What a way to start. Way to go Royals. That game went nothing like I expected, and that is how baseball goes. So, might as well try to predict what will happen tonight.
If the Giants win today they get to play at least 3 more baseball games, and possibly many more. If they lose, then that’s it for 2014. See you in Scottsdale in March.
Let’s take a look at today’s game.
- Evenly matched? The Giants went 88-74 with a +51 run differential. The Pirates went 88-74 with a +51 run differential. Doesn’t get much more even than that. However, the tale of their seasons are very different. The Giants got off to a GREAT start, sucked terribly in the middle, and then did enough to make it to this game (although it wasn’t what anyone would call a strong finish). The Pirates played GREAT baseball over the last 6 weeks and enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams. Momentum of course is one of the most overrated phrases in baseball, but there is no arguing that the Pirates finished the regular season better than the Giants did.
- Home field advantage? The Pirates were good at home, going 50-31. Typically if a team wins 50+home games they have a pretty strong advantage in their park. The Giants however were pretty good on the road going 43-38. They’ve also played well in Pittsburg (although not recently…which has a lot to do with the Pirates being good the last 2 years). Madison Bumgarner has also been very good on the road.
- Injuries and Intangibles. No doubt, Giants’ fans would feel so much better about this game if Angel Pagan were healthy and starting the game in CF. But that will not be the case. Furthermore, there are no indications that Michael Morse will be available for this game, meaning Travis Ishikawa or
Juan Perez will start the game in LF (or the Giants could start Susac at C, put Posey at 1B, and throw Belt into the outfield). Meanwhile, it looks like Russell Martin could miss this game for the Pirates because of a hamstring issue, and this is a huge loss for them both in the lineup and in the run-prevention department. Meanwhile the Giants are catching a break in that the Pirates have chosen to start Edinson Volquez. Volquez has pitched great down the stretch, but he’s not exactly a guy to be feared. The Pirates used Gerrit Cole on Sunday, so he’s out, and are by-passing Francisco Liriano. Liriano is left handed and Giants feature a lot of lefthanded hitters (Blanco, Belt, Crawford, Panik, Ishikawa if he starts, plus Sandoval is better from the left side than the right). All of that to say: Volquez is about as good as you could ask for in this match-up. Thank you Pirates! Both teams have good bullpens with lots of options. The Pirates do have a lot of lefties in the pen which means there are going to be some good chess-match moments between managers. Which leads to the final intangible: Bochy is a superior manager to Clint Hurdle and he will get to show off all his prowess in this game.
So, given that, how will it all go down?
I’m sorry Giants’ fans, but from a purely objective stand point, I have to go with the Pirates. It will be close, I’m sure, but I see a 3-2 type game with the Giants just falling short. That being said, the starting pitching matchup does favor the Giants. If Bumgarner can calm himself, get through the first inning, and if the Giants can jump in front, Bochy will win the bullpen game and the Giants could steal this one.
McCovey Chronicles wrote an interesting point/counterpoint argument about this game. Of course we want the Giants to win! But, since I am predicting a loss, the question becomes how bad will it be?
Will this be a team that goes out with a whimper (kind of like 1998 when they lost in Chicago in a play-in game). Or, will this game join the pantheon of heart-break (like Game 6 of the 2002 world series, or Jose Cruz Jr). No one can know of course. Baseball is cruel like that. My sense is that this will be somewhere in the middle, neither gut wrenching nor something you will turn off in the fourth inning.
Despite my pessimism I’m excited for this game, and I will be sad if/when the Giants lose.