Early Thoughts on the World Series #SFGiants #Royals #2014WorldSeries

1. Pitching

Both the Royals and the Giants can pitch as well as anyone in the game. There are plenty of serviceable starters and some really nasty options in the bullpens.

Two critical differences. First, and no offense to James Shields, but Madison Bumgarner is the best pitcher in this series. The Royals will start four really good guys, but they have no one to match MadBum.

Second, the Royal bullpen is so, so good. They’ve been good all year. But, they deploy their weapons in a fairly rigid manner: Frasor (if needed in the 6th), Herrera in the 7th, Davis in the 8th, and Holland in the 9th. All of those guys are right-handed. There is very little mixing and matching, or deviating from that pattern (although Ned Yost did use Herrera for a few extra outs in Game 4 of the ALCS).

One of the things the Giants do so well is put extreme pressure on the opposing team to match up properly. Matheny got it right a few times in the NCLS, but he also got it wrong several times. Matt Williams got it wrong several times, and he got it wrong by going with the formulaic, “that’s out 7th inning guy,” thinking, when using his actual best pitcher would have been a much better move. That tends to be how Royals manager Ned Yost approaches games.

The truth is, the Royals guys are so good they may not need to do any mixing and matching. But, with a Giants lineup featuring 5 left handers (and I think Bochy will spread them out in Kansas City), there is going to be pressure put on Yost to figure out how to use guys in ways he didn’t have to against the Orioles (who used 6, 7, or 8 right-handed batters).

Meanwhile, Bochy is a genius at mixing and matching. He did not use his relievers in the same pattern in any of the 5 games in the NLCS. That backfired a bit in Game 2, but it also worked beautifully in the 4 wins. I’m sure Giants’s fans would take a similar result this time around.

2. Offense

Much like the Cardinals, the Royals are acting a bit out of character this postseason, hitting home runs at a much higher rate than the regular season. The Giants, on the other hand, are hitting home runs at a lower rate, even with the 3-home run breakout in the clinching Game 5 performance.

My initial thought here is that this favors the Giants. The Giants continue to score and win despite not hitting the long ball, and that always bodes well in the postseason. I also think it means they could be due to break out the home runs in the World Series. Posey, Sandoval, and Pence have yet to go yard in the playoffs. One would think that has to change.

The uptick in home runs for the Royals makes me think they are playing over their heads and have to come back down at some point. That could be in March, or it could be in this series.

I do think the power will be suppressed playing in two pitcher’s parks, but the Royals are able to score runs in a lot of different ways, and so even if the power disappears they can still put pressure on the pitchers and defense with their speed and contact game.

3. The Managers

Most people consider Ned Yost one of the worst managers in the Major Leagues. I don’t know if that is totally fair, and even if he is, he’s on a hot streak right now, and if you’ve ever played poker you know sometimes a bad player can beat you if they get the right cards. Yost may just have the right cards right now.

Most people consider Bruce Bochy one of the best managers in the Major Leagues. I tend to agree with that assessment.

The biggest issue (and I’ll say more about this in a moment) is that Yost hasn’t really had to second guess himself, nor has he been forced to deviate from his game plan. Bochy almost always seems to do better when he is forced off course. I don’t know that Yost has the ability to make those kinds of adjustments, especially if this series goes deep. I get the impression that he will just do the same thing over and over and hope it keeps working.

Bochy will never do that, and it’s his ability to adapt and change based on each series and each game that makes him so valuable in the postseason.

4. The Experience Factor

I haven’t really seen anyone write about this yet, although I’m sure someone will, but the Giants are far and away the more experienced club. Yes, they have more older players, but that’s not really what I’m talking about.

The Giants have 7 (8 if you count Tim Lincecum) players for whom this will be their third World Series in the last five years. Some of those guys are pretty young (Posey, Sandoval, Bumgarner). Those players are 8-1 in the World Series (which is a VERY good record).

Beyond that the Giants have another 7 guys (Ishikawa, Blanco, Pence, Belt, Crawford, Arias, and Vogelsong) who are playing in their second World Series with the Giants. (Plus Peavy who was just in the Series last year with the Red Sox). That’s 16 out of 25 guys with quite a bit of experience at this stage.

Then think about guys like Michael Morse and Tim Hudson who have never been here before and are old enough to realize they may never get back. That’s makes for one hungry, but experienced group.

This Giants’ team knows how to handle this, knows how to finish, and senses the opportunity to pull off the truly unbelievable feat of 3 championships in 5 years.

The Royals are young and hungry, but have only 2 players who has been here before (James Shields and Omar Infante, he of the losing 2012 Detroit Tigers).

5. Momentum

Here, I am not referring to the mystical idea of destiny or that some teams get on a role, grab the moment right out of the air, and ride it victory (although there may be some of this with both teams).

But, what is most interesting coming into this series is that each team has been able to get ahead in its series and never let go. The Giants won the first game in both the NLDS and NLCS. The Giants got out to a critical 2-0 lead in the short series, and the critical 2-1 lead in the longer series. The Royals of course have won every game.

One of these teams, I can actually guarantee this, will start the series off with a loss and be in a 0-1 hole. Neither have had to face this predicament this postseason.

Both teams have been able to play out in front, put the pressure on their opponents, and then but the proverbial boot to the proverbial neck and end it.

Again, one of them will not be able to do that in this series and so will have to play catch up for the first time.

Playing catch up could benefit the Giants because they’ve done it before. The core of this roster has won 7 straight elimination games. However, the 2014 Giants seem to be following the script of the 2010 Giants: yeah it’s close and tense, but they are the aggressor putting their opponents on their heals and forcing them to be perfect (which they have not been able to do).

It would seem that it would continue to benefit the Giants to jump in front.

The Royals haven’t been behind much in this postseason either (the obvious exception being the Wild Card game). Since they’ve been so in control for so long it could really rattle them if they lose Game 1 and the Giants start turning the screws.

On the other hand, the Royals are young and loose and confident, and might be one of those teams that’s too dumb to know it should be scared. They may thrive on being behind.

My sense, though, is that Game 1 is huge, and whoever can jump out to the lead in this series is going to be well on their way to another party when it is all said and done.

-SB

WORLD SERIES #SFGiants #NLCS

It is going to take something really, really special to replace the Barry Zito redemption story on my list of favorite Giants’ stories of all time.

But, Travis Ishikawa.

Before he came up I tweeted this:

It is written…

Because, of course. It’s the perfect story: guy almost quits…guy gets picked up by old team…guy plays well…guy finally makes mistake…everyone remembers he shouldn’t be here…guy comes up with a chance to redeem himself and send his team to the World Series…and then guy hits home run.

I mean all he needed was a base hit. He also could have walked. We’ve appreciated the Ishi walk before.

Nope. Home run. Let’s go home.

It was written.

———-

Think about all your favorite Giants: Bonds, Kent, Aurillia, Snow, Thompson, Davis, Leonard, Clark, Williams, Burks, Alou. Go way back: Mays, Cepeda, McCovey.

None of those guys hit a walk off home run to send the Giants to the World Series.

———-

The Fox team went on and on (and on and on) about how awesome Wainwright was. And he was good. He had the curveball going and he used some trickery to keep guys off-balance.

But Bumgarner was good too. He retired the last 13 batters he faced. He bent but never broke. 15 1/3 innings, 3 runs.

And he’s the MVP.

———

You just knew Michael Morse was going to do something awesome, and he did.

My dad’s friend nearly caught the ball too.

Love that weird dude so much.

(Also, love that it was the left fielders, after so many years with THE left fielder, hitting home runs to win this game.)

———

Happy for Tim Hudson. 16 years, first World Series.

———-

Loved seeing Sabean in tears immediately after the game.

Loved Bochy quoting Harbaugh: “Nobody’s got it better than us.”

Loved the fact that these guys are celebrating like this has never happened before.

Act like you’ve been there before during the games, celebrate like it may never happen again afterwards.

———-

Bochy with the Giants: 8 postseason series wins, 0 loses.

———-

Joe Panik broke the home run drought. Of course he did. Another Giants’ second baseman doing something amazing in the postseason.

You just knew they needed homers.

———-

Brandon Crawford and Jeremy Affeldt saved the season. Talk about Morse, talk about Ishikawa, give the MVP to Bumgarner. They all deserve it.

But, that ball that deflected off Panda’s glove right to Crawford could have been a disaster. But, Mr. Smooth, Brandon Crawford, calmly caught it and winged a perfect throw to Joe Panik. HUGE out, huge play.

And then, Casilla had no idea where the ball was going, and it got really bad against Cruz. Bochy pulled him. Affeldt came in and immediately restored order.

One of the greatest Giants of all time: Jeremy Affeldt.

The door was slammed, and the stage was set.

———

Grant wrote earlier this week (after Game 2) that the Giants have lacked walk-off awesomeness in their postseason history. They proceeded to then do it twice.

I like walk off wins.

I like baseball.

That was awesome.

-SB

3 Question for Game 5 #sfgiants #cardinals #NLCS

Questions/Keys to the Game:

1. Can Madison Bumgarner get through the first inning unscathed? MadBum has not brought his first inning woes with him into the postseason, his only blemish being that weird 7th inning against Washington. But, during the regular season he was most vulnerable coming out of the gate, sporting a 5.73 ERA in the first, but under 3 the rest of the game.

If Bumgarner can keep a clean sheet through 1 then Giants’ fans can sit back, take a deep breath, and watch with just a bit less stress.

2. Can the Giants wear out Adam Wainwright? We will probably never know how badly “injured” Adam Wainwright is right now, but having to throw 50 pitches in the first two innings of Game 1 certainly didn’t help anything. If Wainwright can get through the early innings with minimal pitches and establish a rhythm he will give a great gift to his team. And to himself, because quick innings will keep the elbow from barking.

On the other hand, if the Giants can make Wainwright work hard from the get go, foul off tough pitches, get some baserunners, and prolong counts, it will be a short night for the Cardinals ace and the Giants can then get into the tired bullpen (and into Matheny’s head).

3. Who will hit a home run? Several sites reported today that the Giants could be the first time to win a LCS without hitting a home run since the 1990 A’s (weird). The only time it happened before that? 1919. This is a rare occurence. Part of me hopes they do it, because they are the Giants. Deal with it world.

On the other hand, a home run would be so, so nice. My guess is it will come from Buster Posey, who is locked in, but has no extra base hits. That seems destined to change. On the other hand, Hunter Pence has only hit one postseason home run in his career. Seems like that number needs to go up.

It would be great if the Giants won tonight. Go Giants!

-SB

3 Thoughts on Game 4 #nlcs #sfgiants #cardinals

Sweet goodness that was an awesome game. Seriously, that’s the kind of game baseball has to learn how to market better because it was INTENSE from beginning to end. Who says baseball is boring!

1. The Common Thread. Name the 6 Giants who have made significant contributions to each postseason run since 2010?

  • Of course, there is the manager: Bruce Bochy (another gem of out-managing the opposing manager)
  • And there’s Buster Posey, baseball immortal at the age of 27.
  • And you might guess Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Pablo Sandoval and you would technically be correct. But Panda rode the bench in 2010, Lincecum is doing the same this time around, and Matt Cain is recovering from elbow surgery.
  • The other 4: Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, and Santiago Casilla
  • CORRECTION: Madison Bumgarner has been a MAJOR contributor to all three teams. MY BAD!

That is truly unbelievable continuity at the game’s most volatile position: relief pitcher. In the last five years here are some other guys the Giants have used out of the bullpen (think about what they are contributing at this point in their careers):

  • Brian Wilson
  • Guillermo Mota
  • Brandon Medders
  • Waldis Joaquin
  • Ramon Ramirez
  • Dan Runzler
  • Chris Ray
  • Clay Hensley
  • George Kontos
  • Jose Mijares
  • Shane Loux
  • Chad Gaudin
  • Jean Machi
  • Sandy Rosario
  • Jake Dunning
  • Heath Hembree
  • Guillermo Moscoso
  • David Huff
  • Juan Gutierrez
  • Hunter Strickland
  • Barry Zito/Tim Lincecum

All those guys, just planets revolving in the orbit of Casilla/Lopez/Affeldt/Casilla. Lot’s of great stuff in this article, which put into words my thoughts as I watched the game unfold last night: no bullpen core stays this good for this long. No one.

Casilla, right now, is pitching as well as any Giants’ closer I have ever seen. Romo looked vintagely good last night. Lopez came through, as he always does, despite nearly walking the one guy he needed to get out.

And then, bold statement of the day, Jeremy Affeldt may be the most under appreciated great Giant of all time. I just don’t think we recognize enough what he has done over the years and the weapon he represents as a lefty who can get right-handed batters out, and who can get 4, 5, or 6 outs. That is awesome.

And then this: 17 straight postseason appearances for Affeldt without allowing a run.

2. Depth. On the broadcast they kept calling the game a “manager’s game,” and they were right. And once again, Bochy comes out on top. Which leads to another thought. This Giants’ team is deep. Consider the guys who contributed in various ways:

  • All the pitchers of course
  • Joaquin Arias: pinch hit single, run scored
  • Juan Perez: walk, run scored, late game defense
  • Michael Morse: first as a decoy, then as a pinch hitter (he didn’t do anything in that at bat, but his presence changed the game)
  • Matt Duffy: huge, successful sacrifice bunt
  • And all the pitchers of course

Everyone Bochy called on contributed and changed the course of the game in a positive direction for the Giants.

3. Petit. There’s not much left to say about what Petit has done. He’s essentially thrown a two hit shutout this postseason. The difference in this game was that Bochy had Petit and Matheny did not.

(Side note: Bochy’s taken heat from people, and I am chief among them, for letting Peavy stay in Game 2 and pitch to Matt Carpenter in the 4th inning with the bases loaded. It paid off in the moment for Bochy, who then had Javier Lopez available later in the game. In Game 4 Matheny brought in his version of Lopez, Randy Choate, to get an out. It worked for Matheny in the moment, but then he did not have Choate available later in the game and it really backfired in the 6th and 7th when there were multiple times Choate would have come in handy. Another point for Bochy).

To summarize: Petit is a bearded ball of awesome.

Tonight: I appreciate Grant’s thoughts on this…the series is NOT OVER. Tonight will be stressful stress, nothing is certain, and the Giants need to take care of business now and not mess around. WIN TONIGHT!!!! Go Giants!

-SB

3 Thoughts on Game 3 #SFGiants #NLCS

1. The Giants are lucky. We are never going to get away from this narrative. Forget the fact that the Giants scored 4 very legitimate runs in the first inning. Forget that for all the angst about the offense, and for all the home runs the Cardinals are hitting, the Giants have outscored them 12-9 so far. Forget the good start by Tim Hudson, and the strong bullpen pitching by various old friends (Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez, and Romo). Forget the great defense by Pablo and Blanco. Forget the great at bat by Crawford, the redemption of Juan Perez (bunt goat to base hit master), and forget that Blanco laid down a great BUNT, one that he might have beaten out even if the throw was on target.

No, the Giants are lucky.

Ultimately, I agree with Posey: who cares as long we win. But, I just wanted Joe Panik to get the winning hit/sacrifice fly so bad. I want Joe Buck to have to say nice things about the Giants.

But, really, I just want the Giants to win. So, there’s that.

2. Hat tip to Bruce Bochy. I know some people are complaining about leaving Hudson in for the 7th. It was not a bad move though: he was pitching well, got the first out, had a low pitch count, and the ball was not exactly flying out of the yard. If Hudson gets through that inning, that saves the bullpen and sets everything up for the last 6 outs.

More interestingly, when the lineups came out, I said: “Move Ishikawa up one spot? That’s the big jolt the lineup needs to get going?” And then, unbelievably, there’s Ishikawa up with the bases loaded in the first inning. It seemed so perfect. Ishikawa grounds out, leaves them loaded, and the internet explodes with Giants-related rage.

Nope. He nearly goes yard (that’s a grand slam pretty much everywhere else). Bases clearing double.

Travis Ishikawa: postseason hero.

Overall, I thought Bochy did a great job with this game. Game 3’s are so critical, and the Giants got it done.

3. Petit and Lincecum. There is no reason for Bochy to wait around tomorrow night with Ryan Vogelsong. I love Vogey and hope he pitches 7 or 8 epic innings and leads the team to a win. But, the Giants have Petit and Lincecum fresh and ready to go. Somehow, they have a lead in this series without using Petit, maybe the Giants best weapon in the ‘pen. It’s fairly remarkable to get to a Game 4 and still have such a big card to play.

Sub-thought: how good is Santiago Casilla right now?

He’s good.

Go Giants!

-SB

3 Thoughts on NLCS Games 1 and 2 #NLCS #SFGiants #STLCardinals

3 Thoughts:

1. Don’t freak out! Last night’s loss was a bummer, but so far this is working out more or less as we hoped. Plus, there are several reason for optimism:

  • First, Adam Wainwright didn’t look right, and Madison Bumgarner looked like THE ace of the postseason. This match up may not be a coin toss after all.
  • Second, Yadier Molina’s injury could be devastating to the Cardinals. I am not rejoicing in this fact at all, but the reality is he is their most important player, and even though the Cardinals pulled it out last night there were several moments, including the Giants’ tying run that scored in the 9th that demonstrated there is a huge drop off from Molina to Cruz. (Of course, Molina’s injury also increases the likelihood that A.J. Pierzynski plays a role in this series. Objectively, that is great news for the Giants. Subjectively the thought of him having a big, important moment in this series makes my soul hurt.)
  • Third, the Giants pitching staff has given up 0, 2, 1, 4, 2, 0, and 5 runs in each of the 7 games this postseason. (You might as well add another zero there too for the 18 inning game). That’s 2 runs a game. Of those 14 runs, 7 have come on solo home runs. 7 home runs is not good, but this staff is not going to give up that many home runs moving forward, especially with the next three games being played at AT&T. The key is to keep limiting the opportunities and big innings, which they’ve been doing. And stop serving up taters.
  •  Finally, I still hold to my belief that games 3 and 4 are the swing games. The Giants, SHOULD have the advantage here being at home, and, especially, in the starting pitching match ups.

2. It’s finally time to question Bochy. As magical as Bruce has been over the years there were some moves last night that should be questioned:

  1. Leaving Peavy in to face Matt Carpenter with the bases loaded. It totally worked out, but I wanted to punch the TV when this decision was made. Javier Lopez was ready to go and there were two lefties coming up (this was not a one and done situation). Bochy rolled the dice, and it paid off both in the moment and later on in the game when Lopez was available to get Carpenter out again.
  2. Using Jeremy Affeldt for the 5th and 6th. The Giants really missed having Affeldt available later in the game (to face Tavares or Matt Adams). Why not use Petit there? If you burn Petit in Game 2, you (a) have a day off for him to recover, and (b) still have Tim Lincecum for early help if needed in Game 3. There was no reason to run Affeldt out so early.

Bochy should get credit for the way he used the bench in the 9th to get a rally going, but for the first time I can remember he made one questionable move (Peavy), and one bad move (not using Petit) in his managing of the bullpen.

For all of the positive thoughts I mentioned above, last night’s game does raise a major question moving forward: who do you trust late in the game?

  • Hunter Stickland? Only against right-handers at this point. When he came in in Game 1 against the Nationals and blew away Ian Desmond, I immediately thought: “K-Rod.” He’s been money against right-handers, but has now allowed 4 solo home runs to left-handed batters. I love the kid and his confidence, and I don’t think he is going to give up a home run every time he faces a left-handed hitter, but seeing him come into the 8th inning of a close game is going to turn my stomach.
  • Jean Machi? No. That’s all.
  • Sergio Romo? At AT&T the answer is yes. That home run given up to Wong was, again, a total bummer, but I’m not ready to write off Romo yet.
  • Lopez/Affeldt/Cassilla. Yes, yes, yes. I think Bochy has to think of Affeldt as his 8th inning guy moving forward. Of course he doesn’t need to be dogmatic about that, but I think he’s the answer for right now. Use Lopez to get Adams/Carpenter/Wong/Tavares out in big situations, and Casilla should be good to go for 4 or 5 out saves.
  • Petit/Lincecum. If Hudson gets into trouble early in Game 3, Petit has to come in right away. No questions asked. And, I still think Lincecum will have a moment, especially at home, to do something special and redeem his season. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Petit turn into a late inning option either.

3. Crank up the power. Here’s maybe the biggest issue right now. Again, the dingers are a problem, but a staff that allows 2 runs a game in the postseason is all you can ask for and more. In all the clamoring about how the pitching staff was used and failed to come through in Game 2, the reality is that the Giants have left 19 men on base in this series. They’ve had a few chances to blow these games open and/or put the dagger in late, and have failed to do so. There have been some great at bats, they aren’t striking out much, they are putting a lot of pressure on the Cardinals staff, but they have been incredibly inefficient so far. This, in my opinion, is actually the biggest different between this version of the Giants and the last two playoff runs. Consider:

  • In 2010, the Giants started 6 guys who could reasonably hit a home run at any given time (and without looking it up, I’m sure that all 6 of these guys hit home runs): Posey, Huff, Burrell, Ross, Renteria, and Uribe. Plus, Torres put a lot of pressure on the defense with his speed and extra base power, and Freddy Sanchez (remember him) was an on-base/doubles machine. That’s 8 tough at-bats every time through the lineup.
  • In 2012, the Giants started 5 guys who could reasonably hit a home run at any time: Pagan, Posey, Sandoval, Pence, Belt. Crawford and Blanco were just asked to keep the line moving and both had home runs/big extra-base hits that served as gravy to what the rest of the offense was doing. And, of course, there was Marco Scutaro at the height of his high-contact/high-pitch-count awesomeness, who just wore pitchers out with his refusal to make an out. That’s 6 really tough at bats, plus two good ones at the end of the lineup, every time through.
  • This year it’s been a bit different. The Giants are only starting 4 guys who can reasonably hit a home run at any time: Posey, Pence, Sandoval, and Belt. Again, Crawford could be added to this list (and of course we aren’t even talking about this if not for his huge grand slam against the Pirates). But the biggest difference is that Blanco is being asked to lead off (as opposed to 8th), Panik (who is doing a reasonable Scutaro impersonation) is not going to hit for power, and, as much as I hate to say it, the big problem is Travis Ishikawa. I love what Ishi has been able to contribute so far, but they have to give Morse a shot to get 2-3 at bats a game. The potential increase in efficiency is too great to let pass. There just as many tough at bats in a row, and not as much fear of the home run as in previous years.

The Giants are still in a great position to take this series and move on. Go Giants!

-SB

How The Giants Can Win the LCS in 6 #sfgiants #nlcs

Before I break it down, a couple of thoughts:

  • Based on the results it sure looks like the Cardinals are a superior team to the Dodgers. Also, the Giants and Dodgers played each other straight up all year (10-9 in favor of the Dodgers to be fair), so, sure the Giants could have beat them in a seven game series. But man, if it doesn’t feel like the Giants caught a huge break in getting the Cardinals instead. The Giants have always struggled against Clayton Kershaw (apparently the Cardinals have no such issues), and Zach Grienke really had their number this year. Having to face those guys four times in a week was going to be a tall order. Plus there’s the whole rivalry distraction, the Puig/Bumgarner silliness, and the specter of Brian Wilson that no one has to think about now. Somehow, this series feels much more open and winnable.
  • Heading into the 2012 postseason the Giants were platooning X Nady and Gregor Blanco in left field. And then the Giants never faced a left-handed starter in any of their 16 playoff games, which means that Blanco’s glove (and bat) got a lot of time (really all of the time) during the championship run. Imagine if they had to play the Phillies (with Lee and Hammels) or any team with a left-handed starter. Either we’d mention Nady in the pantheon of heroes, or we might not be talking about the potential for a 3rd World Championship right now. I mention that because the Cardinals have nothing but right-handed starters. The Giants have a lefty heavy lineup. Relatively subtle things like this seem to end up playing a large role in the Giants’ success. Blanco (as well as Joe Panik and Brandon Belt) will need to come up big in this series.
  • Along those same lines, it appears that Mike Morse will be available and play in this series. Which raises the question: start him or save him on the bench? Bochy loves to go with what-is-working-right-now in the postseason. Travis Ishikawa hasn’t been setting the world on fire, but it’s worked so far. Morse is unknown at the moment, and having to get your timing back against Adam Wainwright is kind of cruel. BUT, the Giants will need to hit some home runs to win this series. So, do you keep starting Travis because it’s working, he is left-handed, he plays better defense than Morse, and because when Matheny brings in a lefty to mow down the bottom part of the Giants order it would be nice to have Morse around to pinch hit? Or, do you gamble that Morse won’t kill you in the field and can get a hold of one at a key spot? Three run home runs are going to be extremely valuable in this series. Watch carefully how this plays itself out.
  • The only player on the Giants’ roster to not make an appearance in the NLDS was Tim Lincecum. He didn’t even get the call in the 18 inning game. Something tells me, though, that he could play a role in this series. Look for Lincecum to have a Barry Zito moment before this one is done. (UPDATE: Grant thinks it’s a bad idea to have Tim on the roster).
  • Finally, as if you didn’t have enough reason to root wholeheartedly for the Giants, the Cardinals will feature two of Giants’ fans least favorite players: John Lackey and A.J. Pierzynski. Also, Matt Holiday. Good grief.

How the Giants can win in six (by the way, SI and McCovey Chronicles also pick the Giants in six…not sure what that means):

  • Game 1: Wainwright vs. Bumgarner. If I were a fan of some other team, say the Mets, I’d still love to watch this game. There’s been a lot written about “not-the-Cardinals-not-the-Giants-again,” but this kind of pitching matchup is what makes baseball awesome. Watch and enjoy world. As I see it playing out, unless Wainwright really is broken, game 1 and game 5 are coin-flips. It really could go either way, and it will probably be something weird that changes the game. I think the Giants will win game 1 because Bumgarner seems to do better on the road, but lose the rematch at home (see below). I’ll say Giants 3-2.
  • Game 2: Lynn vs. Peavy. My guess is that the Cardinals really wanted Peavy at the trade deadline, but the Giants beat them to it and the Cards had to settle for Lackey. That makes me smile. The Giants have destroyed Lance Lynn in each of the five times he’s pitched against them (including 2 starts in the 2012 NLCS). However, this year’s version of Lance Lynn is better than previous versions. Again, I see this being a coin-flip. This time the Cardinals will prevail to even the series as it heads to the Bay. Cardinals 5-3.
  • Game 3: In the NLDS preview I wrote that the Giants MUST win every Bumgarner start. In this series I actually believe that does not apply. The reason for that comes down to the crucial games 3 and 4 matchups. First, the Giants haven’t announced who is starting yet (well-played Boch). So some of this is a shot in the dark. Second, both teams had surprisingly successful starts in the first round from the likely starters in these games. My tendency is to trust the Giants’ results more than the Cardinals. I think Tim Hudson is more likely to repeat his performance than John Lackey, and Ryan Vogelsong than Shelby Miller. Third, I think Bochy will not start Petit (or Lincecum, ha ha) in these games and have a very short leash with the starters and bring one (or both) of them in if needed. I do think Lincecum could have a moment here, at home, saving the day in a big game. I see Game 3 being Lackey vs. Hudson, with Huddy out pitching the other old dog and the Giants getting a modicum of revenge for the 2002 World Series. Giants 6-3.
  • Game 4: Miller vs. Vogelsong. With the Giants up 2-1 I see Bochy turning to Vogey who certainly earned the right to get another shot with his Game 4 performance in the LDS. Again, though, with a short leash and a call to the ‘pen as soon as trouble starts. I think both starters will be solid the first time through the order, and so who can manage round 2 will be critical. I think Vogelsong will adjust, but Miller will struggle. The bullpens will be called earlier than usual, and the Giants will fight and hang on in a close, tense game. Giants 4-3.
  • Game 5: As I said before, Bumgarner vs. Wainwright, assuming Wainwright is healthy, is a coin-flip. For some reason Bumgarner struggles more at home. Plus, I just don’t see the Cardinals going down in 5. In a very close, low scoring game, the Cardinals prevail and send it back to St. Loius. Cardinals 1-0.
  • Game 6: Lynn vs. Peavy, round 2. Much like the 2010 NLCS, the Giants will miss a chance to clinch at home and have to go on the road to finish it off. Much like 2010, they won’t mess around with a game 7 and they will get it done here. I see Peavy pitching the game of his life, spitting and yelling, and the Giants good mojo against Lance Lynn will once gain prevail. Giants 4-2 (for the 4-2 series win).

One final thought: despite what I just wrote, I see this series being much more fluid than the last round. There will be a million twists and turns. Unlike last time I don’t see any “must-win” matchups for the Giants. I think they have a fairly good chance in every game (no Jordan Zimmerman’s here). Undoubtedly this will be a wild ride, I hope we are happy with the result on the other end!

-SB