Reflections, Thoughts, Memories, Heroes. #SFGiants #THREERINGS #WorldChampions

Where to start?

Let’s begin with second guessing:

1. Ned Yost was destined to cost the Royals a game at some point in this postseason. It was going to happen in one of three ways: (1) bunting, (2) stealing, (3) a rigid approach to his bullpen.

He did so well for so long, but the bunt in the fifth inning against Bumgarner was a gift for the Giants. If you watch Bumgarner you know his biggest struggles tend to come early. How much more so given the short rest and entering the game in an unfamiliar situation. Bum still needed a good play (and great positioning) from Juan Perez to get out of the inning, but that bunt changed everything in my mind.

2. Maybe the biggest second guess of the night, came in the ninth inning. Alex Gordon hit a single that the Giants turned into a disaster. [Side Note: this play, in my opinion, is the single greatest difference between the #THREERINGS Giants and previous iterations. In another life, the Giants blow this game thanks to that misplay. But not this team. Not Bochy’s Giants.]

There are many Royals fans, and baseball fans in general, who wished Gordon was sent/ran through the stop sign. I have to be honest, as that play was unfolding in seemingly the slowest of slow motions, I could see it happening: Buster Posey having to block home plate to win the World Series. Of course this crazy postseason would end that way.

But, Gordon didn’t run. There are couple reasons he didn’t go home. One is that he was slow out of the box, assuming the ball would be caught or drop in for a single. He didn’t kick it into high gear until he rounded first.

Also, Brandon Crawford. This is the time to sing the praise of Brandon Crawford. I know he made more than an acceptable amount of errors this year, but how is he NOT a gold glove finalist? He made three fantastic plays in this game that saved the game.

  • First, in the second inning he made a ridiculously smooth play on an Aoki chopper right after Affeldt came in to get a force at second. That play is really, really  hard to make, and he made it look easy. That’s part of the problem with Crawford, he makes hard things look too easy and I think that means he gets taken for granted sometimes.
  • Second, Panik deserves all the credit in the world for his amazing play on the Hosmer double play in the third. The range, the instincts, the flip, all incredible. But the flip was a bit of a rainbow and it threw the timing of the play off, which meant that Crawford had to make the throw flat footed. And he gunned it to barely nail a diving Hosmer at first. You have to have an incredible arm to make that throw.
  • Third, on that fateful ball that Gordon hit, the Royals didn’t send him because Crawford (a) make an incredible pick up on a bad short hop throw…if he muffs that throw Gordon scores easily, and (b) has that incredible arm. Most of the breakdowns of that play I’ve read have Gordon being thrown out easily. The only way he scores there is if Crawford throws the ball in the stands or if Gordon blows up Posey and knocks the ball out, which we all know is illegal now.

One more thought on this play. I know Royals fans will replay it again and again and debate whether Gordon should have gone, but I actually think he should have stayed at second base. In a weird way Juan Perez may have saved the game by bobbling the ball and allowing Gordon to go to third. That meant Bumgarner was able to stay in the wind up. The way he was pitching it may not have mattered, but he had only been in the stretch for a few pitches all night, and hadn’t thrown from the stretch since the 5th. If Gordon’s on second Bum’s in the stretch and maybe that makes a difference. We’ll never know.

3. One final second guess: Hosmer is getting a lot of flack for sliding into first base on that double play. And he should. I never like that play. But, what about Lorenzo Cain sliding head first into second!!! That is one of the dumbest plays I have ever seen. Slide in feet first and maybe he throws off Crawford, or makes him jump which takes something off the throw, anything but head first.

Reflections on 2014:

I posted this last night/this morning, but it bears repeating: The Giants just won the World Series for the third time in five years without:

  • Angel Pagan, leadoff man and starting center fielder (really think about that for a minute. Not only did they lose Pagan, but it meant relying on Blanco, who is an admirable fill in, and Ishikawa/Perez/Morse. It worked out, but a lot of us thought the Giants were done when Pagan had to shut it down).
  • Matt Cain. Again, who would have thought the Giants could survive this. This team can survive a lot, but not losing a key starting pitcher. It’s an interesting thought exercise to wonder how this all would have gone done with Matt Cain. It is easy to think they would have had an easier time. Certainly, they would have fared better against the Royals with another dominant starter. But, you never know.
  • A Buster Posey home run. Or extra base hit for that matter. In terms of the guys who were there and played, this is the most remarkable part of the story. In order for the Giants to overcome the aforementioned loses one would think the only way to do it was with an otherworldly display by Posey. Now, let me say that in many ways he was otherworldly. Just not with the bat. The dude was so tired. He caught all but 2 innings, including all of the 18 inning game (that game might be the biggest factor in the Giants winning it all and in Posey wearing down). He played great behind the plate and he guided the pitchers through. He doesn’t get enough credit for the way he calls games and handles pitchers. Also, huge hat tip here to Panda and Pence who were awesome. So awesome.
  • Tim Lincecum. Most Giants fans could have envisioned the Giants doing well this season without Lincecum. He was a huge question mark coming into the year and no one really batted an eye when he went to the bullpen. But, think back over the years and is there anyway you could see the Giants winning a third ring without Lincecum contributing in some significant way? Hard to imagine.

The Royals beat an Angels team that was missing it’s ace. They beat an Orioles team missing three All-Star components of it’s starting lineup. But, they could not beat a Giants team missing some key pieces. What a resilient group of guys.

Madison Bumgarner:

The most amazing thing I had ever seen in baseball prior to this October was Barry Bonds. I know Bonds is a polarizing figure, but I will defend him as the greatest hitter of all time to my death.

And here’s the reason why: it wasn’t the number of home runs or the great distances they traveled (although that was amazing).

Barry Bonds was a marvel because he might only see 1 hittable pitch per game, sometimes per series. And he’d crush it. To do that requires an incredible discipline and an ability to repeat flawless mechanics at any given moment.

I know Bonds was all hopped up on a variety of things (who wasn’t at that point in the game’s history), but no amount of HGH can help you do what Bonds did, which is crush the ONLY good pitch he saw over a period of hours or even days. It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.

Until this October. Madison Bumgarner is good, I have no doubt about that, but I have never seen anything like that. No offense to Orel Hershiser, Dave Stewart, John Smoltz, Andy Petite, Roger Clemens, Josh Becket, Livan Hernandez, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Lester, and others.

The only thing I can compare it to is Curt Schilling and even he tweeted last night that Bum’s performance was the best ever. You shouldn’t be get people out that often. He did it. Unreal.

Not to be overly pessimistic, but the Giants relied heavily on Tim Lincecum in 2010 and he’s know a spot reliever. They relied heavily on Matt Cain and he had bone spurs removed from his elbow. They just relied more heavily on Madison Bumgarner than either of those guys, and so naturally I am worried about the long term effects.

If anyone is big enough and strong enough to bounce back it’s MadBum, but man that was a lot of innings/pitches.

On the Giants Good Fortune:

One of the redeeming qualities of Bumgarner’s dominance is that it seems to be taking away form the “Giants-are-lucky” narrative. It’s hard to call a team that wins #THREERINGS in five years lucky, but I’m still glad to not have to hear about it, at least not today.

Having said that it is worth reflecting on the Giants good fortune this postseason. Any team, no matter how talented, requires some good fortune to pull this off, so here we go:

  • I still think the biggest break the Giants caught came when Clint Hurdle chose to start Edinson Volquez in the Wild Card Game. He could have not started Gerrit Cole in game 162 and saved him for the WCG (his best/smartest decision). Or he could have gone with Francisco Liriano (a better matchup with all the lefties in the Giants line up). He went with option 3. It may not have mattered because MADISON BUMGARNER. But, still a big break for the Giants.
  • I think the second biggest break the Giants got was not having to face the Dodgers. They’d seen them so many times all year, and especially late in the season, and didn’t fare so well, especially against Zach Grienke. I think seeing a relatively unfamiliar foe in the Washington Nationals was important. Not having to face Clayton Kershaw (and Greinke) was a gift. The Nationals can pitch too, really well, but the psychology of facing the Dodgers in a short series would have been a huge challenge. So, thank you Nationals for having a better record than the Dodgers.
  • And thank you Cardinals for beating the Dodgers.
  • And thank you Matt Williams and Mike Matheny for the poor handling of your bullpens. (Although the pressure the Giants apply to teams had something to do with that).
  • Finally, the Giants caught a break by facing a very good Royals team that lacked the one thing they needed: an ace to match Madison Bumgarner. Now, the Royals may have one (Yordano Ventura or Danny Duffy could be that guy as early as next season), and certainly James Shields was thought to be that guy, but they had no one to answer Bumgarner. Of course, there may not ever have been an answer to Bumgarner, but imagine this Giants team facing the A’s or the Tigers. There may have been other ways to beat those teams, but certainly their starting pitching would have been an overall advantage. Instead they got a team with just as many question marks in the rotation as they had, which allowed the room for Bumgarner to rise far above all.

Favorite Memories:

  • Crawford’s slam
  • Bumgarner’s first shut out
  • Strickland striking out Ian Desmond with the bases loaded
  • Yusmeiro Petit, 18 innings, and a Brandon Belt home run (h/t to Panda)
  • The worst intentional ball of all time
  • Santiago Casilla
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Ishikawa’s bases load double
  • The Bunt
  • Jeremy Affeldt, so many times, so many zeros
  • The comeback
  • Hunter Pence in the field, and at the bat
  • Ishikawa’s error
  • Michael Morse’s home run
  • Romo being nasty again
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Jeremy Affeldt running to first base
  • The Ishikawa Walk-Off
  • Pence’s homer
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • The Strickland meltdown
  • Second guessing game 3 (Posey vs. Hosmer)
  • The game 4 uprising
  • Joe Panik
  • Madison Bumgarner’s second shutout
  • Juan Perez taking Wade Davis off the top of the wall
  • The game 6 meltdown
  • Sacrifice flies, “runs-thrown-in”, Michael Morse’s cobra power
  • Crawford’s glove
  • I love Joe Panik
  • Panda wink’s
  • Jeremy Affeldt again
  • MADISON BUMGARNER
  • Buster crying
  • Sabean crying
  • Affeldt crying

In Conclusion:

Back in 2010 the Giants erased all the bad postseason memories that had haunted fans for decades. When they did it again in 2012 it lead me to think about correlations between past shortfalls.

In my mind, 2010 erased 2002. They were the closest comps I had at the time, and it seemed to be a cosmic baseball even out: every time tragedy could have struck they avoided it. 2012 made up for 2003, good teams that got themselves in holes. 2003 couldn’t dig out, 2012 did.

But, then this year happened, and at first I thought this was about 1993. An 88 win/second wild card team taking it all seemed to make up for a 103 win/no postseason tragedy.

But, now I’ve changed my mind:

  • 2010 was about the whole history, not any specific year. It was about an unlikely band of misfits doing what all the star powered offensive machines of years past could not do. It was a tiny pitcher filling the large shoes of Bonds, Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Clark, Williams, and reaching heights they never could in San Francisco.
  • 2012 was about 2003, 2000, 2004, 1997, 1998, 2009, etc. Any team that fell just short, erased by a team that should have/could have been put down 6 times.
  • 2014 is the one that heals the wounds of 2002. The parallels between the teams and the series were eerie. Young upstart vs. veteran experience. 2 Wild Card teams. Giants win game 1, Royals/Angels win 2 and 3, Giants come back at home and win 2 big games, Giants give away/blow game 6, and then a final game 7. Once again, the Bochy Giants are so different from the Dusty Baker Giants. No folding, no giving up, no backing down. Road teams were 0-9 in the last 9 games 7’s dating back to 1982. If you lose game 6, you lose game 7, or so it goes.

And so, of course, as they have so many times in the past 5 years the Giants defied the odds, bucked the trends, and emerged, unbelievably, victorious. Kings of the Mountain.

World Champions.

-SB

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3 Thoughts on Game 6 Heading Into Game 7

It all comes down to tonight. Because…of course it does.

1. What Went Wrong?

Plenty of second guessing was taking place on twitter last night about the second inning. Should Bochy have brought Lopez in to face Aoki? Should he have gone to Petit earlier? Why did Posey swing at the first pitch? Why did he swing like that at the first pitch?

In my opinion there isn’t much to second guess. Peavy started this game and he did not pitch well. He got dinked and dunked and had some bad luck, but he also seemed tentative, shook off Posey a lot, and couldn’t stop the bleeding.

This game is not on Bochy, not on Petit, not on the offense, it’s on Peavy.

Which brings up 2 sub-thoughts:

  • This is why Game 4 was so huge. The Giants need to figure out how to beat the Royals with a non-Bumgarner starter and they did it in Game 4. We’d be tipping our caps to the World Champion Royals tonight if not for that big comeback.
  • Game 3 is the game that looms large in my mind (not tonight’s game). If the Giants don’t win this thing tomorrow (and of course I’m sure it depends on how it all goes down) I will look back on the 6th inning of Game 3. That dumb first inning double that Hudson game up and the 6th inning where Posey did not come through but Hosmer did. When the Giants lost that game they lost their chance to end the series early, in San Francisco, and never have to come to KC to play these games.

2. Any Bright Spots?

Yes. The great Jean Machi saved the day in many ways. His innings mean that Petit can pitch Game 7. It means Tim Lincecum is available. It means all the rest of the big guns are rested and ready to go. Plus the Giants have some guy named Bumgarner available as well.

Posey got a break for a couple of innings. This is a good thing.

There’s also something to be said for getting pounded in Game 6. Obviously this is not the result any Giants’ fan wanted, but the last time the Giants lost a Game 6 in the World Series it was a gut punch. There was no coming back from that.

This kind of game you wash off pretty quickly and go get ’em the next day.

3. Looking Ahead.

The Fox guys pointed out the undeniable fact that since 1982 when a team loses Game 6 on the road, they also lose Game 7. It’s happened 8 times. And of course both teams were involved in one of those. The Royals won one, the Giants lost one.

If there was a ever team designed to buck that trend it’s these Giants. (A) They’ve been in big games before. (B) They’ve won big games before. (C) They have the arms to shut down the Royals in Game 7. (D) They have won 7 straight elimination games

The Keys:

  • Get to Jeremy Guthrie early. Got to get to him early. Put the pressure right back on the Royals.
  • Tim Hudson comes up big, gets through the first inning unscathed, and takes the pressure off Bochy and the ‘pen.
  • The big decisions for the managers will be how long to stay with their starters. How quick of a hook with each manager have?
  • Buster Posey MUST deliver. The Giants had Yoradano Ventura on the ropes in the fourth inning. 3 straight walks (including an unreal at bat by Joe Panik) led to Poesy who promptly grounded into a double play. Hard to be too made about that when the game was pretty far out of hand already. But, that moment, when it comes in Game 7 must be taken of advantage of. There is no tomorrow, Posey must come through.

Final Thoughts:

I think the Giants have to start Juan Perez in left tomorrow. The Giants already have more offense with the DH and Michael Morse, so the drop off in batting is not a huge deal. Plus Perez is swinging it pretty good.

I think the Giants got through a blow out without using any significant arms. Ned Yost, however, went to Jason Frasor in the 8th. He’s probably available and ready to go for Game 7, but he’s the guy that Yost leans on to be the bridge to the Big 3 when the starter can’t get it done. He did the Giants a favor letting him go tonight.

Much like the Cardinals series the Giants have been scoring runs, but not with the home run. I think they need some power to win this game. Who will it be? Panda with one last flourish? Morse showing off the cobra power? A Brandon homer?

It’s gotta be Posey.

Go Huddy. Go Bats. Go Giants!

-SB

3 Thoughts Before a HUGE Game 6 #WorldSeries #SFGiants #Royals

1. Madison Bumgarner.

What else is there to say? The last time I attended a game at AT&T, it was 2011. It was my birthday. Madison Bumgarner started. His how the first inning went:

  • Single
  • Double
  • Infield Single
  • Double
  • Single
  • Double
  • Single
  • Double
  • Strike Out (Pitcher)
  • Single

0.1 innings, 9 hits, 8 ER, 1 K.

Needless to say it was not a great game to watch.

But, I guess I’ll always be able to say I saw the worst game of Bumgarner’s career. This postseason performance is MadBum’s apology to me for having to watch that meltdown in person.

What’s really interesting to me about all of this is that after that game a popular MadBum theory was solidified. The idea was that Bumgarner was good but not great, and the problem was that his stuff lacked something. He didn’t throw hard enough, didn’t have a great out pitch, didn’t have that “thing” that separates the great from the merely good.

In particular, the idea was that Bumgarner walked a fine line: when everything clicked, his mechanics, his control, his stuff, he could put together an awesome game. But, he didn’t have the pure stuff to get around the games where he didn’t have it all working at the same time.

I heard the same thinking expressed on sports radio here in Boston before the Series started. He’s a good pitcher, but he’s not an ace, not great.

If you’ve been watching Madison closely since that day in 2011, you know he’s an ace. You know he has great control. You know he can strike guys out. You know he can make batters look foolish. You know he has great stuff. You know he can beat any other team’s ace on any given day.

You know he’s great.

He may not light up the radar gun (although the 94 he’s been sitting at this postseason isn’t anything to take lightly), but he’s as bona fide an ace as there is in baseball.

Remember when Matt Cain was the chosen one?

Remember when Tim Lincecum was the chosen one?

Both those of guys are great, and have had some INCREDIBLE moments during their Giants careers. But maybe it was really Madison the whole time.

2. Managers.

There are still no circumstances under which I would pitch Jean Machi if I were the manager of the Giants, but Bochy went to him in Game 4 in a very logical situation (he needed a pitcher to get 1 out before being pinch hit for).

Bochy did in that moment what great managers do: put their players in a position to succeed. He didn’t need Machi to go through the heart of the lineup in the middle of a tight game. He basically needed him to strike out an AL pitcher. Machi got it done.

I also would have started Michael Morse in Game 4, but having him off the bench was huge psychologically (plus Morse had a great at-bat to draw a walk as a pinch hitter). Juan Perez started instead and made a couple of great plays in LF that Morse would have NEVER made.

This is why Bochy is the manager. And he’s good at it.

Ned Yost hasn’t had an egregious error that clearly cost the team a game. In fact, my opinion of him has gone from liability to neutral.

But, Yost hasn’t figured out the final step of managerial greatness, which is putting his players in the best position to succeed. The Royals success has to do with the fact that they are very talented, and have some great options in certain roles.

Yost’s use of the bullpen in Games 4 and 5 demonstrated a lack of skill in some ways, but also reveal that the Royals have a significant talent drop off from the big 3 to everyone else.

That’s not Yost’s fault.

But, he also doesn’t do some of the smaller things Bochy does (like how Bochy used Machi in just the right spot) to take his team from an 9 to a 10.

3. The Great Players.

Pablo and Pence have been huge in the past two games. Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Juan Perez have had their moments.

I would argue that Yusmerio Petit and Jeremy Affeldt have been just as valuable this postseason as anyone, non-Bumgarner category.

But, I still think the Giants need/will get something great from Buster Posey before this all over. They need it. Remember he saved his World Series home run for Game 4 against the Tigers.

I also think, amazingly, that Tim Lincecum will have a moment, most likely tonight in Game 6, where the Giants need him to get a couple of outs. Can Timmy deliver?

  

No idea how this all ends. It really does feel like 2002 in so many ways, but these are not the 2002 Giants. These are not Dusty Baker’s Giants. If any team can figure out how to shut this thing down tonight, it’s these Giants.

Get it done tonight boys! Go Giants!

-SB

1 Thought on Game 3 #WorldSeries #SFGiants #Royals

Game 3 really changed in two key at-bats in the 6th inning. You’re going to read and hear about how amazing the Royals bullpen is (and it is), how awesome their defense was (and it was), and how the series is all about who gets the lead first (it kind of is), but sometimes it’s also about what a team’s best hitter does in a key spot.

  • Eric Hosmer came up in the 6th inning with a runner on second and two outs facing Javier Lopez. He had an amazing at-bat. At first it was amazing because Lopez kept missing his spots and Hosmer kept just missing crushing those pitches. Then Lopez started to get a little nasty and Hosmer stayed on it and got a big single up the middle to drive in the Royals third run of the game.
  • Buster Posey came up in the 6th inning with runners on second and third and one out. This was actually a situation where a Buster single would have been perfect (no need for that first extra base hit here, although it would have been awesome). He did well to get a ground ball up the middle to score a run, but the Giants needed their best hitter to do something great, the way the Royals best hitter had just done something great, and he was merely good. I hate to pile on Posey who is so awesome and who has done so many great things for the Giants over the years, but he needs to be great again, and soon.

There were all kinds of other moments that helped turn this game. (One of them, by the way, was the ball Posey just missed against Greg Holland in the 9th…he JUST missed it…argggghhhhh…baseball). But, if the Giants are going to come back in this series they need their great player(s) to be great, not just good.

The Giants have to win 3 of the next 4 games. Simple as that. Assuming the Giants’ win Madison Bumgarner’s game 5 start (and of course assuming anything in baseball is foolish), they must figure out a way to get 2 wins from the combination of Vogelsong, Peavy, and Hudson. I can’t say that I am super confident of that. But stranger things have happened.

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Go Giants!

-SB

Pre-Gaming Game 3 #SFGiants #Royals #WorldSeries

Some intrigue before Game 3:

  • First, the lineups…the Giants go back to the NLCS lineup…this means 5 left-handed hitters. Left-handed hitters have Buster Posey type numbers against Jeremy Guthrie, so as nice as it would be to have Morse take a couple of at bats (plus his bat doesn’t play as well against the righty-heavy bullpen off the bench), you can’t deny the history there. The Royals are mixing it up quite a bit. No Aoki. Gordon in the 2 hole (he’s a great player, but not having a great postseason), Moustakas in the 5 hole (this is the big shocker, the dude hit 9TH most of the year), Jarrod Dyson in the 8th spot, and of course no Billy Butler. This decision gives the Royals more speed and defense, and ensures that if guys get on base they will running and bunting like crazy. It also means the temptation for Yost to meddle and get over involved in this game will be immense.
  • Second, the national media continues to harp on the Giants totally bullpen meltdown. The issue with the bullpen in Game 2 was not that the Royals beat the Giants bullpen aces. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The got to the Giants 6th and 7th options. The issue was with who Bochy chose, not with the bullpen (especially the core 4). If the Royals beat Affeldt, Casilla, etc then we’d really have a problem. Until then Game 2 was a bummer, but clarity providing bummer.
  • Third, it sounds like Tim Lincecum is available. This is either great news or ulcer inducing information. It also sounds like there is a slim chance that Bumgarner goes tomorrow in Game 4 on short rest. The only way I see that happening is if (a) the Giants lose, and (b) this game goes extra innings and the Giants burn Petit and Lincecum.

I’m heading out of town this weekend for a series of important meetings, so I’m not sure how much blogging will happen moving forward.

Until the next time. GO GIANTS!!!

-SB

4 Thoughts Leading Into Game 3 #WorldSeries #SFGiants #Royals

I started composing a hopeful post looking ahead to Game 3, and then I read this and this and they both make points I was mulling over. Credit where credit is due, head on over there for more on these 4 thoughts:

1. Homefield Advantage. The Giants are 4-0 at AT&T in the World Series during this window of success and 6-1 if you go back to 2002. I don’t think we think about AT&T being a huge home field advantage because the Giants have won so many big postseason games on the road, but it has been a boon in the World Series since it opened. The Giants are also 4-1 there this postseason and so all of that bodes well.

One way to view the Giants success at home is to look at the starting pitchers in those games: the Giants have started vintage 2010 Lincecum and Cain, and then 2012 lefty heroes Barry Zito and Bumgarner. So, essentially that’s the big 3 making 75% of the starts at home. Of course they are 4-0.

But consider their opponents. In 2010, the Giants were up against Cliff Lee and whatever reputation Bumgarner has right now it pales in comparison to Lee at that moment in history. He was considered to be unbeatable, and even with Lincecum starting when he was really, really good the Giants were not favored to win that game.

Cain pitched against CJ Wilson which was an advantage for the Giants, but still a lot of pundits felt the Rangers would roar back in Game 2. They did not.

In 2012, Zito faced off against Justin Verlander, the greatest mismatch of all time. And the Giants won that game. In Game 2 Bumgarner who was broken and busted went 7 shutout innings. He beat Doug Fister, one of the only starters to dominate the Giants this postseason.

All that to say: these were extremely difficult matchups, in which the Giants were only favored to win 1 (Cain), and they won them all. Thank you, home cooking.

The pitching matchups, at least in Games 3 and 4, are not nearly as intimidating for either side, which in some ways makes it even more important that they take place in San Francisco.

Finally, with the games being held in the NL park, the Royals will have to make decisions about pitchers and pinch hitters in ways they have not had to so far this postseason. So, not only do they lose the bat of Billy Butler, but they also have to decide whether to let, say, Herrrera hit for himself or not in certain situations.

Ned Yost, despite his flaws, has done a great job all postseason, and deserves credit for what the team has done. But he’s been doing algebra and now has to do calculus. He may be up to the task, but he’ll have to earn it and prove it over the weekend.

2. Clarity. One way to look at last night is to say, “wow, the Giants essentially lost 3 of their 8 bullpen options, all in the matter a few innings.” That’s certainly the glass-half-empty view.

If you prefer the glass to be half-full, you can look at this way: Bochy knows now who he can trust, and there is clear path and pattern to use from here on out. He more or less did this against the Cardinals after the NLCS Game 2. With Strickland and Machi reduced to emergency only roles, and with Lincecum being iffy due to his back, Bochy now has a big five: Petit as a two inning bridge, Lopez and Romo to get out of big matchup moments (Romo for righties like Cain and Perez, Lopez for lefties like Hosmer), Affeldt for the 8th, and Casilla for the 9th. What’s beautiful about that clarity is Bochy has some guys there who can do different things: Petit can get anywhere from 3-9 outs and still be available the next day. Affeldt and Casilla can both be used for 4-5 outs, and Romo can do an inning by himself if the matchups look right.

In some ways Game 2 might turn out to be a gift, just like it was in the NLCS, where now Bochy has a better idea of who to go to and how to use them. Again, Grant’s article hits the nail on the head: this is his greatest challenge yet.

3. Old Guys Rule. The Giants have, for years, been mocked for their reliance on old guys. No where are they doing that more than on their pitching staff. It’s not just the starters, 3 of the big 4 bullpen guys are in their mid-30’s as well.

Glass-half-full: my gut tells me that Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong are going to rise to the occasion and pitch well. Probably not dominant but well. These guys are at the end of the road, but have demonstrated they can still bring it (especially against the Nationals). They are well-rested, and sensing that this might be their last opportunity on this stage, I think they will come through.

Glass-half-empty. As Tom Verducci pointed out, this series really does remind me of the Angels and Giants in 2002. Different eras of course, but the fact that they are both wild card teams, and the lack of dominant starting pitching and reliance on the bullpens is eerily similar.

This is where I get deeply concerned for the Giants. If this series goes long it is not the starting pitching old guys, but the bullpen old guys I get worried about. 2002 ended Rob Nenn’s career. The story of that series, in so many ways, is that the Giants bullpen which had been so great all season, just ran out of gas. Dusty Baker went to the well one too many times and paid the price.

As much as I hate to say it, a long series does not favor the Giants and their potentially tired pen, especially if it has to be a 5 man pen. This is partly why I predicted the Giants in 5, if they are going win this thing they need to do it in San Francisco.

(Of course, the big difference between the 2002 Giants and the 2014 Giants is Madison Bumgarner.Can they get it back to him with a chance to win it all? That’s the question of Friday and Saturday.)

4. Posey. The longer this postseason goes the more noticeable Buster Posey’s lack of home runs becomes. If the Giants are to win, they need him to contribute a big dinger at some point in the next 3 games. Get it Buster.

Go Giants.

3 Thoughts on The Game 2 Debacle #SFGiants #Royals #WorldSeries

1. Don’t Panik. Or is it panic? I forget now.

There are two ways to look at last night:

  1. THE SKY IS FALLING. EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE.
  2. The Giants won the game they needed to win, got a split in KC, and now have home field advantage in a best of 5 series.

I can tell you right now that the actual players on the San Francisco Giants share the perspective of point 2. There are some clear issues (see below), but if you take out the emotions you were feeling in the 6th inning last night, this is far from the worst case scenario heading back to SF (in fact, we more or less predicted this here).

One of the big keys for me was seeing how the Giants looked against the “Big 3” of the Royals pen. They all came in throwing gas and looking nasty, but the Giants looked far from overwhelmed. They had some especially good at bats against Kelvim Herrera. Greg Holland will blow a save in this series I am convinced of it. Hitting these guys is no easy task, but to quote Krukow: “one to measure, one to rake.” The Giants don’t look completely overmatched here, they can hit these guys.

The Giants walk away from round one impressed but not intimidated.

2. Let’s Freak Out For a Minute. Bochy has done so many great things in managing games and the bullpen over the years that he’s more than earned the right to have a mulligan. But, like Game 2 against St. Louis, I thought he made a critical mistake in how he handled Peavy, and in relying on Machi and Strickland.

Despite Jake’s low pitch count he should have had guys warming up at the start of the inning, and he should have had a “get outs/stay in…give up a baserunner/come out” policy for Peavy for all innings after the 5th. The only issue he’s had since coming over to the Giants come up the 3rd time through the order (astutely pointed out on the broadcast by Tom Verducci…Harold Reyonlds should be muted but listen to Verducci!). I would have liked to see Peavy come out when Cain singled. (Actually, I would have loved to see them start the inning fresh with Petit). Then you bring Lopez in for Hosmer and go from there.

The second mistake was bringing in Jean Machi. He has failed, again and again, down the stretch and in the postseason. He threw 2 balls that weren’t even remotely close to the strike zone and did nothing to set up the batter, and then he threw a fastball right down the middle of the plate that he was fortunate to only give up a single on.

In a moment I’ll share my thoughts on Stickland and Lincecum and all that, but for now, the game was really lost for me in the first 3 batters of the inning.

The real issue, underneath all of this, is that the Giants starters after Bumgarner just don’t have what it takes at this point to get deep into the ballgame. This is where the Giants really, really miss Matt Cain. Bochy should have been thrilled that Peavy recovered and got through 5.

The three guys most responsible for the loss against the Cards were the culprits again (Peavy, Strickland, Machi). Bochy learned his lesson and you never saw those guys again the rest of the way in the NLCS. I think the same applies here.

3. Oh, hello Tim Lincecum. Yesterday I broke down how Bochy used Hunter Stickland in Game 1 and what it revealed about Tim Lincecum. Five batters into Lincecum’s first 2014 postseason appearance I was ready to throw that out. Then Timmy tweaked his back. The word is that it’s probably not serious. He’s dealt with this before.

But, it is serious because can you really trust a guy who is a pitch away from tweaking his back? He was so close to being back in the circle of trust, especially with the next three game in SF. He may be fine and he may pitch again, and pitch well, but whatever air of confidence was building up around Lincecum late in the game last night, seems to have been let out rather quickly by his balky back.

Looking Ahead: The Giants have some serious issues with their bullpen moving forward. I don’t see how Hunter Stickland can be used again in a high leverage moment in this series. He may well be the Giants closer in 2016 (the next time we do go through all of this), but he can’t go out there again with the game on the line.

Neither can Jean Machi.

Which means, and it seems entirely impossible that this can be true, but Yumseiro Petit just got even more valuable. Bochy has to hope he can get 5 to 6 innings from Tim Hudson, use Petit as a bridge, and then go with the trusted 4 (Lopez, Affeldt, Romo, and Casilla) in the late innings. Maybe Lincecum works his way in there too.

But Petit can no longer be a caddy for the starters, he needs to be a primary bullpen weapon.

To reiterate, as ugly as things got last night, pull the camera back and the end result (1-1 tie heading home) is a good result. The Giants are experienced, know how to shake it off, and will play Friday loose and confident. The Royals lose Billy Butler, and loss of a DH allows Ned Yost to meddle, which is a good thing.

No reason to freak out yet, Giants fans. The biggest things to look for now: The Posey/Panda/Pence dingers and can the Giants bridge the middle innings?

Go Giants!

-SB