San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez has now failed to get past the fifth in his last two starts after getting knocked out after 4 2/3 innings tonight, giving up all four runs.
• Giants manager Bruce Bochy must be getting awfully nervous about his pitching plan in a possible Game 7. That would line up to be another Sanchez start, but the lefty has shown warning signs beyond the his final boxscore lines. It's
• It's time Bochy also shook up his lineup a little. His No. 5 hitter, Pat Burrell, is now 0-for-9 with two walks and eight strikeouts, just five behind the World Series record of 13, set last by the Phillies' Ryan Howard. With Ross continued to hit well this month, he should slide up to fifth in the lineup, with Burrell falling at least one spot.
At long last, Neftali Feliz took the mound. The Rangers rookie is their closer and their best reliever, but manager Ron Washington had declined to use him in a non-save situation in Games 1 or 2. Even tonight, Feliz should have entered with two outs in the eighth to face the Giants' best hitter, Buster Posey, who represented the tying run as there was a man on base. Instead, Darren O'Day got him to ground out, but Feliz showed his dominant stuff in the ninth, striking out Pat Burrell and Juan Uribe while getting a flyout from Cody Ross.
Feliz threw 13 pitches in the ninth -- one slider and 12 fastballs, all between 96 and 99 miles per hour.
Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez settled down from his poor Game 1 appearance -- two runs in one-third of an inning -- to get two outs in the eighth. One runner reached, but on an Edgar Renteria error. Ramirez got Vladimir Guerrero to pop out and Ian Kinsler to strike out.
Ramirez is only in this situation because of his prior failure against AL teams. The Red Sox traded him for peanuts earlier in the year even though they were still in contention for a playoff spot.
The bat of Giants centerfielder Andres Torres continues to come alive, as shown by his solo home run off Colby Lewis. Torres,
Torres then finished the last three games of the NLCS on a tear -- 6-for-10 -- but each of his first nine playoff hits was a single. In the World Series, however, some of the pop is returning to the massive 35-inch, 33-ounce bat he swings. He had doubles in each of the first two games of the World Series and now this homer.
The Giants pitching and defense has again been good -- the difference in the game is just two bad Jonathan Sanchez pitches that led to home runs from Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton. Otherwise, Sanchez, Guillermo Mota and Jeremy Affeldt have induced double plays in each of the last three innings and have gotten 13-of-21 Texas outs on the ground. San Francisco's infielders have looked sharp turning them, especially the fifth-inning twin-killing which required Juan Uribe to field a tough hop at third and Freddy Sanchez make a difficult pivot throw.
Cody Ross' solo home run put the Giants broke up Colby Lewis' shutout in the battle of players with similarly sounding -- and similarly chanted -- first names.
But the real story of the inning was Pat Burrell's third strikeout of the game. The Giants left fielder is now 0-for-8 with two walks and seven strikeouts in the World Series. He is now only six strikeouts behind Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard's 13 strikeouts last year for the record of most in a single World Series.
History! For the first time, notorious freeswingers Jeff Francoeur, Vladimir Guerrero and Bengie Molina all walked in the same game. Molina has actually walked twice, while Guerrero drew a free pass in the fifth inning off Jonathan Sanchez and Francoeur earned his in the sixth off reliever Guillermo Mota.
Francoeur only walked once in his 15 games with Texas -- drawing a pass off Oakland's Dallas Braden in the eighth inning on Sept. 23 -- while Molina did not play and Guerrero did not walk.
This season, among players with at least 400 plate appearances, Guerrero and Francoeur ranked first and second in percentage of pitches swung at -- 60.6 and 60.4 percent, respectively -- while Molina was No. 27 at 51 percent. In 2009, however, Guerrero, Molina and Francoeur ranked first, second and fourth in the majors in swing percentage.
Colby Lewis continues to be a marksman. Consider:
• He has thrown strikes on 54 of his 76 pitches, a rate of 71.1 percent.
• He has started 17-of-21 batters with a first-pitch strike.
• He has needed more than 14 pitches in an inning only once -- when he threw 20 in the first. Then again, four of his six swing-and-miss strikes were in the first.
• In the last three innings, more than 84 percent of his pitches were strikes: 8-of 9-pitches were strikes (88.9 percent); 9-of-10 pitches were strikes (90 percent); 11-of-13 pitches were strikes (84.6 percent).
Perhaps Jonathan Sanchez should have stuck to the fastball. It was only a matter before Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton hit his first World Series home run, which he did in the fifth inning on a 2-1 slider, crushing it an estimated 426 feet to right-center field.
Considering Hamilton's two previous at bats, one should think Sanchez shouldn't have thrown only off-speed pitches. In the first inning, Hamilton chased a first-pitch fastball at the top of the strike zone and popped out. In the third inning, Sanchez threw fastball/changeup/slider/fastball/slider, getting Hamilton to ground out to second after he fouled off both fastballs.
In the fifth inning, however, Sanchez got gunshy and threw slider/change/change/slider, the last one landing beyond the fence for the Rangers' fourth run. Sanchez then walked Vladimir Guerrero on four pitches -- as sure a sign as any that a pitcher is rattled -- and his night was done, replaced by Guillermo Mota.
As Colby Lewis continues to cruise -- another 1-2-3 inning, this time on 10 pitches -- what has to this point been a standard baseball crowd showed its local roots. As the Rangers jogged off the field, the public-address system played Fox's NFL intro music. And then the fans were implored to stand, wave their white Rangers towels and sing, "Deep in the heart of Texas." Tomorrow's game at the Ballpark in Arlington promises to be a lively affair, starting just a few hours after the locals' beloved Cowboys play across the street earlier in the afternoon. It's possible that new Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna and tomorrow's Rangers starter, Tommy Hunter, have about the same level of recognition and indifference in this town.
You don't need to be a hitting pro to decipher Jonathan Sanchez's pitching pattern from that inning. Against the first three batters of the inning -- righties Ian Kinsler, Jeff Francoeur and Bengine Molina -- Sanchez threw slider/slider/fastball as the first three pitches of each at bat. He struck out Kinsler and Francoer looking, but then walked Molina. Kinsler and Francoeur each struck out on three pitches: fouling sliders and taking fastballs.
Colby Lewis keeps churning through the Giants' lineup with fewer and fewer pitches. How efficient is the Rangers starter? He needed 20 pitches in the first inning, 14 in the second, 10 in the third and just nine in the fourth -- all but one of his fourth-inning pitches was a strike, prompting an already aggressive San Francisco lineup to twice put the ball in play on the first pitch of an at bat, as Buster Posey singled and Cody Ross flew out.
In a completely unrelated side note, SI swimsuit model Dominique Piek, the girlfriend of Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, is sitting one section in front of the auxiliary pressbox, making
No one's quite sure what Edgar Renteria was waiting for in that at bat against Colby Lewis. He stood in the box for five pitches and didn't swing a single time, taking three pitches and striking out looking. The third strike appeared to draw a disagreement from Renteria, though it appeared to be a slider that caught the outside corner.
Renteria has walked on only 7.9 percent of career plate appearances and swung on 46.2 percent of all pitches, so it's not like him to zone in and wait for a particular pitch. But he's never faced the 6-foot-4 Lewis and hasn't played at the Ballpark in Arlington since 2008 -- when he played four games here as a Tiger -- so perhaps Renteria is having trouble picking up the ball out of Lewis' hand or against the backdrop.
We're not in the National League anymore, Toto. Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez is usually contending with the pitcher in the No. 9 spot of the lineup. Nine-hole hitters facing Sanchez batted .114 this season and their only home run came from a pinch-hitter.
But this is AL baseball, where Rangers manager Ron Washington has a loaded lineup and is able to bat first baseman Mitch Moreland ninth. Sanchez even had the lefty vs. lefty advantage -- he held them to a .181 average and five home runs in 138 at bats this year -- but Moreland had a terrific at-bat.
Once the count went 2-and-2, Moreland fouled off four pitches, one of them crushed very far but a little foul, before hammering the ninth pitch he saw -- a down-and-in fastball -- into right field for a home run. Further showing how off his game Sanchez is and
Pablo is as Pablo does. Giants manager Bruce Bochy settled on Pablo Sandoval as his designated hitter, and the switch-hitter did have a nice year from the left side of the plate, batting .282 with a .336 OBP and 12 home runs. But, despite the head start afforded to hitters in the left-handed batter's box, he grounded into 20 of his NL-leading 26 double plays from that side. That's what he did again to end the second inning, grounding into a 4-6-3.
How out of sync is Sandoval now? He's 3-for-15 (.200) this postseason and though he normally devours fastballs, Sandoval his his grounder despite Rangers starter Colby Lewis feeding him three straight fastballs that all clocked sub-90 on the radar gun.
Pat Burrell giveth and taketh away. The Giants left fielder nearly made one great catch that turned into a single, but did complete one dazzling catch to save a run.
Rangers third baseman Michael Young lined a ball to left that Burrell came charging in on and dove for. The ball went into his glove for a moment, but popped out as he sprawled forward. Two batters later, however, Vladimir Guerrero smoked a ball into the left-field corner that should have been a run-scoring double if not for Burrell's full sprint catch, holding on this time as he collided with the wall.
Burrell is not known for his speed or his glove and has been regularly replaced for defense in the postseason. But he's not incompetent: He did have an Ultimate Zone Rating of 4.9 this year -- meaning he saved nearly five runs above the average fielder -- which was fourth among NL left fielders with 600 or more innings.
Since he did not play a full season in San Francisco, his sample size is a little small and does run directly counter to what he did in his final three seasons in Philadelphia, where he was atrocious with UZRs of -12.2, -20.8 and -8.9. The most likely explanation is that he is a better fielder now than a few years ago -- but the numbers may be skewed from having made several nice plays he doesn't always make in his relatively short Giants tenure.
Rangers starter Colby Lewis slugged through a slow top of the first, throwing 20 pitches and allowing a single and a walk before striking out Pat Burrell to end the small threat -- and there were positive signs in the inning. Lewis got four swing-and-miss strikes, three of them on his breaking pitches, which shows an ability to fool the Giants hitters.
One other atmosphere note: While the faint waft of marijuana smoke was evident in San Francisco's AT&T Park, the only smoke at the Ballpark in Arlington is the reside of pregame fireworks.
Everything is bigger in Texas. Unlike the Giants' cozy AT&T Park tucked along a cove of San Francisco Bay, the Rangers' home, Ballpark in Arlington, shoots up out of the ground like a, well, normally I'd say football stadium, but given the Death Star that is the brand-new, $1.3 billion Cowboys Stadium across the street, that term no longer seems accurate.
Blue- and red-clad Rangers fans were milling about local restaurants and the surrounding parking lots before even 1 p.m. local time, some five hours before World Series Game 3's first pitch. It's a tailgating football culture, after all, not to mention that the temperature hit 80 degrees this afternoon, a little warmer than even north-central Texas is used to this month.
Not much pregame news, except that Rangers manager Ron Washington did not rule out the possibility of ace Cliff Lee pitching on three days' rest -- "There's a chance that anything could happen," Washington said -- and Giants manager Bruce Bochy insisted that Cody Ross would have been his starting right fielder in the playoffs even if Jose Guillen had not been linked to an HGH probe, as the New York Times reported Thursday.
Otherwise, there were a few amusing signs in the crowd, including a Rangers fan holding a "Shear the Beard" posterboard and an amusing sign from the small pocket of Giants fans here: "Ring Around the Posey," noting the prospect of a World Series ring for catcher Buster Posey.
The pitching matchup for this evening's game features Texas' Colby Lewis against the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez. While Sanchez was brilliant in his NLDS starts (seven innings, one run, 11 strikeouts), he lasted for only two innings and two runs in his second NLCS start. Lewis, meanwhile, went 2-0 against the Yankees in the ALCS, including an eight-inning, one-run performance in the clinching Game 6.
Kelly Clarkson will sing the national anthem, and Rangers icon Nolan Ryan -- Hall of Famer pitcher, team president, co-owner and namesake for a nearby expressway -- will throw out the first pitch.