Commentary

Pat Burrell's a scary sight at the plate

Outfielder's strikeouts, Jonathan Sanchez's pitching among issues facing Giants

Originally Published: October 30, 2010
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here are three very disturbing costumes San Francisco fans definitely do not want to see on the field during Game 4 this Halloween:

Bruce Bochy shaving the center of his head and dressing up as Ron Washington like that little kid on the Internet. Former presidents George W. Bush or George Herbert Walker Bush wearing antlers on their heads when they throw out the first pitch. Or the most disturbing possible costume of all -- Pat Burrell at the plate wearing a Giants uniform.

Burrell was a key hitter for the Giants after they picked him up during the season, but he is so cold this postseason that he could single-handedly solve global warming. He struck out four times in San Francisco's 4-2 Game 3 loss Saturday, reminding Giants fans that two victories are exactly one half the minimum required for a world championship. He has eight strikeouts in the World Series, already one short of the all-time Series record set last year by Ryan Howard, and 19 strikeouts in 38 postseason at-bats. He's hit exactly one fair ball this series and that was a groundout.

[+] EnlargePat Burrell
AP Photo/Eric GayPat Burrell earned the dreaded golden sombrero in Game 3: four at-bats, four strikeouts.

Bochy declined to say whether Burrell will be on the bench for Game 4, telling reporters he would think it over, but that's only because a manager is required under major league Rule 13.4 (d) to be vague and polite and respectful of his players in that situation. Nonetheless, he should start Nate Schierholtz in Game 4 instead of Burrell, who is essentially an automatic out.

"I'd be disappointed, of course, because you want to play, but could I blame him? Probably not,'' Burrell said when asked about the possibility of being benched. "I'm not exactly swinging the bat very well, and this is a terribly important time for the team. I'll show up ready to play and we'll see.

"My night wasn't good. It's not exactly how you draw it up in your pregame routine. I picked a bad time to struggle. There's no way around it. I'm getting pitches to hit and not doing anything with them. I'm chasing balls off the plate and like I said, this is a bad time.''

Burrell is not the only concern San Francisco has. The other is Jonathan Sanchez who gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings Saturday. If this series goes the distance, Sanchez stands to be the Game 7 starter, but he is not exactly inspiring confidence right now.

Sanchez held opponents to the lowest batting average in the National League (.204) en route to a 13-9 record and a 3.07 ERA. But he is boldly venturing beyond 200 innings -- 213 after never having pitched as many as 170 before in his career -- and his velocity has been down in his past two starts, both of which ended short of five innings.

"He's had some time off between starts, plenty of rest,'' Bochy said. "But you know, these guys have logged some work, some innings and whether that's caught up with him, I can't answer. But I will say I thought he battled well.''

Sanchez complained about his velocity during his poor NLCS start, but he said he felt fine Saturday. Most of the damage against him came on Mitch Moreland's two-out, three-run homer on a 2-2 pitch in the bottom of the second. Sanchez very nearly got out of that inning after a leadoff double, but Moreland fouled off several two-strike pitches before finally driving a pitch into the right field seats for all the runs Texas needed.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Sanchez
AP Photo/Matt SlocumJonathan Sanchez, among the toughest pitchers in baseball against lefties, gave up two home runs to lefties in Game 3.

It's funny how one pitch or one loss can make such a difference in the World Series. After the Giants won Game 2 in San Francisco, their field was filled with people posing for photos and kids running on the basepaths and everyone generally behaving as if they had just won the clinching game of a World Series. And outside the park, it was even louder.

The Giants still lead the World Series 2-1, but after Saturday's loss the situation appears much different. On top of the Burrell and Sanchez issues, Cliff Lee is now guaranteed a second start against them and the Giants must also deal with 50,000-plus screaming, claw-and-antler-wearing, "Deep in the Heart of Texas'' singing fans the next two games. This is not to suggest the Giants are in trouble, or at least, in any more trouble than a team ever is in the World Series when it must beat the other league's best team.

And there still are many positives. While they must face Lee in Game 5, the Giants also get to start Tim Lincecum against him and Matt Cain in Game 6 if necessary. And Cody Ross is still hitting -- he homered Saturday for his fifth this postseason. Plus, they have the lead.

"The big picture is we're up 2-1, and before this thing started if you had asked everyone if that would be OK, they would agree,'' Burrell said. "But we knew this wouldn't be easy.''

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com