ARLINGTON, Texas (CBS / AP) – Pitching got the San Francisco Giants into the World Series. Big hits and fielding may win it for them.
Freddy Sanchez started a pair of double plays and made a leaping stop of a line drive that put him on his back. Catcher Buster Posey threw out Josh Hamilton stealing. Cody Ross slid after making a shoestring catch.
Even rookie pitcher Madison Bumgarner got into the action Sunday night in Game 4 with his glove, deflecting Hamilton’s liner that Sanchez recovered in time to tag Michael Young.
The Giants put on a defensive clinic and Aubrey Huff hit a two-run homer to back Bumgarner’s brilliant outing in a 4-0 win over the Texas Rangers, moving them within one victory of the city’s elusive World Series crown.
San Francisco gets its first chance to win it all in Game 5 on Monday night. It will be two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum against Texas ace Cliff Lee in rematch of San Francisco’s 11-7 win in Game 1.
The Giants’ dependable defense has taken a back seat all season to their standout pitching. Not in this one, even if Bumgarner was at his best on his biggest stage yet.
San Francisco made one mistake all night, when third baseman Juan Uribe misplayed Hamilton’s seventh-inning chopper for a fielding error.
Sanchez set the tone from the start. The postseason first-timer finishing up his ninth big league campaign followed up his big day with the bat in Game 1 with an equally impressive outing at second base.
If the Giants go on to capture the franchise’s first championship in 56 years, and first since the club moved West from New York in 1958, Sanchez’s defense will be a big reason.
His gutsy grab on Jeff Francoeur’s sharp liner ended the second inning with a Rangers runner on first base. Sanchez wound up on his back making the play, holding his glove in the air with half the ball showing.
His teammates came through, too. Manager Bruce Bochy benched slumping left fielder Pat Burrell and went with Ross in his place, while Nate Schierholtz earned his first postseason start playing right and Travis Ishikawa made his first start in these playoffs at first base.
Huff was the designated hitter, delivering his first homer of the postseason in 51 at-bats.
For the 32-year-old Sanchez, this deep run is a huge relief. He was a disappointment after joining the Giants in a 2009 trade deadline deal from Pittsburgh.
A three-time All-Star and the 2006 NL batting champion for the Pirates, he was limited to 25 games for San Francisco because of injuries after the trade.
He had left knee surgery late last season, then underwent a procedure on his non-throwing left shoulder Dec. 23 that landed him on the disabled list to start the year.
Still, the Giants had faith Sanchez would return to health, giving him a $12 million, two-year contract after the 2009 season.
Sanchez said he was embarrassed not to be able to help the Giants down the stretch last year, and San Francisco missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
Now, no one will argue he has made good.
Sanchez had four hits with three doubles and drove in three runs in the World Series opener last Wednesday. This time, his defense was spot on.
Aside from that athletic catch on Francoeur’s ball, he started inning-ending double plays in the first and sixth and nearly took a hit away from Young leading off the fourth. Sanchez lunged to his left to field the grounder but couldn’t quite control the ball and barely missed throwing out Young for what became Texas’ first hit off Bumgarner.
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