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:
- 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.
- 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!