Saturday, October 11, 2014

Game One: In Progress (and Over)

Final: Giants 3  Cards 0. The story of this game: the Giants came out ready and frisky, the Cards came out rusty.  It's a big win for the Giants, first game on the road, and their ace did what the Dodgers' probable MVP couldn't.  It will be interesting to see if Wainright recovers from a 98 pitch five innings or his rumored elbow problem gets worse.

Madison Bumgarner now holds the Major League record for consecutive shutout innings on the road in the postseason.  If not for his own throwing error in the DC series at home, he might hold the overall record.

With Wainright a 20 game winner, today's pitching match-up could be construed as a draw going in.  Tomorrow's may slightly favor the Cards, except that Jake Peavy for the Giants is on a roll.  But it's hard to believe the Cards will have a second sloppy fielding game in a row.  Whether their bats come alive is the real question.  But it does seem the Giants hitters are in the zone at last, although they are still leaving lots of runners on base.  Improving on that is the next step.

7:20: Going into the seventh, still 3-0.  These are the innings when St. Louis is most dangerous.  But Bumgarner got the 2-3-4 hitters easily in the sixth.

6:50: Wainright leaves the game in the top of the fifth.  Done in by sloppy fielding and threw a lot of pitches.

6:30 p. Pacific: The Giants have the early lead, 3-0 with Bumgarner on the mound.  But St. Louis is a very good come from behind team, and no lead is safe until the final out.

The Giants got to Adam Wainright with six hits so far.  A couple of walks and sloppy fielding by St. Louis.  Obviously Bumgarner is pitching a better game.  A good sign for the Giants: Pablo Sandoval is hitting--when he drops in hits on unlikely pitches as he did today, he's on a productive roll.

What, no extra innings? Kansas City has won their second game, in Baltimore, and have yet to lose in the postseason.

Late Night Match: Royals and Giants

Apparently when you play the Kansas City Royals the first nine innings are just foreplay.  For the fourth time in five postseason games, the Royals won in extra innings, again with homers.  They won the first ALCS game over the Orioles on Friday.  Or maybe it was Saturday.

So their only fitting opponent in the World Series would be the Giants, who played more extra innings than they have in the postseason, although all in the same game.

The World Series of Insomnia, here we come.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


Who blinked first?  The Cardinals announced their starting rotation, but the Giants haven't.  Everyone thinks they know what it is: Bumgarner, Peavy, Hudson, Vogelsong.

One new wrinkle (so far): if his instructional league games go well, Giants slugger Michael Morse will be on the roster.  He might contribute, but I doubt that it's "huge" news, at least for the first few games of the St. Louis series.  Still, every run that crosses the plate counts hugely for the Giants.

The Cardinals are early favorites, as are the Orioles in the American League series against the Royals.  They are also two of the oldest franchises in baseball, and the two oldest in the playoffs in terms of time in their present city.  Ironically, they both have roots in St. Louis, and both at one time were called St. Louis Browns. The Cards have always been in St. Louis, and the Orioles have been in Baltimore since 1954, two years before the Giants moved to San Francisco from New York.  The Royals were an early expansion team, starting where they are, in Kansas City, in 1969.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

They Got Next

The error in the third game was an omen, but not for the Giants.  In the fourth game the Washington Nationals beat themselves, and the San Francisco Giants move on to play the St. Louis Cardinals.

As I suggested could happen, Ryan Vogelsong rose to the postseason occasion as he has before, with a stellar start.  The Giants started hitting, but could not bring runs home.  Their three runs were enabled if not created by Nats' errors and misjudgments.  The Giants are proving to be a resilient team, with impressive pitching.  The Giants defense was back, with Hunter Pence contributing a great catch.

With their win and the Cards win earlier in the day, every one of the most favored teams in both leagues lost in this round.  The Nats had the best record in the National League.  The division champ Dodgers were expensively constructed to win five and seven game postseason series.  The LA Angels were the AL favorites, with the Detroit Tigers close behind.  They all lost.

Now there's the O's and the Royals, the Cards (who at least won their very competitive division but on the last possible day) and the second Wild Card SF Giants.  So the Giants go into another series, the underdog...again.  First game is Saturday, with Madison Bumgarner expected to start.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Shake It Off

Everyone remembers the dark moments that turn a series.  Boston will always remember the Buckner boot, Chicago Cubs the fan interference that cost a foul ball out, both foreshadowing imminent and final disaster.  I will always remember the seventh game of the 1992 National League championship series when the Golden Gloves second baseman for the Pirates booted a ground ball in the ninth with the Pirates ahead, and opened the floodgates that saw Atlanta go to the World Series instead of the last truly talented Pirates team (Bonds, Bonilla, Van Slyke etc.) until the recent one.

So tonight people are talking about the throwing error by Madison Bumgarner that broke his shutout and allowed Washington to score its first two runs.  They won the game 4-1.  It's certainly true that the error juiced up the Nats, and contributed to them playing another day.

But nobody remembers the errors that were overcome, that wound up not meaning anything to the final outcome.  This could just as well have been one of those.

It does stand out because this game between the Giants and Nats was notable for defensive plays on both sides.  However, the Nats made more key plays and fewer mistakes, unusual for the visiting team.  The pitching on both sides was superb.  But perhaps the weaknesses in the Giants lineup are starting to tell, particularly Blanco in the leadoff position instead of the injured Angel Pagan.  This was always a worry.  Blanco contributes on defense, but the lineup is hampered without a better leadoff hitter.

Tuesday's pitcher is Ryan Vogelsong, who has not been having a good year, and has been roughed up by the Nats.  But he has also been very good in postseason.  He may well rise to the occasion.  The key will be the Giants' bats.  They can't depend on their pitchers not allowing a single run.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Home But Not Free Yet

Yusmeiro Petit
After the postseason game of the longest duration in Major League history--6 hours, 23 minutes--both the SF Giants and the Washington Nationals got on a plane to fly 3 time zones away to San Francisco.  Today they rest (I'm guessing the scheduled workouts were cancelled or curtailed.)  Tomorrow they play the third game.

With a 2-0 lead and their ace taking the mound, the Giants could not find themselves in a better position--except for the unpredictable effects of that 18 inning marathon that ended after midnight DC time.  On paper everything lines up for a Giants sweep Monday--but the game ain't played on paper.

Here are the cautions: the Giants sleep two nights in their own beds.  They are home, and prey to everybody who wants them to supply tickets, etc.  They may show up at the ballpark relaxed and loose, or they could find themselves flat.  The Nats on the other hand will likely be wired.  They've already shown themselves to be a tightly wound team, and that's hurt them, but the energy of desperation could help them Monday.

The October cold and wind kept balls hit to left field in the ballpark in Washington.  Such will not be the case by the Bay.  Left field fences are far, but not that far.  With a left-hander on the mound, look for the Nats righties to swing for the big flies.  They will probably take those swings early, before Bumgarner gets settled into the game.

But if the third game isn't a done deal, how about the series?  The Giants have had really bad stretches at home this year, so losing two games in a row is not unthinkable.  And then there's the pitching rotation.  Petit might well have been the starter for the fourth game, but he pitched a full game in relief--80 pitches--on Saturday (and got the win, after Tim Hudson's heroic 8 innings, giving up a single run.)  Does Bochy go with Peavy on three days rest?  If not, who?  Vogelsong is back on the Giants roster, so he's a possibility.  Not a good year but he's been successful in the postseason.

I'm thinking Bochy held Lincecum out of Saturday's epic partly to make him available to start Tuesday, or be available for long relief, especially after he inserted Petit.  If the Nats manage to win both SF games, the Giants will have Hudson (or Peavy if he's isn't tapped for 4) available for the 5th and deciding game.

It may well not come to that but even though the pressure is obviously on the Nats, there's some on the Giants, too.  Their best possible outcome is to win tomorrow, and rest everybody for the next series.

The Epic

A few more notes on the epic 2-1 game Saturday.  Among Bochy's brilliant moves was to choose Petit in relief rather than Lincecum.  In doing so he may have sacrificed his fourth game starter.  Petit, who left relief pitching behind to become a starter late in the season, seemed somewhat unprepared when called upon.  But after a shaky first inning he settled into the game and was lights out. He gave up one hit and struck out seven in an 80 pitch, 6 inning performance.  And of course he gave up no runs--when for six innings the first Nats run scored would give them the victory, right then and there.  Bochy went with the pitcher he thought was the better one for this game, without thinking too far ahead.

Both teams virtually depleted their bullpens.  (Sandoval said (or kidded) later that he was ready to pitch if needed.)  But by using Petit, Bochy required fewer innings from his regular relievers.  That may pay off Monday.  

Both Baltimore and Kansas City swept the more favored American League teams of Detroit and Los Angeles on Sunday.  An omen for the Giants?  Well, maybe, but for now it means the game will start a little later in the afternoon for TV.