On most Friday night Giants playoff games you'd find me at home with my HDTV and the dish tuned to channel 419. Last night, however, Pyrate Technics ("Straight Outta Weed, CA") performed the Green Show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, and it couldn't be missed. Hustling down the hill afterward to The Black Sheep, we found the game in progress with Matty & the Bhoyos up 4-0 in the 4th. It looked good. Get through the 7th, get the door-slammers in the game, head to Atlanta up two-zip. That's The Formula™, you know: pitch well, hit just enough. Unfortunately, the Giants failed to hold the lead and wound up not scoring again. The game ended in the 11th, which means the Giants put up nine shutout innings after scoring in the 1st and 2nd. That's a whole game's worth, for those of you counting. That, my friends, ain't gonna fly.
Matt Cain gave the Giants a steady 6-2/3 with one unearned run on 7 hits, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts (Game Score 62). He even supplied an RBI single! It wasn't Freak-azoid dominance, but it was classic Matt, solid and dependable, a return to what we are used to after that forgettable start a week ago against the Padres. After a 102 pitches and two-out single in the 7th by Omar Infante, Ol' Boch pulled him for sizzling southpaw Javier Lopez, who promptly struck out lefty phenom Jason Heyward. Surging Sergio Romo started the 8th, and immediately surrendered two ropes to Derek Lee and Brian McCann. That's the first chink to appear in the bullpen armor in a long time! Ol' Boch, surprisingly, went straight to Brian Wilson. After an error by Pablo Sandoval that led to a run, Alex Gonzalez crushed a long double and just like that the game was tied. Much has been made of Bonehead's decision to use Wilson for six outs (see Only Baseball Matters and El Lefty Malo for opposing views), but that wasn't the game-decider for me. Wilson was well-rested and had an off-day coming, he should have been able to get out of the inning. The error hurt, but Alex Gonzalez is only a short step up from Edgar Renteria. Getting beat by him in that situation really stung.
The Giants had a man on 2nd with 2 outs in the 6th and failed to score. They had men on 1st and 3rd in the 7th with only one out and failed to score. They had the bases loaded in the 10th, again with only one out, and failed to score. Giving away easy 1-2-3 innings and not converting scoring chances will come back to haunt you. The pitching can't always be perfect (sorry, Tim, but there's a reason people call you The Freak). The bullpen breakdown was a shocker, no doubt, but it's not like it was outside the realm of possibility. Atlanta is a good club. They fought back and got some big hits. Last night's sucker-punch loss isn't just about relief pitching. It's also about our criminally inadequate offense. I suppose it is foolish to expect anything else but nail-biting, tortuous, one-run affairs, but goddamn they get old! The Yankees have scored 11 runs in two games. The Rangers have scored 11 runs in two games. The Phillies have scored 11 runs in two games. The Giants have scored 5 runs in two games, and only 14 runs in their last FIVE games! Do we want to play with the Big Boys or not?
The Braves have seized the home-field advantage, but the Giants will throw a very tough young left-hander tomorrow. Jonathan Sanchez has already flashed some big-game credentials, and when he's got his good stuff going he's a very hard man to beat. There's no reason why the Giants can't nut-up and get cracking. The hitters have had their drought, the 'pen has had its hiccup, the time is now to put it all together and get a big win. We'll worry about Game Four later.