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Monday, October 27, 2014

SF heading back to KC in driver's seat

After the Royals came into town and took the first game at AT&T Park Friday night for their second straight win, games 4 and 5 became the real momentum changers of the series so far.

Through the first three innings of Game 4, it looked like KC was gonna run away with this game and take a 3-1 series lead, but the Giants showed why they've won 2 tittles the last 4 seasons and came up with an impressive comeback to not only win the game, but completely blow KC out of the water, 11-4. I think that was the big turn of the series, or at least I'm hoping it was. Had the Royals held on to win that game, they take a commanding 3-1 lead and would have forced San Francisco to win the last 3 games in a row in order to take this thing. However, with the comeback, the Giants sapped all the momentum KC had been building off the back-to-back wins and completely swung it in their favor with that thrilling Game 4. It seems like everyone got involved a little in Game 4, with Pablo Sandoval providing clutch hit after clutch hit, Joe Panik coming up big and the big days from Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. But the real hero of Game 4 has to be Yusmiero Petit, who really took over and completely stopped the bleeding that Vogelsong had started, and gave the Giants the chance to come back in that game. If you follow us on Twitter, you'll know that after the NLCS, I stated that I'd prefer Petit over Vogey as the Game 4 starter, but somehow it all worked out in the end.

Then came the ever so pivotal Game 5, a game in which I think all Giants fans had a pretty good feeling about heading in with their ace and one of the better starting pitchers in the postseason history at this point. And Madison Bumgarner certainly did not dissapoint. With the groove he was in early, I figured the Giants may only need a couple runs tonight in order to take this game. They scored 5 of course, but could have done with just 1 with MadBum in complete "beast mode". Sandoval and Pence got the offense going, but Brandon Crawford and Juan Perez came up with the big hits tonight, both driving in multiple runs on the evening and cruising to a easy 5-0 victory. Bumgarner was the talk of the night though, and really has been the talk of the series. He shut the Royals potent, speedy offense out, holding them to just four hits and allowing zero free passes on his way to striking out 8 in the complete game victory. Like a true ace, MadBum just gets tougher as the game goes on, and If the Giants are able to go on and win this thing in Game 6, I think Madison get's the World Series MVP. Now, not to get ahead of ourselves though, cause they still have to win one of these next two in KC. The thing the Giants do have slightly in their favor, besides the 1-game lead, is the fact their pretty darned good on the road in the postseason, and they have two pretty solid bets going in Jake Peavy and Timmy Hudson lined up for the next two starts.

Yordano Ventura may be the toughest Royals' starter to hit when he's on though, and he already handed the Giants a loss in this series, so Game 6 will be no cakewalk. Still, the Giants have complete momentum, have the experience closing out teams, obviously, and should be the clear front-runners at this point to take the 'Series and officially be categorized as a Dynasty in baseball's rich history, but that conversation is for a later date. First off, they need to finish this out, and although Jake Peavy has had some hiccups his last two starts in the playoffs, I expect him to be on his game Tuesday night.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Game one should dictate entire Series

Both the Giants and the Royals have pretty much steam-rolled their way into the World Series as the obvious two best teams in their league during the playoffs. While the Royals have gone undefeated to this point in October, the Giants have lost just two, and both teams have plenty of momentum heading into Tuesday night's game one.

There's been so much breakdown of this series over the last few days, and I'm sure we've heard just about every body's opinion at this point, so I'm just gonna keep it short and simple. Each team will send their ace to the mound in game one, with Madison Bumgarner facing James Shields, giving the edge in the pitching match-up to the Giants. That should be the theme of the series, as the Giants' starters are stronger and more experienced than KC's. However, when we get into the bullpen, it's a whole different story. The Giants' pen has been nails, for the most part, this postseason, though they've been prone to giving up the long ball. The Royals' pen has been stingy, and they have a line of guys who can dominate innings down there. This is not a team the Giants will have an easy time coming from behind against like they were able to do against Washington and St. Louis, especially in the late innings, so the theme for San Francisco should be getting some runs on the board early. You may see more bunting and hit and runs earlier in the game than usual for that reason.

The Royals are gonna run on the Giants like no other team the Giants have seen this year, and it's going to be a challenge for both Buster Posey as well as the Giants pitchers to keep those guys from running wild. Kansas City led baseball in stolen bases this season, and have pretty much run at every opportunity in the playoffs. I said these two teams were very similar in the way they both put pressure on the defense, but they do it in different ways. The Giants will grind out at-bats, work counts, make the defense stay on the field and challenge them to make plays. They've gotten thrown out at home a few times, but for the most part, that formula has worked. The Royals, however, are going to try and get on base and run on you. They do have some pop throughout the lineup, but really play more like a National League team than any other American League team I saw this year.

Now, I read a position vs. position breakdown of this series a couple of days ago, and I think it ended up pretty even. I think this series is going to really come down to who pitches better, makes less mistakes in the field and can jump out to early leads. Neither of these bullpens are likely to give up leads late, so whichever team has the lead into the seventh inning is more than likely gonna keep that lead. The big wild card for me in this series will be the DH for the Giants. They'll finally get to use Michael Morse Tuesday and Wednesday in games one and two, which will drastically help out their lineup. The Giants haven't hit many long balls this October, but the ones they've hit have been huge, and one of those came off the bat of Morse, who's only had a couple at-bats since mid-September and hasn't played steadily since mid-August. Even if Morse tears it up in the two games in KC and can play the field for 6-7 innings, I don't think Boch will tinker with left field when the series moves back to San Francisco, especially with how clutch Ishi's been.

With the Giants experience in the playoffs and superior starting pitching, I think you have to give the slight edge to them, even though nobody has been able to figure out KC this month. Of course, Vegas has the Giants as underdogs, as you can see the odds at AllPro, and many are calling this series a match-up of destiny vs. dynasty. I'm gonna put my money on the dynasty and say the Giants win this thing in six. Game one will be huge though, cause if they can hand the Royals their first loss of the playoffs, it may rattle them a bit, whereas if KC knocks around MadBum and takes game one, they may feel like nobody can stop them (if they don't already). I'll probably check back in tomorrow after the game as I wont be able to post again tonight.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Giants take NLCS, off to Kansas City

Well folks, this is a feeling I can certainly get used to, and if your reading this blog, most likely your in agreement. For the third time in five seasons, the San Francisco Giants will represent the National League in the Fall Classic after a thrilling game 5 win over St. Louis at AT&T Park Thursday night.

In what was a series that was determined by who played the better situational, team baseball, the Giants ran away with it. It was a bit closer than the 4-1 series win would indicate as the Cardinals flexed their muscles on multiple occasions with big home runs while the Giants manufactured runs, put pressure on the defense and forced their way across homeplate, so to speak. It was two different styles of play clashing, and the Giants superior pitching, defense and timely hitting won out. The Giants didn't hit any long balls in the series until game five, but they got them at the opportune time when they needed them the most. Madison Bumgarner's performance was brilliant once again, and he deservingly took home NLCS MVP honors, but how about Travis Ishikawa in this series. Not only did he come up with the big, base clearing double in game three that set the tone for the Giants to take that game early, he ends up hitting the walk-off blast to send the club to the 'Series. What a long way to come for a guy that was pondering his baseball future in recent months. Despite his bad miss-judge on that Jon Jay double, the dude has gone out of position and held it down while providing some clutch at-bats. Bochy should have no problem rolling with him in left field when the Giants head to KC Tuesday, at which time they can finally get some at-bats from fellow game 5 hero Michael Morse as the starting DH.

Now, to me, this series came down to the Giants out-pitching St. Louis and really making less mistakes them them in the field. Bochy had a very interesting, yet somewhat generic quote the other day when he said the postseason is built into this teams DNA and it really is. All the sudden the playoffs role around and free-swinging Pablo Sandoval has become an extremely patient and dangerous hitter. Gregor Blanco is looking like an adequate leadoff hitter. Joe Panik, another guy who played a huge role in Game 5, looks like he's a five-year veteran out there. The bullpen looks untouchable and Travis Ishikawa of all people becomes one of the offensive mainstays of October. They grinded out at-bats, made the Cardinals defense stay on the field and force them to be perfect and as we saw in Game 4, they aren't perfect all the time. The Giants did what winning teams do, what teams who've been here before and know how to play at this stage do. They may not have as much talent as the teams they're beating in the playoffs the last few years, but they play harder and smarter baseball, and have ice water in their veins when the game is on the line.

There's numerous other things I can point out about Thursday's clincher, including the move to Affeldt in the ninth which was brilliant, and how MadBum willed the Giants to another win despite not having his A+ stuff the whole night, but if you've watched these games closely, then you already know. No Pagan, No Morse (until now of course), no Cain, no Lincecum (for different reasons), no Scutaro? No Problem!

Now, that being said, we'll celebrate this one tonight, but this journey is far from over. The Royals are no joke, and a much different team than the Giants beat in their last two World Series appearances as well as the three teams they went through to get to this point now. The Royals are much like the Giants in a way where they'll manufacture runs, get on base, steal, take advantage of an error and stretch out innings with patient at-bats. We'll breakdown that upcoming series much more at some point this weekend (including the who takes the ball in game four, Yusmiero Petit or Ryan Vogelsong) but for now, I want to stop typing and get back to celebrating. As a dedicated fan and blogger for this club, this truly just gets better and better the each time you get here, and I can't wait to see what next week has in store for us.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Giants vs. Cardinals in NLCS: Part 2

Two years ago, the Giants downed the Cardinals in the NLCS and eventually cruised to their 2nd World Series tittle in 3 seasons. After winning a tight NLDS Game 4 over Washington at AT&T Park Tuesday night, they'll have a chance to do it again.

Ryan Vogelsong showed up in yet another crucial October start and did exactly what he had to do and that was throw up some early zeroes. In fact, he was so sharp tonight it took Washington a few innings to hit him. Vogey kept to the script in what has been an extremely well-pitched October, not just on the Giants behalf, but on both the Nationals as well. The Giants put pressure on Washington in this one, and although they couldn't quite come up with that big multi-rbi hit, they were able to set themselves up to take advantage of Washington's mistakes. The Nationals would have had to play a perfect baseball game in the field Tuesday night in order to beat the Giants and they couldn't quite do it.

There were a lot of Giants that played a role in this series, and guys that don't always get the big headlines like Sandoval, Posey, Pence and Bumgarner. One is young Joe Panik. It's taken Panik a few games to catch up to the advanced pitching in the postseason, but just as he did after an initial slow start with the Giants this summer, he turned it on at the right time. I can't stress to you how important that kids emergence was for this team. Without him, the Giants may have never found an answer at second base and I doubt they'd be in the position they're currently enjoying. There wasn't a more important Giants hitter in Tuesday's game than Panik, as he went 2 for 4 with an RBI and scored the game winning run. The other guy I wanted to highlight was Brandon Crawford. B-Craw had the huge hit in the Wild Card game, and had a solid NLDS. Still just a .250 hitter with average power in the regular season, Crawford has always shown a knack for making the hits he does get big ones and it seems like he's involved in virtually all of the Giants big offensive innings this October. The Pence catch at the wall in right, the way Hunter Strickland and the rest of the pen buckled down after giving up that mammoth game-tying shot to Bryce Harper and even Gregor Blanco getting on base a couple of times at the top of the order, all played big roles in this game as well. In fitting Giants' fashion, they got contributions from guys all over the roster in this one and once again found a way to get it done.

The way the Giants have come into this postseason, complete underdogs with reserves making up 2/3 of their outfield and the question marks within the rotation after MadBum and Peavy towards the end of the year is a complete testament to how experience can play a huge role in October. Once again, Blacno has been plugged into a role in which he's filling some pretty big shoes (Melky Cabrera in '12, Angel Pagan this year), but it's not much mattered to this point as he's done his job. He got on base twice in Game 4 and I think he's going to be huge to the Giants offensive success vs. St. Louis if he can get on base consistently like that. There's also some speculation the Giants may get their starting left fielder back for the NLCS. Even if they could play him just 6 innings in the field and get him a few at-bats, it would be a huge boost to an offense that could desperately use another shot in the arm. Travis Ishikawa has held down the spot and provided a some decent at-bats and a reliable glove in left, but the Giants need that big right-handed bat to break up Belt and Crawford in that 7th spot. He seems optimistic though, and even if it's in a limited role early, you'd have to think the Giants will role with him over a guy like Gary Brown, who's likely a little out of his element at this stage. Perez obviously has the leg up with experience, ability to bunt but I like Brown's upside and how unknowns can be big in October. All in all, it was impressive the Giants took down the 96-win team with as thin of a positional roster as they had. Getting Morse back, again even with limitations, could help a ton with St. Louis.

Some other good things the Giants have going for them heading into the NLCS is a well rested rotation and pretty rested pen. All Giants starters in this series were able to get relatively deep into their starts and no reliever was taxed heavily at all. Not to mention, Sergio Romo's slider looks like it's in 2012 postseason form, Santiago Casilla, Javy Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt look like their usual stingy selves and at least no more Bryce Harper in 2014 for rookie phenom Hunter Strickland. The pen is definitely a strength for the Giants right now. As for the rotation, well, we saw what they did vs. the potent Washington bat's. Many thought that MadBum would be tough, but you could get to the Giants starters after him. That it wasn't the dominant Giants' rotation of the past two World Series runs. Maybe not as dominant, but so far just as effective. Peavy has looked like a reborn ace in a Giants uniform and outpitched his younger counterpart Strasburgh in Game 1. The big question though was how Hudson's arm was going to fare, and I think he answered that one with a vengeance in Game 2. Huddy's never been here before, he's pumped and I expect him to be every bit as tough against the Cardinals as his arm seems to be taking well to this downtime between series'/starts. They have the pitching to keep them in every ballgame, and it's going to come down to which team can get an early lead more often with St. Louis, and whichever team that is, likely goes onto the 'Series.
The Giants Baseball Blog