San Francisco Giants tweaking rotation for NLCS
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Giants manager Bruce Bochy is planning to tweak his rotation for the NL championship series, moving up left-hander Jonathan Sanchez to go Game 2 against the Philadelphia Phillies following ace Tim Lincecum.
Bochy said he would do so to break up the two right-handers — Lincecum and Matt Cain, who now is set to pitch Game 3 back in San Francisco on Tuesday.
“It gives Matt the home opener here,” Bochy said Wednesday before his team’s workout at AT&T Park on an unseasonably hot 90-degree fall day in the Bay Area. “That’s the way we’re leaning right now. We have confidence in both of them but we really think to break up the righties and lefties there is a better way to go.”
Game 1 is Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park with the highly anticipated matchup between Lincecum and Roy Halladay, who pitched a no-hitter in the division series.
“It’s going to be fun,” Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval said. “They have one of the best pitchers in the National League and we have one of the best pitchers on our team.”
Lincecum is coming off a two-hit gem with 14 strikeouts in his playoff debut in Game 1 of the division series against the Atlanta Braves. Sanchez is penciled in to pitch Sunday’s Game 2 against the two-time defending NL champions.
“We’ll see what happens these first two games. It’s going to be a hyped-up crowd,” said Lincecum, who faced the Phillies in his major league debut on May 30, 2007. “They’re the team to beat. They’ve been there before and they’re there again.”
Bochy said rookie Madison Bumgarner, who beat the Braves in the division series clincher Monday at Atlanta, is a candidate to pitch Game 4 depending on where the series stands.
If anybody can help the Giants get ready, it’s Pat Burrell. The left fielder, who signed a minor league deal in late May and joined San Francisco after a short stint with Triple-A Fresno, spent his first nine major league seasons with the Phillies – and won a World Series ring in Philly two years ago. Burrell was the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Phillies in 1998.
“There were a lot of expectations, I remember, but no more than I put on myself,” Burrell said. “I had some years when I struggled and I had some good years. It was never up to me to decide if I lived up to the expectations. My job was to go play and be accountable for it. I felt like I did that.”
Burrell joined the Tampa Bay Rays last season and they released him this spring. Burrell has made the most of his second chance way out West.
The 34-year-old Burrell batted .266 with 18 home runs and 51 RBIs in 96 games for the Giants, playing a key role in the club ending a six-year playoff drought.
Bochy and all the playoff first-timers on this team are counting on Burrell’s insight at this stage. Playing in Philly is one of the toughest stops in baseball, right up there with Boston’s Fenway Park.
“He’s been there, he’s been there with Philly. Sure, he can give them some advice,” Bochy said. “He’s great about that. He’s not just a talent on the field but he’s been great to have in the clubhouse.”
Bochy didn’t anticipate any lineup changes, though the teams have until Saturday morning to set their rosters. There weren’t any indications that struggling $126 million lefty Barry Zito would be added for the NLCS after being left off the 25-man roster for the first round. The Giants brass planned to meet later Wednesday about such tough decisions.
The Giants leave early Thursday for the East Coast. San Francisco won two of three from the Phillies at home back in April with a roster far different from its current one, then dropped two of three in Philadelphia from Aug. 17-19. The two defeats were by scores of 9-3 and 8-2.
“They’ve got tremendous talent — pitching, a great offense,” Bochy said. “You’ve got to play your best ball to beat them. I like where we’re at. I like the way the guys are playing.”
Runs should be at a premium this pitching-focused series. The Giants won three one-run games against Atlanta to advance. San Francisco is trying to reach its first World Series since slugger Barry Bonds led the Giants there and fell just short in 2002 to the wild-card Angels.
Will Burrell be greeted with a standing ovation in his old stomping grounds?
“Well, I don’t know,” Burrell said. “It was great going there the first time this year. I think some of that is going to help to get past all that. But now it’s a little different time of year. It’s all business.”