- Game 1 nearly went exactly according to the script. The Giants put more men on base and more balls in play. Johnny Cueto was magnificent. The defense came to play. Joe Maddon got cute (it worked this time). The Giants put pressure on Aroldis Chapman. The only problem: the Giants lost. As frustrating as that reality is, there was nothing that happened in this game to change my overall perspective on this series…
- …However: when it is all said and done, if the Giants don’t win the World Series, it will not be because of the starting pitching. It won’t be because of the defense. It probably won’t be because of the bullpen (if they even get to pitch, knock on wood). It will be due to the offense, and in particular, to the lack of power. My issue is not with home runs per se (the 2012 Giants didn’t hit a lot of home runs). Previous iterations of the Giants have never been mashers like the 2016 Orioles/Blue Jays, but those teams had guys with pop up and down the lineup including doubles machines like Freddy Sanchez and Marco Scutaro. In other words they had extra base potential 1-8. This version has that potential, but it’s been so inconsistent and sporadic for months now, it leaves one wondering if it will ever show up. There are just too many holes in the current lineup, and that was the issue last night: they could not string together anything resembling a rally.
- Some people will be really upset with the check swing call, and for good reason. It was terrible. But the umpires (really balls and strikes) were kind of weird all night and you got the sense that somebody was going to walk away from that game disappointed with the umps. It’s a bummer that it had to be the Giants, but that’s the way it goes. I’m more upset with some of the base running mistakes and the lack of a big hit. Bad calls happen, good teams overcome them.
Bonus Thoughts on Game 2
- The pessimistic view first: Game 1 was the game the Giants needed to steal. They needed to take advantage of those early Lester wobbles, take the crowd out of the game, and insert doubt into the minds of Chicagoans. They blew their best chance to tilt this series in their favor. Game 2 represents a bigger challenge (or at least a larger unknown): Jeff Samardzija is a wild card. Will he get too amped up facing his former mates in front of his former crowd (like some feel he did back in September)? Will he revert to Bad Jeff and give up a big home run, or will he be the guy we saw in his last 10 starts (team best ERA during that time)? Kyle Hendricks is a dark horse Cy Young Candidate, who has been unhittable at Wrigley, and he is the exact kind of pitcher the Giants seems to struggle with the most. The Giants are doomed to go back to SF down 2-0.
- Now, the optimistic view: Samardzija got his Chicago clunker out of his system, and will be all business. The extra postseason adrenaline will make his stuff even nastier. The Giants will also get to play their (theoretical) best lineup. Going lefty heavy they will add Panik and Span into the lineup and allow Belt, Crawford, and Gillaspie to take their natural advantage back. Finally, Kyle Hendricks is the kind of starting pitcher the Giants used to trot out (Bill Swift, John Burkett, Russ Ortiz, Kirk Reuter, Shawn Estes, etc): good pitchers who benefit tremendously from a great defense and offense, but who don’t perform as well in the postseason crucible. He seems ripe to be had: the Giants are fine, they’ll get their split and have a shot to take care of business at home.
Game 2 Prediction
- The Kendrick vs Giants lineup conundrum is the key to this game. A more vulnerable starting pitcher who relies on weak contact and doesn’t strike many people out seems like a gift for the Giants, but this team loves getting shut down by this exact type of pitcher. Once again, I am calling out Brandon Belt…good history against Kendrick, it’s time Brandon!
- I do see the Giants breaking out of the funk a bit tonight. If they get early runs, 7 innings from the Shark, and 6 outs from the bullpen (be ready Hunter, Will, and Sergio), the Giants can sneak out a 4-3 or 4-2 win tonight, and tild the series back in their favor.