Giants drop chance to seal pennant at home

Giants drop chance to seal pennant at home

SAN FRANCISCO -- A World Series appearance remains well within the Giants' grasp. But they'll have to reach all the way to Philadelphia to grab it.

Squandering an opportunity to make countless memories by ending the National League Championship Series at home Thursday night, the Giants couldn't overcome the Phillies' odd but effective three-run uprising in the third inning and dropped Game 5, 4-2.

That trimmed San Francisco's lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven showdown, which moves to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Saturday. The deciding seventh game, if necessary, is scheduled for Sunday.


So the 43,713 patrons who filled AT&T Park on a damp evening didn't know as they went home whether they'd return to see the Giants participate in their fourth San Francisco-era World Series or if winter had begun.

As was the case in their Game 1 confrontation, San Francisco's Tim Lincecum and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay didn't endlessly string together zeros. But the aces pitched well enough to sustain taut, competitive action.

Lincecum lasted seven innings and absorbed his first defeat in three postseason starts. The Phillies collected three of the four hits he surrendered in their big third, but went down in order in five of Lincecum's other six innings.

Halladay clearly lacked his best stuff, allowing six hits in six innings. Yet he limited the Giants to two runs and stranded two baserunners in each of his final two innings.

3-2 advantage in NLCS
With the Phillies' victory Thursday, an NLCS stands at 3-2 for the 17th time since the series became a best-of-seven in 1985. Eleven of the prior 16 series were won by the team that led after five games. Half of the series went the full seven games.
Year Team up 3-2 Opponent Final
2006 Cardinals Mets 4-3
2005 Astros Cardinals 4-2
2004 Astros Cardinals 4-3
2003 Cubs Marlins 4-3
1999 Braves Mets 4-2
1998 Padres Braves 4-2
1997 Marlins Braves 4-2
1996 Cardinals Braves 4-3
1993 Phillies Braves 4-2
1992 Braves Pirates 4-3
1991 Pirates Braves 4-3
1990 Reds Pirates 4-2
1988 Dodgers Mets 4-3
1987 Giants Cardinals 4-3
1986 Mets Astros 4-2
1985 Cardinals Dodgers 4-2
* Teams in bold went on to win the NLCS.

"Gutty effort by him," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "I thought we had some good at-bats. We hit some balls decent but couldn't find holes. ... We had him on the ropes a few times and were just missing another hit."

Little was normal about the Phillies' third-inning rally, which began with a single by Raul Ibanez, he of the .130 postseason batting average (3-for-23) entering the game.

Lincecum nicked Carlos Ruiz with a pitch, setting up a sacrifice-bunt try from Halladay. The ball landed practically at his feet in the right-handed batter's box before it spun across home plate and began to trickle off the dish. Umpire Jeff Nelson ruled it fair, prompting catcher Buster Posey to grab the ball and fire it to third base for an attempted force play. Pablo Sandoval took Posey's peg in front of third and couldn't step on the bag in time to retire Ibanez. The play wasn't a complete disaster for the Giants, because Halladay didn't run. His putout was scored 2-5-4 as the runners advanced.

Shane Victorino then smacked a tricky grounder to first baseman Aubrey Huff, who played it off the heel of his glove. The ball caromed crazily toward second base as Ibanez and Ruiz raced home. Huff's error was a rarity, considering he committed just three this season and recorded a .996 fielding percentage at first base. Placido Polanco compounded Huff's gaffe by singling home Victorino.

"It's going to happen," said Bochy. "These guys have been doing a great job on defense. And we're playing a really good club that you can't give extra outs to. The other game we lost [Game 2], we played a little sloppy there, too. When you're going against a good team like this, you have to play your best ball. We had a hiccup in that inning and gave them some extra outs and it came back to get us."

Shoddy defense wasn't limited to the Giants, who opened the scoring in the first inning with help from second baseman Chase Utley's misplay. Andres Torres walked, sped to third on Freddy Sanchez's hit-and-run single, then scored on a dribbler by Posey that Utley dropped. Had Utley handled the ball cleanly, he probably could have tagged Sanchez and thrown to first for an inning-ending double play without a run scoring.

Consecutive one-out doubles by Pat Burrell and Cody Ross narrowed the difference to 3-2 in the fourth. But Ross, the Giants' best player in this postseason, made an ill-advised dash to third base on Sandoval's fly to right field and was thrown out to end the inning.

"I'm sure Cody will tell you now it's not a good play with making a third out there," said Bochy. "I think he felt that he had it easy. And [Jayson] Werth made a terrific throw. I mean, right on the money."

The Giants continued to threaten the Phillies but were frustrated each time.

Torres and Sanchez, the top two hitters in San Francisco's batting order, went a combined 5-for-7 and gave the Giants multiple chances to score. One such instance occurred in the fifth, when they both delivered two-out singles. Halladay recovered by inducing Huff to hit an inning-ending dribbler in front of home plate.

Halladay also struck out Game 4 hero Juan Uribe with runners on first and second to end the sixth inning. In the seventh, Torres (3-for-3) singled with one out off reliever Jose Contreras, but advanced no farther as Sanchez and Huff lined out.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.