A Weekend Of Torture

October 17

Anticipating a weekend of Torture, what could I do to ease the agony? Simple. Play 18 holes of golf Saturday morning. Everything else is easy compared to that.

I told F.P. Santangelo that I’ve lost weight playing golf, which surprised him. It was his impression that you gained weight, what with the beer and all. When you play the way I do, however, weight loss is easy.

Especially when you’re climbing up hills like a billy goat looking for a drive you duck-hooked into the thistle. Not every hole, but often enough. I went hiking on the 17th hole and not only found my ball, but went on an easter egg hunt and found about $50 worth of lost balls.

Despite a new driver and a new swing, I played the first four holes at Brentwood at eleven over par. Then, the coffee kicked in. After the 13th hole, the beer kicked in. I shot 46 on the back nine and salvaged the day by playing three-over for the final five holes.

That was only a prelude to more torture.

***

It was on to San Francisco for the Game 1 NLCS pregame at the Public House with Marty Lurie. It was tremendous fun, and then Marty, F.P. and I watched a portion of the game with a few hundred friends inside, and the crowd was pumped. When Tim Lincecum appeared on the big screen, they cheered and chanted “Let’s Go Giants” as if they were in the stadium.

Why should Game 1 be different from the last two months? Tim Lincecum didn’t have his best stuff and walked a tightrope for most of his seven innings, but got the job done. Plate umpire Derryl Cousins gave him NO help by refusing to call the low strike.

Roy Halladay was good but not great for the Phillies, maybe a little too strong after a ten-day layoff. Cody Ross? This is found money for the Giants, who knew he’d help, but not this much.

Watching Ross, I remembered something F.P. said before the game in talking about how a player approaches the next level of the playoffs: “If you’re going well, you’re digging this right now.” Clearly, Cody is digging this, and being a secret weapon in the eight-hole.

Phillies fans did not bring their “A” game. Signs directed at Lincecum reading “Hippy (sic) Trash,” “Wanna Smoke,” and “Fix Your Teeth” were seen in the stands. “Fix Your Teeth?” Very clever. I’m sure none of those fans have any physical anomalies.

Some fans whistled at Lincecum because of his long girl. Lincecum handled it beautifully, telling reporters afterwards he presumed the fans thought he had a great butt. The same fans who didn’t like his teeth. The bigger question is: how’s his blister ?

Quick observations about Game 1: Andres Torres looks lost, and has looked lost for a while. He should bring woolly buggers along with a bat to the plate, because he’s fishing at everything. Also, I’ve never heard so many calls on a radio show about “synching-up” radio and TV broadcasts so people don’t have to listen to Buck and McCarver. That’s a compliment to the Giants broadcasters or an insult to the Fox guys, or both. I’ll need to investigate further.

***

On to Sunday:

DeSean Jackson went out like a light when the Falcons’ Dunta Robinson belted him with a helmet-first hit in the first half Sunday. And that, my friends, is precisely why the NFL is cracking down on those hits and taking concussions more seriously. Fortunately, both were able to walk away from a very scary incident although Jackson has suffered significant memory loss.

Ben Roethlisberger might be a cad, but did anyone believe Steelers fans were done with him ? He was received warmly at Heinz Field in his 2010 debut as the Steelers beat the Browns, back from an NFL suspension. If he gets the Steelers back to the Super Bowl, Big Ben will be everybody’s buddy again.

The first half of the 49ers-Raiders game Sunday was some of the worst football of the year. Jason Campbell and Alex Smith were locked in a heated battle to see which quarterback could be more inept. Smith was wild with his throws and the offense was completely out of synch.

This was one day where the 49er defense saved the game: the Raiders dominated in the first half but could only build a 6-0 lead. After another Smith-Mike Singletary sideline confrontation, the 49ers did just enough in the second half, including a pair of Smith touchdown passes. The 49ers got their first win, 17-9, but no one should be popping champagne corks.

The 49ers didn’t turn the ball over but won despite 123 yards in penalties, many of them stupid ones. This was not the Battle of the Bay, but a cage fight between Urkel and Palky. Bay Area football has been crappy for eight years and isn’t going to be good any time soon.

It was a stay of execution for Smith and Mike Singletary. Not so for Jason Campbell. Boller? Boller? Raiders coach Tom Cable said he didn’t ever consider bringing in the former Cal star Sunday. How soon before Bruce Gradkowski comes back ?

***

Sunday night, Game 2 NLCS:

I try not to get riled up about the network guys on these games, but two totally ridiculous things happened Sunday night. First, they had a tape of the Phillies HITTING COACH Greg Gross talking over the plate appearance for Cody Ross, the Giants’ hottest hitter. Of course, Ross hit one out to left again, and Buck treated the game-tying home run like it was a groundout.

McCarver, whose grasp of the obvious can be described as “stranglehold,” was pointing out why it was good for Mike Fontenot to freeze at first base on a line drive to shortstop. He said it was a good idea to freeze on a liner to the left side because if it goes through, the runner is only going to second base anyway. Huh?

That’s a stupid assumption, first of all. With the left fielder is playing toward the line and the ball goes through to the gap. Second, I thought it was a good idea to freeze on a line drive ANY time. But hey, I don’t know as much baseball as T-Mac.

Sanchez really fought to find the strike zone early, and he didn’t get any help from plate umpire Dan Iassogna’s inconsistent strike zone. Sanchez threw 35 pitches in the first inning, but did a good job to get into the seventh inning. Giants hitters just couldn’t get anything going against Roy Oswalt in a 6-1 defeat: especially Andres Torres, who struck out four times.

I wasn’t crazy about walking Jayson Werth to load the bases in the bottom of the 7th, and THEN bringing in Santiago Casilla. They could have had Casilla pitch to Werth with a base open and hope Werth would chase something out of the zone. It’s never easy to ask a reliever to come in cold and face someone with the bases loaded, and Jimmy Rollins belted a three-run double to put the game out of reach.

The Giants come back to San Francisco, assured of playing all three scheduled games, so they’re in good shape. However, Bruce Bochy has some issues to deal with.

First, he might think about starting Aaron Rowand in center field in place of Torres against the lefthander Cole Hamels Tuesday. Second, he needs to find out if Juan Uribe can play. Uribe has a wrist contusion but the Giants need his pop in the lineup. Finally, will he put Pablo Sandoval in for Mike Fontenot to give the Giants another threat, and if he doesn’t start Torres, who leads off ?

Sandoval has traditionally hit well at home, and Fontenot has not been playing third base well. His first inning error Sunday led to the first Phillies run, and he allowed a Rollins popup to fall in front of the pitchers’ mound, although it didn’t appear Sanchez or Buster Posey was giving him direction.

Sandoval might have helped his cause with a patient pinch-hit walk. Although he hasn’t hit left-handers well this season, he might have to start against Hamels Tuesday if Uribe is hurt. F.P. likes Ross leading off, and he has hit .300 with 4 home runs in 30 at-bats against Hamels, so it wouldn’t be a totally surprising move.

Tony Bruno doesn’t like Ross batting cleanup because he wants a power-hitter with runners on, but most of Ross’ homers have been solo shots anyway.

Monday is a day to take a breath. Will KNBR callers want to talk about the Giants or the 49ers first win ? Not a whole lot of negative there this week, but I’m sure we’ll think of something.

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