Friday, October 26, 2012

Giants Take Two, Two To Go

Admit it. There's a masochistic side to you that wanted to see the Giants win a handful of elimination games in the World Series.* Sure, that was by turns anguishing and exhilarating, but I'll take the Giants exactly where they are now, heading to Detroit with a two game lead. I promise that if things work out, I won't even lament that they might have just played their last game of the season at home. 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, I know two words that should give you pause: Anibal Sanchez. He's been known to mow down the Giants and induce high amounts of spectator stress for doing so, especially at AT&T Park. Fortunately, the Giants have two things going for them: first, Ryan Vogelsong, and second, Sanchez is not invincible outside of AT&T: in Miami on May 24th, he pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on seven hits and two walks. If we could cherry-pick a few things from the boxscore, you'll note that Ryan Vogelsong was the starting pitcher, and that Emmanuel Burriss was playing second. I think the Giants found an upgrade at second somewhere along the line, but I just can't recall. Was it Ryan Theriot? And don't look at the part about Javier Lopez. Don't do it!

What I'll need to remember when I look back at this years from now:

GAME 1: 8-3 Giants

First, Barry Zito has become The Junkball Superstar. Bronson Arroyo would write a nice tuneful tribute, but he's still a bit upset at the whole NLDS thing. Sure, we can stare at Zito's Baseball Reference page for hours and try to puzzle it through, considering the 4.15 that in 2010 got him left off the post-season roster, and that in 2012 made him the go-to guy for Game 1 of the World Series. We could even talk about how his ERA+ was 94 in 2010, and 84 in 2012. Is he actually a lesser pitcher this year? Or does it say more about the (temporary?) fall of Tim Lincecum? Or, that Bruce Bochy was prepared to use all the tools of psychological warfare against Justin Verlander? Or, with a more proficient offense this year, Zito's flaws aren't nearly as glaring?

Was the crowd chanting Bar-ry and then Zi-to? Did I really get an email from a friend who actually wrote:
Forget about Panda's feats last night. It was Zito's night. It wasn't necessarily pretty,  but he had a plan that he stuck to. I suspect this will be a long series, but my prediction is Zito will be WS MVP.
For such a bold prediction, I will let you remain anonymous, Mark. Oh, whoops! That's set in stone like the rest of the Internet, so I can't change it now! Never forget, however, that this is Verlander (the first two times) and that's Pablo Sandoval:

I've never heard of those other guys who've hit three home runs in a World Series game, but I'm sure they're good people.**

By the end of this game, I was convinced that Lincecum's post-season calling is to be a super-reliever. He faced seven batters and struck out five. What, would you rather see Guillermo Mota in the middle innings?

GAME 2: 2-0 Giants

Fact: Doug Fister struck the fuck outta the Kansas City Royals and set some kind of record. Fact: Fister struck out only three Giants. For allowing a rare hit to the struggling Hunter Pence, he's the losing pitcher of record, although if baseball recorded assists, I'd say Drew Smyly cemented that one.

Otherwise, we got the Madison Bumgarner that we all remember from earlier in the season: 7IP, 2H, 2W, 8K, 0ER. One of the biggest fears of this post-season was the diminished capacity of the starting rotation, but over the past five games, Giants starters have allowed two earned runs in, hmmm, add the numbers, carry that one to the other one, 33 innings pitched. (Tack on Lincecum in Game 1 and it's 35 1/3). In case you're wondering, that went Zito, Vogelsong, Cain, Zito,  Bumgarner. Looks like everybody's in: next up, Vogelsong and Cain.

No time to look back now, just two more wins to go... 

* Make no mistake, they'll obviously have to win a game that includes eliminating Detroit, but how about not making it a handful?
**That would be Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and some guy who just cashed in with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rooting Against the Tigers Begins Today

What exactly just happened over the month of October? Had you told me in March that the Giants would win the National League pennant after fighting back in six elimination games, and that Barry Zito would be a crucial component of the playoff rotation, I would have thought you were high as hell. And you might have been. But here we are. Barry Zito's starting Game 1 of the World Series against Justin Verlander. 

Though I haven't written anything about the playoffs. I'm sure it has something to do with going back to work at the university, and working on a book and an editing project that have nothing to do with baseball. But it also had to do with how exhausting watching the Giants win six elimination games. Including that time I was attending a conference talk, sweating Sergio Romo's twelve pitches to Jay Bruce. To tell the truth, it wasn't that nerve wracking to watch Ryan Vogelsong. In fact, I could watch those games with some obstinate idea that Vogelsong wouldn't accept not going to the World Series after his now-storied return to the Major Leagues. But, wow, the rest of the rotation has been a far cry from their shut down performances of 2010.

Yet the offense has been able to pick them up, at least until the Cardinals got shut down offensively in games five, six, and seven, when the offense picked up the pitching just on general principle--not to mention that the possibility of the the Cards coming back from a six run deficit would leave a very bitter taste.

Instead, the Giants are going to the World Series, and I've got to start mustering my baseball fury against the Detroit Tigers (even if I chose them for the World Series last year). May they under perform in the next four to seven games. 

Before the fall classic begins, never forget:

For that grand slam, Buster Posey is the official NLDS Exceptional Comrade of The Left Field Line.

The NLCS Excellent Comrades (a shared prize!) are Marco Scutaro and Ryan Vogelsong. In 30 plate appearances, Scutaro hit .500/.533/.607, with fourteen hits, most of those coming after being run over by Matt Holliday. 

Vogelsong destroyed the Cardinals with that fiery death stare. Oh, and he pitched 14 innings and gave up only eight hits, three walks, and two earned runs. If you throw in the hit batter, that's 12 baserunners, compared to 13 strikeouts. 

If he wants to go Satchel Paige and pitch night after night while decimating the opposition, I'd say let him.