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

Advertisements

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

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

LCS Predictions

I did terrible with my LDS predictions, so it is with some hesitation I share what I think will happen in this next round. Here we go:

Royals vs. Orioles

  • Offense: The Orioles have the more traditional offensive weapons, being able to hit home runs and all. That said, if Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer keep hitting home runs, maybe we will hear less about all the steals and small ball that the Royals employ. The series will be an interesting contract in styles, but I have to give the edge to the Orioles over all because of their power hitting ways.
  • Starting pitching: The edge goes to the Royals here. I just don’t have very much confidence in the Orioles starters, which is why I picked them to lose. I think James Shields will get stronger the longer the Royals stay alive and the rest of their starting arms are pretty good too.
  • Bullpen: Again, a contrast in styles. The Royals like to get 6 innings from the starter and then go Herrera, Davis, Holland for the last three. The Orioles have several great arms in their pen and no fear of mixing and matching. For pure stuff I give the edge to the Royals, for strong utilization the edge belongs to the Orioles.
  • Manager: Huge edge here to the Orioles. Buck Showalter (who Jeff Passan is in love with) is the closest thing in the American League to Bruce Bochy, and Ned Yost will cost the Royals a game at some point in this series.
  • Pick: based on my simplistic breakdown I should be picking the Orioles, but the Royals are hot and have a little bit of that destiny feel to them. I wanted to pick them so badly last round, so I’m going with the Royals in 7.

Cardinals vs. Giants

  • Offense: Neither of these lineups are world beaters, but both are loaded with good hitters, any of whom could be a hero. THe Cardinals pound fastballs, which is good news for a Giants’ staff that doesn’t rely on the fastball the way other’s do. The only starter who seems vulnerable because of his reliance on the fastball is Ryan Vogelsong, but he’s pitched well against the Cardinals before. The Giants have a lot of left-handed hitters and the Cards will only start righties in this series so that bodes well for an uptick in runs. A couple of “ifs”: if Michael Morse is available and good, that’s a huge boost for the Giants. If the Cardinals power surge against LA is real then they become a much more dangerous opponent. I’m calling this a wash.
  • Starting Pitching: Coming into the postseason neither rotation was looked at as all that menacing. Both teams feature an ace (Bumgarner/Wainwright). After that there’s some mixing and matching. I’d give the Giants an edge with Peavy over Lynn, Hudson over Miller/(injured) Wacha, and Vogelsong over Lackey.
  • Bullpen: Both pens are very good. A slight edge to the Giants perhaps?
  • Manager: Mike Matheny was a rookie manager the last time these teams met in the LCS. His career trajectory suggests the Cards will win it all this year (LCS loss, World Series loss, World Series win), but despite his improvements the edge goes to the Giants and Bochy.
  • Prediction: this postseason is absolutely wide open a this point. There is no reason to be surprised at any of these four teams winning it all. In these kinds of scenarios we’ve seen the Giants take advantage. It’s an even-numbered year, they can do this. Giants in 6.

I will have a breakdown of how I see the NLCS playing out up tomorrow!

-SB