10/21/10 7:49 PM ET
Unheralded defense a key cog for Giants
High fielding percentage overshadowed by pitching, clutch hitting
By Cash Kruth and Chris Haft / MLB.com
There was the three-error performance by Atlanta's Brooks Conrad in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, as well as a tough grounder off the elbow of Phillies second baseman Chase Utley in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series that led to the Giants' final run.Lost in all of the talk regarding San Francisco's elite pitching staff and its no-superstar offense has been a defense that has produced solid, if not spectacular plays all season long. During the regular season, the Giants tied with three other teams for the best fielding percentage in the Majors (.988), and they are the second-best defensive team remaining in the playoffs in terms of errors and fielding percentage, behind only the Yankees. "Defense is one of those things that no one really gives us credit for," Giants reliever Sergio Romo said. "We play defense really, really well." That was on full display in Wednesday's 6-5 win in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Phillies. In the fifth inning, center fielder Aaron Rowand threw out Carlos Ruiz at home plate, both a spot-on throw by Rowand and also a spectacular pick and block of home by catcher Buster Posey. In the top of the ninth, shortstop Juan Uribe came off the bench and made a play on a hard grounder off the bat of Ross Gload. Uribe had to backpedal to get the ball before throwing while falling backward to nab Gload for the out. "I think everybody in this clubhouse has said at one time or another that pitching and defense wins championships, and anybody who watches the games can see that," Rowand said. "You see where defensive plays on the good end, end up changing plays. It all comes down to pitching and defense, and then whoever can squeak across a run ... "You've got to make every play and you can't afford to give teams extra outs, and good plays on defense can be momentum changers. You've got to play sound defense and hopefully get a couple of key hits mixed in there with good pitching."
Wrist healthy, Game 4 hero Uribe gets start
SAN FRANCISCO -- It's amazing how a walk-off sacrifice fly can make Juan Uribe's inflamed left wrist feel better.One day after entering as a ninth-inning defensive replacement, making a spectacular play at shortstop before driving in the game-winning run in the bottom of the frame, Uribe was back in the starting lineup Thursday, playing shortstop and hitting seventh in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. "I did talk to Juan earlier. He says it feels a lot better," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He said that after batting practice [Wednesday]. He's good to go, and that's why he's in there. [His wrist is] much improved, and that's good news for us." Also making his return to the starting lineup was Andres Torres, who assumed his regular role as the leadoff hitter and center fielder. Torres didn't start the past two games, but he did play in both. In Game 3, he grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, and he entered Game 4 as part of a double switch in the fifth inning. Torres finished 1-for-2 with a walk in Game 4.
Rowand: Giants, '05 White Sox share theme
SAN FRANCISCO -- Although many players on the Giants' roster are experiencing their first postseason, center fielder Aaron Rowand entered Thursday's Game 5 of the National League Championship Series one win away from advancing to the World Series for the second time in his career.Rowand, the Giants' 33-year-old center fielder, won it all in 2005 with the White Sox, hitting .276 with six doubles in 12 games. On Thursday, Rowand said he sees many similarities between that Chicago team and the 2010 San Francisco squad. Like the Giants, with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and an impressive bullpen, the White Sox also were built around pitching, with four starters winning 14 or more games in Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras and Freddy Garcia. Aside from the pitching staffs, Rowand also said the way in which both teams advanced so far in the postseason was based on their intense regular season. Although the White Sox were in first place the entire season, they were a part of 44 one-run games. This season, the Giants were involved in 52 one-run games. In both instances, Rowand said he and his teammates were able to draw upon those experiences in October. "I know in that situation it paid off for us when we got to the playoffs, because it seemed over the course of a season, everybody numerous times had been put up to the plate standing in the batter's box with the game on the line, having to get something done, having to deal with the pressure of the situation, knowing that the ballgame's on the line," Rowand said. "And when you do that repeatedly, when you get to the postseason and everything rides on every pitch, and the pressure mounts, you have something to fall back on. You have that experience to fall back on. "That played a big part in 2005 for our squad there, and I feel like that's played a big part in this season and this team, because we played so many close ballgames."
Giants stay course entering potential clincher
SAN FRANCISCO -- As San Franciscans watch Thursday's Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, they will no doubt be sitting on the edge of their seats in the hopes of celebrating the Giants' first trip to the World Series since 2002.Although fans are anxious for what could potentially follow Thursday's game, center fielder Aaron Rowand said the Giants aren't looking ahead and are well aware of how quickly the tide in the series could change. "You can look across the way over there and see the kind of talent they have in that locker room -- the kind of talent they can run off 10 straight wins, regardless of who is pitching," Rowand said. "That's the kind of talent they have on that team. And to get ahead of yourself because you're up two games and only need to win one would be a mistake." Rowand, who spent two seasons in Philadelphia, said the Phillies' offense has the ability to score off anybody -- whether it's Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain or, if it were a different scenario, Roy Halladay. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the players have done a great job thus far of relaxing and staying within themselves. He also said that needs to continue, because they haven't won anything yet. "You have to forget the bigness of it and go out there and play, and these guys have done a great job of that," Bochy said. "We've had a lot of big games down the stretch in September. ... They're all big games, but you just have to keep going out there and do the same thing you've been doing."
Davenport admires hard-working Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- Five alumni from the 1958 Giants, San Francisco's inaugural Major League team, shared Thursday's ceremonial first-pitch honors: Felipe Alou, Ed Bressoud, Orlando Cepeda, Jim Davenport and Willie Mays.Among this quintet, the great Mays is undoubtedly the one most widely associated with the Giants. But fans who have followed the Giants since their move West from New York keep a special place in their heart for Davenport, who has spent 46 of his 52 years in baseball with the Giants in some capacity. Davenport, 77, still works for the Giants as a special assistant in player development. He has worked with several current Giants, including Pablo Sandoval, Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz. A former infielder, Davenport likes the spirit of this year's Giants club.
"They kept plugging and plugging and plugging," said Davenport, an All-Star and Gold Glove winner at third base in 1962. "I have to give them credit. Good things can happen when you play hard."Davenport saw no parallels between the Giants he played for from 1958-70 and the current team.
"These kids probably play a little better fundamentally, because we lived and died by the home run, with Mays, [Willie] McCovey, Cepeda and that bunch," Davenport said. "I would have loved to have played with this pitching staff. Not that we didn't have good pitching. But all of their starters here are quality starters."One contemporary Giant does remind Davenport of himself: second baseman Freddy Sanchez.
"He's my type of player," Davenport said. "He's got more ability than I had, but I had to be the type of player to do the little things, and he looks like he knows how to do those things."
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.