Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bullpen Collapse Sinks Giants

You could sense that the 6th inning was going to be the critical point in the game. Tied 2-2, the Giants chased Yordano Ventura but could not push across the go-ahead run. Jake Peavy, who'd breezed through the previous nine outs, put the first two men on in the bottom of the inning. Boch immediately summoned Jean Machi who unfortunately could not get the forkball down and a single from Billy Butler plated the go-ahead run. Javier Lopez came in and got the lefty Alex Gordon but then Boch went with rookie Hunter Strickland for Salvador Perez. The youngster gave up a double that scored two and then a homer to Omar Infante to pile on the misery. Seems like the well is tapped on number 60. The bright side of that debacle was that Timmy got to pitch and he looked good. I reckon the bullpen depth chart will get a re-working. He left after five outs with what looked like a muscle tweak on a bad landing--we can only hope the injury is minor and he'll be healthy and still available for the weekend.

A win by the Giants would likely have been the death blow. The Royals were in a must-win situation and they came up with the big hits when they had to have them. I thought Peavy looked really good after a rocky beginning and it was a real bummer when he put those guys on to start the 6th, you knew Boch would have the quick hook there, I can't argue with that. The guys didn't execute and that was the game. Another positive for the Giants is they got a look at the three-headed bullpen monster (Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland) that the Royals depend on to close out games. They are obviously impressive, but the Giants have already beaten two good teams and I expect they can beat another one. It's all set up for a sweep at home--wouldn't that be something?

Tim Hudson gets the ball in San Francisco on Friday night.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Giants Win Game 1 of the 2014 World Series

I could have gone with a different title, like "Madison Bumgarner's World Series ERA Soars!"  But that would have been deceptive.  Not that I am above that sort of thing, but it feels so good to type that the Giants have won game 1.  First, I am still on a cloud that they are even in the 2014 World Series, and then I am coming to the realization that they look pretty good in this contest.

With our ace on the mound, the Giants brought some bats and did not hesitate to use them.  Blanco led off the game with a single, moved to 2nd on Panik's long out, to 3rd on Buster's single, and scored when Pablo Sandoval doubled to the wall in right.  Posey was thrown out trying to score from 1st, but it took an excellent throw to get him.   With 1 run and 2 outs, Hunter Pence promptly homered to center field to make it 3 - 0 before Kansas City could hit.

The only baserunner for Kansas City was Lorenzo Cain in the 1st, hit on the back ankle by a pitch as Madison Bumgarner was still trying to get all his "stuff" working.  The Giants held, and with the help of a double play, kept Kansas City from scoring in the second.   In the 3rd, it looked like Kansas City was ready to tighten up the game.  Omar Infante went to 1st on Brandon Crawford's inability to field a ground ball cleanly, and to 3rd on Mike Moustakas' double.  Madison toughened up and struck out the next 2 batters before walking Cain.  An Eric Hosmer ground out ended that threat, and Kansas City never really threatened again.  Madison went 7 strong, allowing only 3 hits and striking out 5 in 106 pitches.  He gave up his first run in his World Series history (21 innings!) in the 7th to Pablo's friend Salvador Perez.  That makes Madison's World Series ERA 0.43, which is still pretty good.

When the Giants came to bat in the 4th, Hunter Pence doubled and went to 3rd on a wild pitch.  Brandon Belt walked, and Michael Morse's single chased James Shields from the game.  Danny Duffy lasted 3 innings and gave up 2 runs, but after 59 pitches (71 for Shields), he will probably not available tomorrow as a long reliever.  The final was 7-1.  Joe Panik got into the act with an rbi triple in the 7th, Gregor Blanco was on base 3 times and was credited with an rbi for a walk when the bases were loaded, and Pablo Sandoval picked up a second rbi to score Panik.  The Giants had 10 hits on the night.

You have to love it when the Giants show up with bats.  Pence hit a home run and a double, looking like a stud.  Morse hit.  Blanco looked good at the plate and in the field.  Everyone in the line up hit except Travis Ishikawa and his replacement, Juan Perez.  Strickland (pitching the 9th) looked good.  Madison snared two line drives and started a double play.  This team has every reason to be confident.  Winning game 1 in Kansas City is huge.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Winning the National League Pennant is Pretty Damn Cool

Regardless of what happens, don't forget that winning the National League Pennant is great.  In the old days, it was all about the pennant, followed by a sort of an exhibition game called the World Series.  Don't get me wrong, it is not as though World Series Champion didn't mean anything.  But it was only when the playoffs expanded and are now a baseball tournament that it has become a World Series or nothing kind of meme.  Which is my round-about way of saying, "Great Job, Giants!  Way to Go!"

I was holding my breath this morning over the blog comments because of a sort of "don't count those chickens" attitude.  Now those little yellow fuckers are hatched and we can celebrate.  The game was - let's just say it was not scripted.  Madison Bumgarner was ultimately not the hero, nor was Buster Posey (although, if I had to pick any one reason why we won this pennant, I'd have to say that it was because of the sheer force of Buster Posey's will).  Instead we had Michael Morse (remember him?).  And, of all people, Travis Ishikawa.  Travis Ishikawa.  Travis Ishikawa.  I love that name.  And Joe Panik going deep!  3 home runs!  The Cardinals are a good team, consistently competitive year in and year out.  It is amazing that the pennants have alternated between the Giants and Cardinals for 5 years now.  And I would like to thank them personally for beating the doggers.  Thank you!

Do managers matter?  I think that the closer to the end of the season, and in the playoffs, they do.  Thanks, Bruce Bochy!  The Royals are a very good team - as anyone who followed the Giants through the season can attest.  But the Giants have plenty of time to rest and plan.  It will be a whole new ball game come Tuesday.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Comeback Attack

The Giants pulled off another dramatic victory tonight in San Francisco and are now one win from the World Series. Ryan Vogelsong saw his string of post-season brilliance end cruelly after three innings, having given up four runs, the last a no-doubt rocket from Kolten Wong. Vogie had five previous playoff starts and had allowed only four runs total in 30-1/3 innings. The Giants battled back and chased Shelby Miller in the fourth, closing the gap to 4-3 on hits from Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. It was up to the 'pens from that point and the Giants proved up to the task and allowed no runs over the final six frames. Yusmeiro Petit was the difference getting nine outs in ten batters, four by strikeout.

The Giants followed up that great effort in the bottom of the 6th with another magic rally. Juan Perez, fresh off yesterday's heroics, came off the bench to open the inning and walked. After a BCraw single Matt Duffy, pinch-hitting, bunted them over. Nice work from the youngsters once again, and it should be noted that bench stalwart Joaquin Arias led off the 3rd with a pinch-hit and eventually scored. It's a team game, man. The Cards brought the infield in and Gregor Blanco shot a grass-clipper right at Matt Adams at first but he took too much time to get the throw off and Perez scored with a nifty slide. The low, off-balance throw was late and short-hopped catcher Tony Cruz who dropped it for good measure.Then Joe Panik hit a hard grounder to the bag at first and Adams gloved it and got the force, turned and threw it off-line to second giving BCraw a chance to scoot home. Buster then delivered a single to make it 6-4 Giants. It was not a good sequence for the big lefty slugger.

Boch had his matchups ready the rest of the way: Affeldt got four outs, then Lopez for Adams after Machi didn't get his man (Holliday), then Romo for the 8th and Casilla for the 9th. St. Louis put a guy on in both of the last two innings and had two on in the 7th but this time Giants pitchers executed and got the big outs. It was a tremendous game, lots of action, lots of anguish, but ultimately joy. The Giants win by attrition--they get the line moving, put the ball in play, and keep the pressure on. They were one massive blow away from breaking the game open, but their relentless peskiness was more than enough. Buster tallied three runs batted in, Pence had two hits, Blanco scored twice, the team had 11 hits and six walks and only struck out five times.

The late afternoon start meant some funny light in the outfield. Both centerfielders muffed tough chances they would normally have hauled in. I think they should play baseball at a proper local time and I'm sick of east coast television ruling the damn world. Alas, another of my multitude of bitches about our media conglomerate masters. Even corporate domination of our very souls can't ruin my high, though. This was an awesome win. I can't find any fancy way to say it. The Giants pulled off a great goddam win and are all set up with their ace tomorrow in a potential clincher. In 2010 Tim Lincecum got the ball at home in Game Five up 3-1 against Roy Halladay and the Phillies who won and forced the series to six games. It didn't matter, as I recall, but I would have rather seen the team nail it down on the first try.

So that's it, Giants. Nail it down.

5:07 Pacific. MadBum.

Go team! Win!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Busted Bunts Beat Birds

A fresh southerly breeze kept Travis Ishikawa's titanic blast in the 1st from being a grand slam. Instead the ball was blown back on to the field, confusing not just the announcers (and me) but rookie right fielder Randal Grichuk. It went for a bases-clearing double and the Giants finally had a big hit with men on base. The Cardinals chipped away at Tim Hudson the rest of the afternoon, finally tying the game in the 7th on Grichuk's bomb that hit the pole in left. Boch might have stuck with Hudson a little too long there, but it wasn't that bad of a pitch, maybe a bit up but certainly on the inner edge of the zone. Credit the youngster for a great swing in a big spot. Rookie nemesis Kolten Wong had done the rest of the damage earlier with three RBIs on a double and a triple--he was victimized by the San Francisco wind as well on the triple, off the bat it looked like a homer. John Lackey looked terrible in the 1st when the Giants whacked him around with two outs to take a 4-0 lead, but he was dominating over the next five frames and made the lineup look silly. Fortunately the Giants bullpen kept the lid on things, I was especially impressed by Santiago Casilla getting three outs in the 9th on nine pitches. He just keeps putting up zeroes! Pablo Sandoval made a great grab on a grounder by Matt Holliday in the top of the 10th to save a run and that gave the home team another shot at a walk-off win.

And walk off as winners they did. The Giants have some serious power bats like Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Pablo Sandoval but they can't seem to get--so far--home runs out of them. Brandon Belt, another slugger, delivered of course an epic dinger in DC, but the long ball has not been part of the Giants equation in this series. Well, if the homers ain't happening then you've got to find something else. Brandon Crawford led off the bottom of the 10th against Randy Choate and worked a walk. BCraw is 0-for-the LCS but has two walks in two appearances against the St. Louis lefty. Juan Perez, who'd put down a beautiful bunt against Trevor Rosenthal before Duffy's Dash in Game 2, could not put one down on two attempts. Boch took off the bunt sign with two strikes and the youngster ripped a liner to left for a single. Rock on, Juan! With runners on first and second all the world knew that next batter Gregor Blanco would attempt the sacrifice, and he put down a perfect one that Choate had to field lumbering toward the third base line. The veteran southpaw (he's the same age as Huddy) heaved his throw into right field and BCraw came home to a jubilant welcome.

It was another amazing back-and-forth battle between two great teams. The Giants keep coming up with goofy ways to score. And the 'pen was up to the task today, thank goodness. We also saw good glove work all around which, as we've seen, can be the difference in these tight contests.

Ryan Vogelsong gets the call tomorrow at 5:00 pm.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Long Balls Sink Giants

The Cardinals were the second-worst home run hitting team in the majors this season (105 total) so naturally they are the best at hitting them in the post-season. (The worst team at hitting homers in the regular season was the Kansas City Royals. They have eight post-season bombs.) The Cards hit seven against the Dodgers in the LDS and hit four tonight against the Giants to grab a big win. The Giants bullpen could not do the job and allowed three solo shots: one off Jean Machi (Oscar Taveras) to tie the game in the 7th, one off Hunter Strickland (Matt Adams) to take the lead in the 8th, and one off Sergio Romo (Kolten Wong) to win the game in the 9th. All were left-handed hitters and all were pulled to right field off right-handed pitchers. Matt Carpenter, another lefty, also stroked one to right off starter Jake Peavy in the 3rd to give St. Louis an early lead. That was Carpenter's fourth in the playoffs--the Giants have two in their seven games. Once again the Giants offense created a number of chances but could not get the game-breaking hit. They scored runs--tying it up against Lance Lynn in the 6th and even taking the lead off Randy Choate in the 7th but stranded nine runners despite ten hits and four bases on balls. The crazy, miraculous rally in the 9th off Trevor Rosenthal that tied the game saw both Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval get chances for a big hit but it didn't come.

The Giants needed to win a game in St. Louis before coming home to San Francisco. They did that. They survived a poor start from Jake Peavy and came from behind to take a late lead. Alas, the bullpen, that fountain of strength, finally faltered. It was an exceptional effort by the rookies (Andrew Susac, Matt Duffy, Juan Perez, and Joe Panik) to score against their closer, but it went for naught after the walk-off in the bottom of the inning. Machi has now allowed two homers in relief, and Strickland is now up to four. I'm not sure what Boch does with him going forward, maybe stick to pitching against righties. I thought having both Romo and Casilla for the end of the game would work in the Giants favor, instead Sergio gave it up on only his second pitch of the night.

It was an epic contest, a see-saw affair that saw the Giants empty their bench and almost pull off another amazing road win. The Cardinals had the magic power bats working after getting shut out the night before and were not to be denied. Yadier Molina left the game with an injury and backup catcher Tony Cruz had a tough go of things in a critical spot but his team hung on to win. A disappointing result as we are not used to seeing the Giants bullpen look so vulnerable, and we have yet to see the lineup (except against the Pirates) get the big knock that drives in a pair or clears the bases to open up a game.

Tuesday's game is listed for 1:00 pm Pacific (on FS1). Tim Hudson and John Lackey.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Madbum Wins

And again, I am unable to see the game.  Service outage, no phone or inyetnet, either.   Fuck Comcast.  Thank god for radio.  Thus far, Giants have given up 9 postseason runs.  In 63 innings.


The Giants take on the Cardinals in the LCS for the fourth time. In 1987 St. Louis prevailed in seven to claim the pennant but lost to the Minnesota Twins in the World Series. San Francisco, the Wild Card team in 2002, grabbed the flag in six games but lost to the Anaheim Angels in the Series. The Cards and Giants squared off just two seasons ago, the Giants overcoming a 3-1 deficit on their way to their World Series sweep over the Detroit Tigers. The Redbirds won the whole enchilada in 2011, in between the Giants two titles, and again claimed the NL pennant last season but lost to the Boston Red Sox in the Series. These two clubs are among the oldest in the majors and have played over 20,000 games apiece and fielded over 3700 different players. The NY/SF franchise claims 25 playoff appearances, 23 pennants, and seven championships. The St. Louis franchise has been in 27 playoffs, grabbed 25 pennants, and 11 titles.

The 88-74 Giants scored 665 runs and allowed 614. They batted .255/.311/.388 as a team with 2144 total bases. The 90-72 Cardinals scored 619 runs and allowed 603. They batted .253/.320/.369 as a team with 2003 total bases. The Cards get on base more often (471 to 427 BB) but the Giants have more power (431 to 401 XBH). Otherwise the teams are pretty close. In terms of wOBA the teams have an identical .308 mark.

On the pitching side both clubs are among the stingiest in allowing hits, the Giants giving up 8.1 per 9 and the Cardinals 8.2 per 9 for the second and fourth best spots in the NL. Both allow 0.8 HR per 9 but the Giants are a little better with walks, 2.4 to 2.9 per 9 innings. Both teams strike out 7.6 batters per 9 innings, rates which are near the bottom of the league standings. The Cardinals struck out 36 Dodgers, however, in 35 innings, and the Giants struck out 49 Nationals and Pirates in 54 innings, so both teams have elevated their games in the post-season. The Giants have the 10th-best FIP in the majors (3.58) and the Cardinals are 13th (3.65).

On the fielding side, the Cardinals and Giants are again very close. The Giants made more errors (100 to 88) but turned more double plays (154 to 146) and had more assists (1699 to 1617). Giants had one more putout (4347 to 4346) but the Cards take the edge on fielding percentage (.985 to .984). Baseball-Reference has a stat called "defensive efficiency" which estimates the ability of a team to convert balls in play to outs. The Giants are second best at .703 and the Cardinals third at a .701 rate.

For what it's worth here are the "experts" on the NLCS re-match:

Should be fun. That is if you consider torture to be fun.