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Game 6 staredown flares up quickly, then calms down just as fast

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 24, 2010; 12:42 AM

PHILADELPHIA -

The benches-clearing staredown in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night began with a fluky event - the ball bouncing into the hand of Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley as he jogged to first base after being hit by a pitch in the third inning, and landing near San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez.

After the players stared at each other and exchanged words, Utley took a step toward Sanchez, and the benches cleared. Order was quickly restored and no punches were thrown.

It was not the first time things had gotten testy in this series - or between Utley and Sanchez.

In Game 5 two nights earlier, Giants left fielder Pat Burrell started jawing at Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay following a strikeout. For that matter, the Phillies had already been hit by six pitches in the series before Saturday night. (When Sanchez was asked about this the day before, he shrugged and said, "They're just too close to the plate, I guess.")

As it turns out, Utley and Sanchez also have a bit of a history, as Sanchez fired a first-pitch fastball over Utley's head in a July 2009 game, and Utley stared menacingly toward him, before making his official response three pitches later with a home run.

Rollins back to leadoff

When Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins stole two bases Thursday night in Game 5, Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel gained some valuable information. Rollins, Manuel thought, "has got more legs underneath him."

And so, for Game 6, Manuel moved Rollins back into his natural leadoff spot in the Phillies' batting order for the second time this postseason. Rollins had been batting toward the bottom of the order, a concession to a nagging hamstring injury that had been plaguing him since September.

Seventy-two of Rollins's 86 starts this season came out of the leadoff spot, but with Rollins limited by his injury, Manuel has been using center fielder Shane Victorino at leadoff for most of the last month..

Uribe in, Sandoval out

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy also made a significant lineup change, benching third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who had started Games 4 and 5, and using Juan Uribe there, with Edgar Renteria at shortstop.

The Uribe-Renteria combo on the left side of the infield is a stronger defensive alignment than Sandoval-Renteria or Sandoval-Uribe, but Sandoval is a better hitter and contributed a key, two-run double in the Giants' Game 4 win.

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