10/27/10 12:10 PM ET
Lopez could be key to getting Hamilton
Giants lefty reliever, picked up from Boston, faces big task
By Peter Gammons / MLB.com
Javy Lopez is like most of the players general manager Brian Sabean and the Giants collected during the season. They are referred to as "castoffs" and "ragtags" as if they were found at flea markets, but, as Aaron Rowand points out, "most of us have been on winning teams and faced with critical situations."
Lopez has his World Series ring from the 2007 Red Sox; Rowand and Pat Burrell have theirs from the 2005 White Sox and 2008 Phillies. And in a World Series in which the Giants expect that games will be determined by one or two runs -- after all, six of their seven wins against the Braves and Phillies were by one run, the other a 3-0 "laugher" pitched by Matt Cain -- it is expected that the 33-year-old, left-handed Lopez could end up a pivotal figure as he matches up against Josh Hamilton in critical situations leading up to Brian Wilson.
Hardly anyone noticed when Sabean picked up Lopez from the Pittsburgh Pirates at the July 31 Trading Deadline. Lopez did such a reliable job for the Bucs that on every level and every critical strikeout of Ryan Howard, Lopez has received a text message from Pirates GM Neal Huntington. "I'm not the type that gets much recognition," says Lopez. "I really appreciate what Neal has done. It says a lot about him."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, of course, has noticed. He knows that with his sidearm delivery and the added consistency of a sweeping breaking ball that he now throws for strikes, Lopez held left-handed batters to five hits in 45 at-bats during the regular season, with a 12-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That has carried over to a run in five innings in the postseason. And look at the Hamilton splits: .401 AVG/1.163 OPS vs. right-handers; .271/.789 vs. left-handers.
The Yankees tried to go left-on-left with the likely American League MVP with Boone Logan. Homer. Double. By Game 6, they simply walked him three times, and Vladimir Guerrero burned them for the two-run double that essentially signed off the series.
Both Lopez and Hamilton know that they will be matched up. "I'll look at some video and prepare for him before every game," says Hamilton. "He is different. I know that. I faced him in Pittsburgh earlier this year and grounded out to first base. I'm not certain about years past."
In all, Hamilton is 1-for-3 against Lopez, but the Javy Lopez in Boston didn't have this consistent a breaking pitch.
"I do know that I have to go up and think about going the other way and not trying to do too much," says Hamilton. "Keep things simple, hit the ball where I can."
"What makes Josh so tough is that he's like a cross between [Chase] Utley and [Ryan] Howard," says Lopez. "A hybrid. So I'll look at video before each game and prepare for him. I know what I have to do. I really don't remember past at-bats."
Asked if he remembers the ground ball to first in Pittsburgh, he replied, "Yes, of course."
Relievers with degrees in psychology from the University of Virginia don't forget such things, nor are they unprepared. Nor will Hamilton be unprepared. For if the Giants continue their pattern of playing one- and two-run games, what happens in two or three matchups between Javy Lopez and Josh Hamilton could determine the World Series, something few thought about when it crossed the wire that the Giants had acquired Lopez hours before the Trading Deadline.
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and an analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.