Game 3, Game 4, Be Grateful #NLDS

After six a half hours of sleep, a few more thoughts from last nights game.

Let’s start with this. This morning I drove my daughter to school. KNBR just happened to be replaying the 8th inning during the amount of time it took to drive our route. What a great call by John Miller on Gillaspie’s triple, and how fun to share that with my girl.

Which leads me to this point: I have thought, several times, that the strategy of pooping out in the regular season (see 2011, 2013, 2015) was better than postseason agony. I don’t know what happens today. The Giants might get beat 11-0. Would you trade that for the Wild Card game and last night? 

My answer: no way…it’s worth it. This has been an incredible era of baseball, and we are witnesses to it. And I am grateful.

Heroes:

  • Denard Span: the much maligned Span showed up to play last night. He had several good at bats, his triple to led to the first Giants run, and he made a GREAT catch in the 12th to keep things under control.
  • Brandon Belt: many people were on Belt for getting doubled off in the 9th. I don’t blame him for that…you have to take off on that and score if/when the ball drops. It was an aggressive play, it backfired, but it’s that kind of aggression the Giants have been missing. Unfortunately, for too many, that one play takes away from the fact that Brandon Belt had a great night. I thought FOR SURE he would strike out in the 5th, especially when he got to two strikes but he stayed alive and got a big Sac Fly. Then, his opposite field hit in the 8th led to him tying the scoring run. Bottom line: he had several good at bats and that is a wonderful sign.
  • Buster Posey: Buster came to ball last night. He was 3 for 3 with a walk before getting robbed of a walk off double in the 9th. Also, he caught 13 innings spanning over 5 hours. I’d be tempted to play him at first and Belt in left today, but Bochy won’t do that and that’s why I’m not the manager.
  • Conor Gillaspie: The triple will be replayed for years and years, especially if the Giants somehow stay alive beyond today. He’s been incredibly clutch. Two other things need to be said though: he made a couple brilliant plays with the glove, but then nearly choked the game away with an error in the 6th. This led to “The Derek Law Inning” (more in a moment), but he didn’t carry that with him into his big 8th inning at bat. Also, he grounded out up the middle 3 times before the triple. One interpretation of that is “poor at bats.” But if you really watch him, he has such a sound approach at the plate. He is locked in to the middle of the field, and that’s when good things can happen. Yes, you’ll hit some back to the pitcher, but you’ll also get ahold of a few, and we’ve seen what that looks like twice now.
  • Brandon Crawford: my dad and I still don’t know why he didn’t take off on contact in the 8th. My best guess is he was recovering from his elbow bump (which scared the crap out of me, btw). Other than that, he played a great game, coming up with several defensive picks that we should be talking about more if not for the 100 other things, and he also had solid at bats. His hit off Chapman was huge. It would be a totally 2016 Giants thing to leave Gillaspie at third with one out and then lose 5-4.
  • Joe Panik: Continuing the theme…Panik had great at bats all game, and it really paid off for him in the 13th. I haven’t seen him look this good at the plate in a long time. He should probably get moved back up in the lineup, so it will be interesting to see what Bochy does there.
  • Derek Law: As I mentioned last night, Derek Law brought the joy. He also brought nasty stuff. But, let’s not forget how precarious that part of the game really was. The inning opened with the Conor error (not a good feeling). He quickly got Miguel Montero (who didn’t really seem like he wanted to be there last night) to fly out to left. Then he had to battle Jake Arrietta. He left a pitch up to Arrieta that Jake smoked to left field. It was a better pitch than the one he hit out earlier in the game, but this time it was just a line drive right to Blanco, because baseball. He then battled Dexter Fowler, and there were a few pitches in that at bat where it seemed like he had no idea where the ball was going. It felt like an inevitability that Fowler would hit a ball into triples ally or in the Cove. In fact I tweeted this at that moment:
  • but he got the strike out, screamed with joy, and then backed it up with a nice 7th. Looking back it was awesome, but in the moment it was crazy.
  • Hunter Strickland: had a totally boring, dominant 8th inning, and that’s some of the best news from the whole night.
  • Sergio Romo: right before the home run Romo came off the mound gimpy. No idea how that affected the rest of the Bryant at bat, but something happened and then he gave up a home run, so that doesn’t seem good. I was screaming at Bochy to take him out at that point. If Javy Lopez is not there to get Rizzo out in the 9th inning of a tie game, what is he there for? But, Romo remained and then, of course, proceeded to get the next six outs, drama free. Yes, the tying home run was a huge bummer, but that’s a significant recovery.
  • Ty Blach: The rookie just keeps balling. Thought maybe the luck was running out with the way the 13th started, but a double play is a pitcher’s best friend.

About Game 4:

  • It feels like the Cubs offense has been amazing, and I am terrified of over half the lineup, but let’s get real here: they haven’t done much. They’ve scored most of their runs on 4 Stupid Home Runs. Two of those home runs have been hit by pitchers and the other two fell into a silly basket, and bounced off the top of a silly car. Come. On. Meanwhile, the Giants bullpen held the Cubs hitless from the 6th through 12th inning (not including one of those stupid home runs). Anthony Rizzo, MVP candidate, is 0 for the series. The Giants haven’t actually pitched all that poorly, and again, take away those home runs, and the Cubs have only scored 4 times.
  • Meanwhile: the Giants have yet to hit a home run. That needs to change.
  • If you like managerial second guessing, tonight is going to be your night. Both teams used significant bullpen bullets last night. How much can Joe Maddon trust Aroldis Chapman in Game 4? It’s pretty certain Mike Montgomery won’t pitch, eliminating one of Maddon’s lefty weapons. If the Giants can get to John Lackey early, the Cubs will be in a world of hurt.
  • On the Giants side: who closes tonight? One of the good things about last night is the Giants got 4 of their key bullpen guys meaningful game action, which they hadn’t seen in over a week. My real theory of Romo is that he was rusty, and you could see the slider getting better and better the longer he was in there. But, would you run him out there in a 1 run game tonight? Also, do you mess with the lineup? If Pagan is out, I’d be tempted to move Belt to left, and put Buster at first, and leave Blanco for later in the game. I’d also be tempted to move Panik back up. But, my guess is, Bochy won’t mess with anything and we’ll see the same lineup tonight.
  • I’ve been saying this all series, but THE key for the Giants is Matt Moore pitching deep into this game.
  • The other key: get to Lackey early. Put the pressure on the Cubs early, and this series will tilt quickly.

Like I said, the Giants might get shelled tonight, but we should all still be grateful this team is a part of our lives.

#BeatLackey

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