Programming note: For comprehensive Giants-Cardinals NLCS coverage, watch “October Quest” tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
SAN FRANCISCO – As the Giants prepare for the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, Giants manager Bruce Bochy envisions just one change from the NL Division Series roster.
It’s a big one.
Michael Morse traveled to Arizona on Wednesday to take some swings against live pitching in instructional league, he’ll play a game in left field among the low-level prospects on Thursday, and if all goes well with his strained left oblique, the expectation is that he’ll be added to the active roster for Game 1 on Saturday at Busch Stadium.
The Giants probably would replace rookie outfielder Gary Brown, who made just one pinch-hitting appearance in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals.
“Morse will come into play,” said Bochy, sidestepping a question about whether Travis Ishikawa would remain the starting left fielder.
The Cardinals do not have a left-handed pitcher in their rotation, so it would be easy for Bochy to stick with Ishikawa’s left-handed bat in left field and use Morse as a pinch hitting threat. Ishikawa, for all his inexperience in the outfield, has acquitted himself well on defense.
Morse’s defense and lack of mobility cost the Giants several times in the second half of the season, and you know the old axiom: in the postseason, your weaknesses usually get exposed.
Bochy would not commit to starting Ishikawa every game in left field, though.
“Yeah, it could make it easier but you’ve got a decision to make with Morse,” Bochy said. “So on Friday, I’ll get a chance to look at him and we’ll see where we’re at.
What’s going to be nice is it gives you another option, another weapon.”
Morse had 11 home runs by the end of May but hit just two in June, two in July and one in August. His last major league at-bat came Sept. 19, when he was 0 for 2 with two strikeouts and still had tightness in his side. He hasn’t seen extended live pitching since the end of August.
The Giants do not have a power threat on their bench, though. Morse would cast a long shadow, at least.
“He has game changing power, game changing presence,” said Morse’s buddy, Hunter Pence. “Hopefully he’s feeling good.”
Nationals manager Matt Williams will be second-guessed for eternity after pulling Jordan Zimmermann one out away from a shutout victory in Game 2, and for watching in the seventh inning of Game 4 as the Giants went ahead against middle relievers.
But there’s a question for Bochy, too. Why did he let Hunter Strickland face Bryce Harper with a 2-1 lead in the seventh? Why go with a right-on-left matchup, especially after Harper put a homer into low-grade orbit off Strickland in Game 1?
Harper hit a tying home run that splashed in the cove.
Bochy smiled a bit when asked the question Wednesday.
“Really?” he said, drawing laughs from reporters. “Well, he was throwing 97, 98 (mph). He doesn’t back down, and I had (Jeremy( Affeldt but I didn’t want to go through a bunch of guys.
“Hey, the kid gave up a home run. He’ll learn. That’s a tough thing to challenge with a fastball.”
Harper said as much. Although he glared at the right-hander most of the way around the bases, Harper later opened his postgame comments by praising the Giants’ professionalism and complimenting Strickland for having “the cojones” to throw a 3-1 fastball.
In other words, Tim Hudson’s scouting report was not disproven.