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Game 5 NLDS, Giants 6, Reds 4: Hunter Pence Victory Speech

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Dateline Cincinnati: New guy acquired for his big bat struggles with his new team. From "guy who hits home runs," he turns into "guy who does whatever he can to help." But the playoffs come, and all the struggles fade into the background when, down two games to none, he gives his teammates some ol' timey religion. Then he makes another speech, and another one, and a few hours later one of those fired-up teammates, the skinny closer with the lukewarm fastball, throws his cojones over his shoulder and makes the crazy comeback complete.



Before the national media turns Hunter Pence into this year's Rally Monkey, let's give him his due. Emotion can help carry the day. Pro players are humans and can lose heart. They can lose confidence. Sometimes they need a boost, and Pence provided it. He hasn't had a home run or RBI in the playoffs yet, but he's doing whatever he can to help. 

It's a great story, and it'll get beat to death, so let's look at a different story line: Just like Tuesday night, when the Reds made mistakes, the Giants capitalized. Up 1-0, they had Brandon Crawford on third and one out. Angel Pagan chopped a ball to short, and Crawford broke home. I think a quick clean throw by shortstop Zack Cozart probably would have had him. Cozart bobbled and made no play anywhere. It was 2-0 Giants, Latos got rattled and walked Scutaro. Two batters later, Buster Posey's grand slam made it 6-0.

The next mistake came when the Reds started clawing back. Fifth inning, two runs were in against Cain, and with one out and a full count on Ryan Hanigan, Dusty sent the runners. Hanigan looked at strike three and Jay Bruce was out at third, even though Posey double-clutched on the throw. You could criticize Dusty, but I think the blame lies with Hanigan. Dude's gotta swing the bat. He's a contact hitter. It was a great pitch, but not unhittable. In fact, if there's any series goat for the Reds, it's Hanigan. His passed ball that allowed the runners to advance in the 10th inning Tuesday was perhaps the turning point. Without it, Joaquin Arias' chopper, at worst, loads the bases and forces Bochy to pinch-hit for Romo with his last bench player. Instead, Rolen bobbled the tough hop, threw late to first, and the go-ahead run scored. The mo' had shifted. The comeback had begun.

Cincinnati had -- has -- an excellent team. The Giants caught breaks all series, starting with the Johnny Cueto injury which had a big impact on the past two games. And to their everlasting credit, the Giants cashed in.

Meanwhile, Bruce Bochy's handling of the pitching staff this series will have its detractors because of the Zito/Cain Game 4 decision. But watching Matt Cain today, it now seems Cain on three days' rest would have been a bad idea. He ran out of gas fast. I think Bochy knew it, and I'll lead off the praise for his maneuvering, from the early set-up of the rotation down the stretch, all the way to Scott Rolen's swing and miss at Sergio Romo's backup slider.

In the end, of course, the players won it. Posey's slam. Romo and Kontos and Affeldt and Co. out of the pen. And spectacular defense from Crawford and Angel Pagan. But it was the penultimate at-bat of the game that you could replay again and again and again to understand this series. Romo versus Jay Bruce, whose smooth power swing is tailor-made for his home ballpark. Two on, one out, the Reds down 6-4. I had visions of hanging sliders deposited in right-field bleachers before every pitch. And every pitch. And every pitch. Twelve of them, actually. Romo mainly stayed away with that dime-store two-seam fastball, putting it on the corner or beyond. Bruce kept fouling it off. He finally came in twice with fastballs, one fouled back, one a borderline strike called ball three, and finally, a slider over the plate... and a pop-up. It wasn't a great pitch, but it was enough. On another day, something else might have happened. But today, the Giants move on to the next round.


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