Saturday, October 25, 2014

11 by 11: Giants Even the Series with Come From Behind Win

Dark clouds turned into a rainbow: Coming back from a 4-1 deficit, the SF Giants lit up their home ballpark with an 11-4 victory to even the World Series at two wins apiece.

Bruce Jenkins of the SF Chronicle placed it in context: "This was the one, the performance for the Giants’ time capsule. If any future historian wants to know exactly why this team kept showing up in the postseason, and winning, bust out the four-hour spectacular from Saturday night. Who knows if the Giants will even win this World Series? It was only Game 4, with a trip back to Kansas City now guaranteed. But this 11-4 win over the Royals was about the restoration of faith and reputations. So much was on the line. And about 19 guys came to the rescue."

Down 4-1, the kids threw some 11s: 11 runs on hits by 11 different batters--a World Series record. Buster Posey got his 16th single of the postseason and drove in a run, tying him with Barry Bonds for the club WS RBI record.  Pablo Sandoval had key hits, including driving in the winning run, unusual only that he was hitting from his far weaker right side.  Joe Panik had two doubles, scoring and driving in two runs.  Hunter Pence had 3 hits, 3 RBIs and at least one fielding gem.

  Ryan Vogelsong started but it was Petit who was the pitching hero, shutting down the Royals and even getting a hit.  He has yet to give up a run in the postseason.

Yesterday was Royals Friday but this was Giants Saturday.  They won the key pitching battles, they got the breaks.  Their baserunning was daring again, but this time it worked.  They had a bad inning that included a mental error, but they overcame it.  Yost's moves failed, Bochy's moves succeeded.

The Giants eventually got to the Royals' starter but even more to their middle relievers.  That was absolutely the key to this game.  So the Giants learned one good lesson (the middle relievers are vulnerable) but they won't see this starter again.  It's back to the top three in both teams' rotation.  The Royal's Shields hasn't had a good outing in awhile, but Bumgarner has the most trouble this year at home.  The Giants know they need to get ahead in those first six innings.  Fifth game winners usually win the Series, but for the Giants this last game at home is almost essential.  (For what it's worth, Curt Schilling has the Giants in seven.)

It was a great game for the San Francisco fans, who rallied along with the team.

Jenkins also comments: The Giants’ organization has become known for staging the classiest pregame ceremonies in baseball, and this one stood out: Henry Aaron, the Little League champions from Chicago, 13-year-old Mo’ne Davis throwing out the first pitch (beautifully), Carlos Santana performing the national anthem, and Bryan Stow — flanked by his magnificent benefactor, Tim Flannery — shouting “Play ball!” from a wheelchair.  Stow is the Giants fan crippled by a Dodgers fan outside the stadium in LA.  Davis was the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series.

Royals Up a Game with 3-2 Win

The Kansas City Royals won the third game of the World Series 3-2.  Tim Hudson pitched a fine game for the Giants.  Javier Lopez gave up what turned out to be the winning run but it was more a case of an excellent 11 pitch at-bat than anything he did wrong.  The Giants were in position to tie a few times but the KC relievers are pitching extremely well.

The Giants have to take advantage of any scoring opportunities against the starter of the next game, scheduled for Saturday but with rain in the forecast for San Francisco.  The more times they see the relievers, the better they should see them.  But they've got nothing to hang their heads about.  The Royals outplayed them and got the breaks.  It could be the other way tomorrow.  And then comes Bumgarner.

Whatever happens, the fifth game is going to be a great one for the folks lucky enough to be there at the park in San Francisco--the last home game of this strange season.  From second Wild Card to National League champs in itself is worth celebrating, and I'm sure that's what they'll do Sunday, no matter what happens.

Because if things continue like this, they won't be bringing home a world championship.  But that's the great thing about baseball.  Things don't always continue the way they are.  A couple of feet from foul to fair, a liner that falls instead of staying up, and they could have won this game.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Speaking of Giants and Lakers

The morning after, the SF Giants were putting the best face on their 7-2 loss that they could.  The 5 runs charged to five different pitchers in the 6th was freakish.  Without it, a different game.  And their loss was not even as bad as the unexpected margin of the first game, which they won 7-1.

While it's true that inning was unique, disastrous late innings weren't unprecedented or for awhile even rare for the Giants this season.  Their bullpen imploded to begin their midseason plunge from comfortably in first place to struggling for the second of two wild card spots.

But this game was worrisome for a couple of other reasons: Hunter Strickland and (speaking of freak) Tim Lincecum.  Strickland let the game get away, and given Lincecum's solid innings that followed, we'd probably not see the young fireballer again in the World Series, at least in a pressure situation.  But Lincecum left the game with a back injury, and Giants fans await the word on whether he can pitch again.  All of this calls the Giants bullpen into question.  Bochy will have to do some fancy managing to cope with it.  Friday pregame update: Lincecum not seriously injured, stays on the roster.

Doubts are also being raised about Jake Peavy, but while not commanding, his start was decent: two runs through five full innings.  He might have pitched out of serious danger again in the 6th, though Bochy's decision to lift him made sense at the time.  If I were Bochy, I'd have no qualms about handing him the ball.  Strickland is something else.  He's shown himself susceptible to pressure, and that's not going to lessen.  If Bochy has an alternative, he may well have thrown his last pitch in this World Series.

The Royals are going to come into San Francisco confident and fired up.  They won the game they pretty much had to win.  Now the Giants have to counter.  The third game is a big one for them.  I've got a good feeling about Tim Hudson's start.

Meanwhile in the NBA, the Lakers' bad luck (or some would say comeuppance) continues.  After a controversial ESPN piece saying that the reason the Lakers couldn't score a big name free agent was that nobody wants to play with Kobe Bryant, it's announced that Steve Nash is hurt and will not play this season, again.

Meanwhile the Lakers can't win in preseason, which isn't surprising, with pretty much a brand new team.  I don't buy the Kobe story, at least not completely.  After Dwight Howard got burned by baby Buss' bungling in hiring a coach, and with Kobe coming back from injury at 36, the Lakers lost their luster--no free agent in his right mind who had a choice would have gambled on them, not if they want to be on a team that looks like it could contend. The Lakers will have to prove that this year.  I expect Kobe to come back strong, but that's yet to come.

If the Lakers were seriously counting on Nash to be their starting point guard this year, they remained delusional.  Nash is a formerly great player, but his competitors are bigger, stronger and faster now.  He's pretty much admitted that he's sticking around for the money, and the Lakers are paying him big time.  He could probably contribute as an assistant coach.  But his days as an impact player were over.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kansas City Surge

The Kansas City Royals broke loose in the 6th inning and their bullpen as advertised shut the door to take the second game of the World Series 7-2.

It was a pretty evenly matched game until the Giants lost control in the 6th.  Essentially the Kansas City game plan worked, as the Giants' plan did in the first game.  Now it's definitely a series.

Off day to build the KC buzz before the Series resumes with three in San Francisco.

6:05 pt: After two innings, it's Royals 2 Giants 1.  The Giants are getting pretty good at bats but Ventura is holding his own, and two excellent fielding plays kept the Giants off the board in the third.  Peavy however has given up 5 hits already.  The bottom of the third is likely to be an important test.

6:23: Peavy has a one-two-three third.  Top of the 4th, Sandoval doubles, Belt doubles him home--a goofy play limits the damage for the Royals.  It's tied 2-2.

Two general observations: The Cardinals were supposed to be a good fielding team.  In their series, they weren't.  The Royals are supposed to be a good fielding team.  So far they are.  They're also supposed to excel in baserunning and steals.  But the caught stealing in the first inning that ended a rally is all they have to show so far.

6:40: Peavy cruised through another inning in the fourth, the Giants again threatened but did not score in the fifth.  Ventura has thrown a lot of pitches so he may have no more than another inning.  2-2.

6:47: Peavy retires the Royals on 7 pitches to end the fifth.  The Giants probably have just the next inning to get to Ventura for runs. 2-2.

6:55: Giants get two on with one out in the 6th, and Ventura is taken out.  Now the Giants see the first of KC's vaunted relief trio, Herrera.  He's effective.

Man, I can't let these guys alone even to eat dinner.  The Royals score 5 in the 6th, and even the series with an impressive 7-2 win.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Giants Got First

6:22 pt: I miss these guys.  ESPN radio is on my usual Giants station, and is all I can find.  Can't believe the team broadcasters aren't working the game somewhere.

Giants game plan is to get to the Royals starter early.  Mission accomplished in the first inning: Sandoval double, Pence two run homer.  Though Royals pitcher Shields has settled down some, the Giants are still hitting the ball hard.  Bumgarner also having his early-mid innings troubles, in a jam in the third but strikes out two and gets a grounder from the Royals best hitters.  After three, it's 3-0.
Hunter Pence. Photo SF Chron

6:32: Giants knock out starter Shields in the fourth with a run and two runners on, nobody out.  Duffy the reliever isn't sharp, walked in a run but the Giants didn't get the killer hit.  Middle of the fourth: Giants 5 Royals 0.

7:35: Bumgarner continues his record-setting postseason shutout innings on the road through six.  With his pitch count at 93, now the question is how much further does he go.  It's an American League park, so the DH means there's no pinch-hitting for the pitcher move.  Meanwhile Duffy has settled down but may be tiring in the seventh.

7:44:  Yup, he was.  Opened the 7th walking Blanco, then Joe Panik tripled.  Giants 6-0.  New pitcher is Collins.  Panik on third, no outs.  Posey scorches one, but right at the first baseman for the first out.  Sandoval singles in Panik: 7-0.  A wild pitch sends Sandoval to second.  Pence walks.  Belt strikes out.  Morris flies out to end the inning.  So it's Giants 7-0, with Bumgarner apparently coming out to pitch the bottom of the 7th.

8:03: Bumgarner's scoreless innings end with a homer by Salvador Perez, both the consecutive scoreless on the road, and his streak of scoreless innings in the World Series.  The 7th ends Giants 7 Royals 1.  Doubtless Bumgarner's last inning this game.

8:17: Javier Lopez comes on in the 8th.  The ESPN announcers were clearly emphasizing the Kansas City story at the beginning of the game, but now they're talking up the Giants.  A double play ends the inning.  Still Giants 7-1.

8:35: Here's a novel sight: Giants rookie fireballer Hunter Strickland is pitching the last of the ninth. Give him the experience, the thrill, and don't show the Royals the regular late innings relievers. Strickland gets the first out with a three pitch strikeout.  A roller to second for the second out.  A strikeout ends the game.  The Giants win the first game of the World Series 7-1.

This puts the stats on the Giants' side.  Teams that won the first won the Series 10 out of the last 11.  A first win on the road rattles the home field advantage.  Roughing up the Royals' ace, who's had postseason problems, seeds some doubt for another start, probably the fifth game.  The pressure is on KC to win tomorrow, just to make it a series.

The Giants hitters were on it, but the fielding was excellent also--consistent for first games (apart from one error.)  Bumgarner didn't get to hit but he fielded, robbing the Royals of at least two hits.

Pence finally came alive at the plate, very good sign.  Sandoval has had a quiet record breaker, hitting in consecutive postseason games.  But his RBIs are what's vital.  His first today was the impetus.

Announcers note that the Royals are a young streaky team, that this is their first postseason loss, and the question is how they will respond tomorrow.  Jake Peavy against Ventura.  Most observers give the advantage to Ventura, a young fireballer. I would have agreed, but tonight I don't think so.  If Ventura isn't right from the start he could get rattled, but Peavy--though an excitable guy--can weather a storm.  Peavy's been here, and judging by the first game, that may be important.  I'm saying advantage Peavy, but ultimately every game is nothing more than itself.

Still, the Royals apparently believe that if they have a lead or the game is close after five or six innings, their bullpen will shut the Giants down.  The Giants thrive on getting an early lead like today, but they've shown in the postseason that they can come back.  They eventually hit the Cards best relievers.  So whether the Royals really have a bullpen advantage has yet to be seen.

Since I'm apparently stuck with ESPN radio, I'll note that on their website, 4 of their 6 "experts" picked the Royals to win the Series.  One of them said in four games, so he's wrong already.

A nice perspective on the game and the Series from John Heyman.