Cardinals' Randal Grichuk has rough right-field debut at AT&T Park

Cardinals' Randal Grichuk plays right field for first time at AT&T Park and his inexperience shows in first in

In the modern ballpark, where nothing is too sacrosanct for a corporate logo, the Levi's flags told the story on Tuesday.

The flags fly high above right field at AT&T Park, bright red buffers between the ballpark and the San Francisco Bay. As the wind blew briskly all afternoon, the Levi's flags pointed toward dead center field all afternoon.

Right field at AT&T Park is not an easy position to play, with its spacious ground, and pinball angles, and with fans peeking in and hollering at you from a promenade behind the base of the outfield fence. Mix in a windy day, and right field can become a nightmare.

Randal Grichuk found that out the hard way. The St. Louis Cardinals rookie played right field here for the first time in his career, in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. The San Francisco Giants scored five runs in victory, with three of the runs coming on one fly ball that Grichuk thought would clear the fence in right field but ended up caroming off the fence near center field.

Grichuk had the sympathy of San Francisco center fielder Gregor Blanco, who plays this outfield every day.

"This was the toughest wind that I've ever played in baseball," Blanco said. "The wind was unbelievable.

"We hit a couple balls that should have been out in any park. They just stayed and floated."

The most critical hit came in the first inning, when the Giants scored four times, all with two out.

Hunter Pence already had doubled home one run, and the Giants had the bases loaded. Travis Ishikawa laced a fly ball high and deep to right field, and Grichuk drifted back, to where he expected the ball might fly over his head.

"I thought it was out of here," Grichuk said.

The ball got caught up in the gusts and carried toward center field, exactly where the flags were pointing. When the ball came down, it did so far from Grichuk. It caromed off the base of the outfield wall, and center fielder Jon Jay played the ball because he was closer to it.

Ishikawa had a bases-clearing double. The Giants led, 4-0.

Even though Grichuk had belatedly scampered toward center and turned around to play the ball off the wall, he said he did not see the ball hit the wall. He said he would head to the video room to see, and to learn.

"I didn't actually see where it hit," he said. "I'm going to go watch it. Maybe if I would have drifted more along the wall and not decided to play it off the wall, the catch could have been made."

The score stayed that way until the fourth inning, when the Cardinals had two on and two out. Pence, who plays right field here every day, then demonstrated how tricky the position can be even with the advantage of familiarity.

Kolten Wong hit the same kind of fly ball that Ishikawa had — high and deep to right field, and into the gusts. The ball carried far more toward center field than Pence anticipated. Wong had a triple, and St. Louis had its first two runs.

"The ball was really far from me," Blanco said. "All of a sudden, I thought, if I dived, maybe I could have caught it."

The dimensions on the half of the outfield that Grichuk plays: 309 feet down the right-field line, 365 feet to one corner in right-center field, 421 feet to the deepest corner in right-center, 399 feet to dead center.

Grichuk did not hesitate to agree this outfield is the weirdest he has ever played.

"Most definitely," he said. "There's a lot going on out there. Throw in the wind, and it's pretty tricky."

Short hops

A.J. Pierzynski started at catcher for St. Louis in place of the injured Yadier Molina, who had started 83 consecutive postseason games. Molina, who has a strained oblique muscle, is unlikely to start in this series but did warm up pitchers in the Cardinals bullpen. The last St. Louis player to start a postseason game at catcher before Molina? Current Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny, in 2004. … The Giants became the first NL team to win on a walkoff error since the 1986 New York Mets — the Bill Buckner game — and the first Giants team to score at least four runs in the first inning of a postseason game since scoring six in the first inning of Game 7 of the 1912 World Series.

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