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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


  • At 12:16 AM, Anonymous SFGiants Fan Dan said…

    I love postseason baseball. Was deprived of it so long in the 90's and early 2000's now it's like every year almost we have excitement into october. Love it.

    Thinking way ahead, but we need to bring back Peavy next season. With Cain coming back strong, Madbum, Peavy and HUddy and Petit we'd be a top rotation again I think.


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