Sunday, October 12, 2014

Long Balls Sink Giants

The Cardinals were the second-worst home run hitting team in the majors this season (105 total) so naturally they are the best at hitting them in the post-season. (The worst team at hitting homers in the regular season was the Kansas City Royals. They have eight post-season bombs.) The Cards hit seven against the Dodgers in the LDS and hit four tonight against the Giants to grab a big win. The Giants bullpen could not do the job and allowed three solo shots: one off Jean Machi (Oscar Taveras) to tie the game in the 7th, one off Hunter Strickland (Matt Adams) to take the lead in the 8th, and one off Sergio Romo (Kolten Wong) to win the game in the 9th. All were left-handed hitters and all were pulled to right field off right-handed pitchers. Matt Carpenter, another lefty, also stroked one to right off starter Jake Peavy in the 3rd to give St. Louis an early lead. That was Carpenter's fourth in the playoffs--the Giants have two in their seven games. Once again the Giants offense created a number of chances but could not get the game-breaking hit. They scored runs--tying it up against Lance Lynn in the 6th and even taking the lead off Randy Choate in the 7th but stranded nine runners despite ten hits and four bases on balls. The crazy, miraculous rally in the 9th off Trevor Rosenthal that tied the game saw both Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval get chances for a big hit but it didn't come.

The Giants needed to win a game in St. Louis before coming home to San Francisco. They did that. They survived a poor start from Jake Peavy and came from behind to take a late lead. Alas, the bullpen, that fountain of strength, finally faltered. It was an exceptional effort by the rookies (Andrew Susac, Matt Duffy, Juan Perez, and Joe Panik) to score against their closer, but it went for naught after the walk-off in the bottom of the inning. Machi has now allowed two homers in relief, and Strickland is now up to four. I'm not sure what Boch does with him going forward, maybe stick to pitching against righties. I thought having both Romo and Casilla for the end of the game would work in the Giants favor, instead Sergio gave it up on only his second pitch of the night.

It was an epic contest, a see-saw affair that saw the Giants empty their bench and almost pull off another amazing road win. The Cardinals had the magic power bats working after getting shut out the night before and were not to be denied. Yadier Molina left the game with an injury and backup catcher Tony Cruz had a tough go of things in a critical spot but his team hung on to win. A disappointing result as we are not used to seeing the Giants bullpen look so vulnerable, and we have yet to see the lineup (except against the Pirates) get the big knock that drives in a pair or clears the bases to open up a game.

Tuesday's game is listed for 1:00 pm Pacific (on FS1). Tim Hudson and John Lackey.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

16 comments:

Zo said...

Krukow said that every home run was a location mistake to the batters' strength. In addition, the Giants had opportunities that they did not capitalize on. Really, the Giants should have had about 6 runs.

Ron said...

I would be happy, if we did not use Hunter Strickland anymore. I think that Bochy thinks that he is Tommy Lasorda & that Hunter Strickland is the 1978 version of Bob Welch. That is clearly not the case. Even his 'clean inning' (the 18th inning of Game 2 against Washington) was a 30-pitch semi-debacle. If we can get out of this series, Gutierrez should be back on the roster. To go further, what with giving up HR's at one per inning, why hasn't using Lincecum been considered. Frankly, even though it wasn't a big bonehead move to bring in Romo in the 9th, Lincecum or Petit would have made sense in that situation, because the game could have been extended - at least, we were hoping that it would be extended.

On the bright side, Pence had a huge line drive RBI hit, Blanco hit a couple of bleeders, but they were hits, & Perez & Susac showed some legitimate studliness - Perez twice, getting the bunt down on a very difficult pitch in the 7th, then getting a big hit in the 9th.

I would have lost the game in the top of the 9th, as I wanted the runners to go on the 3-2 pitch, when Blanco lined out - Duffy would have been doubled off to end the game. As it was, Duffy made a brilliant read & got back to 2nd.

Blanco's hits did not come when leading off an inning, so I am still looking for a revamped lineup tomorrow:

Panik
Pence
Posey
Sandoval
Belt
Blanco
Crawford
Ishikawa
Hudon

Brother Bob said...

Sunday's game was something of a fluke, I believe. The Cards absolutely had to win, so they did. Four solo homers is weird. The loss of Molina will be fatal. Imagine if we lost Posey.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah, I agree with Krukow. Taveras did a good job anticipating the break on the forkball from Machi but really that pitch should have been lower, or at least on the corner. Posey called for the high heat from Strickland after three sliders--that pitch has to be up and out of the zone and it was not. And Romo's ball had nothing on it. Credit the Cards for seizing the moment and taking advantage of a rare bad game from the Giants 'pen.

I was happy to see Morse get a pinch-hit. I think his bat will make a big contribution at some point in the next few days. Susac's pinch-hit was certainly timely and off a tough reliever, and I'm glad Perez finally joined the party.

Tough loss, but St. Louis is a perennial contender for a reason--they are really good. But the Giants are a confident team. They'll bounce back. And I don't expect any significant lineup changes. Some pop from the power guys would be nice, but that's execution, not batting order. And as you say both Pence and Blanco had key hits, so perhaps they are finding it again.

Ron said...

By the way, I thought that the home plate ump was terrible, especially when Peavy was pitching. If I had been Peavy & Posey, I would have had no idea where the strike zone was, because it changed from pitch to pitch. So, I did not see Peavy's performance as all that bad. He did a great job getting Carpenter out with the bases loaded in the 4th - a hit there would have changed the entire game. Not a great Peavy performance, but that bad either.

JC Parsons said...

It was a real shame that so many of our usually dominant relievers gave up a solo shot. I was not shocked by Strickland getting beat by Adams (Hunter is going to be good, but this is too much,too fast) and I have been very worried every time Romo faces a leftie with pop (which that shortshit Wong actually has). But the Machi homer was a total shocker. I figured that Taveras guy was a switch hitter, so they left Machi in. But I guess thats not true...Hmmm.
A real pity. The Duffy Dash was going to be a classic Giants Moment, now it is more likely a trivia question.

JC Parsons said...

I too want to give the big thumbs up to Perez. The bunt was superb and his hit in the ninth was HUGE. And Susac's hit right before it was one best struck of the night! I was speechless when he drilled it.
It also makes me sad that a wonderfully executed pick off rundown play gets completely wasted/forgotten. Sigh

nomisnala said...

Jon Miller said before the Wong home run, that they had to be careful that this guy could hit a home run and was hitting plenty of them the later part of the season. All in all, I think the match ups were not great for the giants, and inside strikes were the wrong pitches to toss to lefties who were looking to pull the ball on a night where the flight path was enhanced down the line. Giants were not able to take advantage of same. Can't have fast ball pitcher throwing 98 mph fastballs right in the wheel house of good lefty fastball hitters. Before the playoffs I did post in one blog that I would feel a bit better if the giants had a third lefty in the bullpen. I guess Bochy did not go to the Peavy, Petit combo to try to get the win. Machy has been a bit more shaky during the last 6 or 7 weeks. This was a loss that easily could have been a win. A few strikes called on Crawford, should have been balls for the walk, and the giants would probably have scored. Now the Giants need to take winning at home seriously.

nomisnala said...

I have to wonder what is wrong with Lincecum. He would be a bad option if we move on, and have to face the Royals as they will break records stealing against him, but he did pitch ok his last couple of outings, and he should be well rested, so I would think that he is still out of sorts, or something is wrong with him for Bochy not going to him at all. I wonder if Petit will start any games, otherwise once the giants went up 3-2 I thought Petit would be used to try to bridge the innings to Casilla. Romo's one weakness is that when he gives up hits, they tend to be 400 feet.

JC Parsons said...

Just read a McCovey Chronicle that details how scared we should be of our bullpen. Jeez! Yes they screwed up but they are he ONLY thing this team has going for it. Our offense is the joke and gives me nightmares. I kinda resent all the talk and concern over our hitters, they are not worthy. We are trying, keeping the ball in play and getting walks, but if I don't see a well hit ball today I may cry. We must be DUE

JC Parsons said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

First, gotta share this video of Duffy's dash infused with visual analytics and a voiceover explanation of the stats of the situation, like how long it took him to reach full speed, and how fast that speed was, fascinating as Spock would say: http://m.giants.mlb.com/news/article/98370398/statcast-matt-duffys-dash-home-adds-to-lcs-intrigue

Gotta love the kids! I'll always remember the 9th, no matter what. Harbinger of the future, Susac, Duffy, should also give shoutout to Panik for working his way into a walk after being down 0-2 in the count, that's veteran steeliness right there.

Strickland, well, he's learning on the biggest stage, and not everyone is a K-Rod. At least he's saying the right things, I assume the Giants wouldn't put him in there unless he's got the right attitude. I assume that these are to prep him for being our closer later, if not sooner. Bochy already has said that they are working on how to better utilize him.

I had no problem with Romo pitching in the 9th, he had been nails doing that set-up role since he swapped roles with Casilla. As he explained to everyone afterward, he wanted to hit the outside corner low but missed middle, end of story. At some point you gotta trust the guys you got, else you end up not using anyone because everyone will make a mistake sometimes.

Bullpen collective collapse happens, just remember the 18 inning game where they saved us, and all the other games where they shut down the other team for the rest of the game, if you need to feel better about it.

The Giants have been generating opportunities in both games, they should have many more runs. They need somebody to step up and become the NLCS MVP or they will see the Cards celebrating in front of us in St. Louey.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Still, lots to be encouraged by this game. They never gave up at any point. The young kids created the rally and run together, any part without which, no run is scored. Stronger Together!

Bullpens will have hiccups, got to trust what they did so well before, consistently. But obviously, we can't have a redux of the Rockies weekend.

Hitters have been hitting, just not at key point more often. Somebody needs to step up. Posey is clearly tired, like last season, he has had zero power so far, but that's OK batting third. But maybe Susac needs to start a game to give Buster a blow. We need Panda, Pence, Belt to start showing the power and driving in Posey. Blanco had a nice game, hopefully that gets him started, him and Panik getting on regularly will help prime the pump as well.

And we're not going to win every game, so MC hit the nail on the head, we needed a split in St. Lou and we got it, we broke serve, now we have the advantage, 3 games at home, 2 on road, to win three.

Don't worry about MCC "sky is falling" routine. He plays to the LCD: Giants Deniers. After the Giants won in 2012, he gave a backhanded compliment to the Giants in an interview with his enabler's website, BP, still clinging to the view that the Giants are lucky. He focuses only on mistakes, of which there are many if you want to do that to any team.

The focus should be on what Sabean did right. He's never let any good prospect get away from him. Ask A's fans about Ethier, CarGo, and soon, Russell. We've kept Cain, Lowry, Lincecum, Wilson, Dirty Sanchez, Posey, Bumgarner, Belt, Crawford, Hanchez, Panik, Susac, Duffy. Plus players they have picked up like Affeldt, Lopez, Casilla, Pagan, Blanco, Vogelsong, Pence, Kontos, and I think Strickland will soon join.

Who have we lost? Nathan is the worse, but he wasn't a prospect and we got an All-Star offensive and defensive catcher. Liriano is a red herring because his injuries wasted prime years of Mauer's and Morneau's career. Foulke? Howry? Villanueva? Gillaspie? Wheeler?

And how is winning two World Series in three years fluke and luck? First team since Big Red Machine of the 70's, core of team are the players DRAFTED AND DEVELOPED by the Giants: Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, Dirty, Wilson, Romo, Belt, Crawford, and here I'll include Vogelsong too.

Or picked up in trade of such prospects, like Pence.

Or finding such players like Casilla, for free (from the A's), who becomes our high velocity high K/9 closer, while letting go of useful but not on our staff pitchers like Otero (to the A's), who are effective, but don't strike out enough.

Given the A's multiple failures to get beyond the NLDS, perhaps the fairer question for Bay Area fans to ask is why aren't people wondering if it is luck that the A's are even getting to the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

why hasn't using Lincecum been considered
what is wrong with Lincecum

Answer to both - He's terrible.

Teams are turning around Strickland's 97+ heater. Timmy's dead-straight 90 with no command/control? No thank you.

Bochy wouldn't put him in a game that went 18 innings. Seems that says everything.

Team would be stronger with Quiroz or Kontos on the roster, rather than wasting the spot on sentiment.

As the Leo D. said in the movie 42;
We're playing for money here.

Anonymous said...

SI.com doesn't think the G's are lucky at all.

http://tinyurl.com/mrpuchl

They win because of timely hitting, stout pitching and defense, an astute manager with great skill running a bullpen, and a contact-hitting lineup that can win games without the home run.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Well, it is not just sentiment, they owe him big money in 2015, and still hope to get a lot of innings out of them then, and not everyone can be a Zito and come back after being left off the playoff roster.

My best guess, thinking about it again, is that his mechanics are off again, for whatever reason, but they hope to solve it in time for him do do a redux of 2012. That would be worth, just in expected value, even if it fails, the roster spot, I think.

I would like to see Kontos on the roster too, perhaps in place of Machi if he keeps on giving up the long-ball. But Quiroz? No thank you, talking about wasted spot, plus then you have a short bullpen. Just no.

I love that quote, Leo was a good Giants manager too: we're playing for the money, we certainly are. That is up there with "Nice guys finish last" (apparently, he said something like that, but that was the editor's headline).

That's why I love Bochy, he understands that we're playing for the money, and that there is no tomorrow. On top of that, he's good at managing players he demotes such that they continue to perform for him, and not quit on him (though Rowand and Tejada did, but look at Sandoval, Zito especially after 2010, Lincecum after 2012), or like when he pulls starters out of game early or get starters to relieve for him.

SI is just a johnny come lately. The Giants won their second championship in 2012, yet there was not one article about them in 2013 that talked about how good they are (probably because they were losing eventually, but they had the early season when they were playing well to say something like this).