Wow, what a game of ups and downs, much like Game 2, only, of course, way better as we won.
It was like the Ghost of Candlestick came over to AT&T for a visit, to show these people how the good old days were. Both Ishikawa's and Wong's hits were batted down from the heavens, back into the reality of the field, where they got a double and triple, respectively. Else Ishi would have had a grand slam, and maybe THAT would have got the Cards down enough to give up.
Instead, Lackey was somehow able to regroup, find the right mechanics, and basically shut down the Giants for the rest of his start, with only a HBP with Sandoval and a single, by all people, by Hudson. That allowed the Cards to claw their way back to a tie, with that homer Hudson gave up (I would have took him out after 6, he was tiring already; as it was Affeldt pitched a couple of innings anyway with only 16 pitches).
But the bullpen held on and eventually the offense put up enough (walk and hit) to finally find that weak link in the Cards, and get that winning run, a walk off bunt, another new entry in the annals of odd ways the Giants score runs, and there have been many, including one just the other day when Duffy scored from second on a wild pitch walk.
I see all the articles about Ishikawa and the wonder involved with him doing well, but I'm not surprised. He is an MLB hitter against RHP. It is LHP which makes him a platoon player. But he plays great defense at 1B and, so far, passable defense in LF, so he would make a good bench player for some team.
Against RHP: .262/.328/.408/.735, 21 Homers in 780 AB (37 AB/HR or 15-20 HR season). So it was not surprising to me that he hit that 3-run double, he has a lot of power that will show up now and again.
And he adds a win solely on defense at 1B. And in his prime, two wins.
But the problem is that: 1) he's not a great enough hitter vs. RHP to make up for his poor LHP batting line and 2) he's not a great enough hitter for a firstbaseman that people understand his value to a team.
He would be a fine platoon player where you got a RHH to take his LHP starts, which is what I was hoping for in 2011 when Belt instead made his debut and won the job. He is perfect for teams where they get 1B-quality bat production from another spot (like the Giants with Posey at C) or teams where they get OK to good production up and down the lineup (like the Giants do), his bat is fine in the 7th or 8th spot, in fact, against RHP, he is probably much above average for the 8th spot, a clear advantage.
People need to get over looking at how a hitter hits relative to players at his position, they need to focus on the overall lineup, and where he hits. As long as a team got capable hitters batting 3/4/5, Ishi is great batting in the bottom of any team's lineup, he can work the walk a lot of times, while giving the ball a charge now and again, like yesterday.
I've been saying that Belt should just move to LF and let Ishikawa semi-platoon with Posey/Hanchez/Susac at 1B (extra catcher would start at 1B vs. LHP, plus when Posey needs a blow at 1B, he starts there no matter who is throwing). But with his fine work in LF (and further practice in spring training), I'm thinking that he could be a fine platoon partner starting in LF with, say, Perez) or a fine bench player who can play 1B or LF should there be injuries, but meanwhile, he can provide power and patience off the bench against RHP.
Unfortunately, he probably don't work for us on the bench in 2015. Blanco is one OF. Presumably the Giants will sign someone (Morse?) to start in LF. Do we match up Ishi with Blanco as backup OF, or a RHH like Perez? Probably the latter. MI bench would be Arias and Adrianza (I would rather Duffy get full time play in AAA to see if he can further develop into a starting player; part of me is hoping the Giants give him a shot at 3B should Pablo, most likely, chose to leave). Backup catcher would be battle between Hanchez and Susac, though the Giants probably prefer Susac start full-time in AAA and prep to take over starting role. And if they platoon in LF, Blanco would be the better choice to go with Perez than Ishikawa, though I suppose that means there is still a spot in the outfield for Ishikawa to play LF, since Blanco and Perez would be able to handle all three OF positions.
I would have took Hudson out after six innings. It seemed like he was tiring and he was giving up runs. Normally in such a situation, Bochy usually has the quick trigger finger and go to a reliever, but perhaps it is telling that he chose to risk continuing in spite of the signals, in order to avoid Machi and Strickland, the main 7th inning guys, then skipped them and used Affeldt for 1.2 IP instead. Two years ago, it would have been Lincecum going 2 innings and then Bochy would hand the ball to the closer. Why is Lincecum not pitching?
And this is after getting a lot of rest before this start, like 9 days or so. Which led to his great start of the game. But he wore down quickly as the game progressed. I don't know how he'll last more than 4-5 innings should we need him in game 7, should we need to play that game. I'm not sure I would want him starting in the World Series as our #3 unless we can avoid game 7 and win in 5-6 games, so that he would have a ton of rest again before his next start, and be able to last at least to mid-game before tiring.
And luckily the bullpen came in and shut down the Cards until we could score.
Universe Pay Back
Of course, many people are agog over the bunt-error walk-off that won the game for us. And rightly so, it is a pretty odd way to win. Still, the way I see it, it was just the Universe paying us back for the Bumgarner error in Game 3 of the NLDS. We lost that game because of the error, which cost the Giants a sweep and another day of rest.
That's What I'm Talking About
Tracy Rigolsby, award winning baseball columnist (formerly following Rockies, now national columnist), wrote this article, which captures a lot of what I've been writing about the Giants in the past and recently:
And the bottom line is that it all comes about because San Francisco is playing winning baseball.
They are able to take advantage of another team's mistakes because they are in position for that mistake to make a difference.
"We're down three, four runs, none of this matters," said Bochy. "When you are in a game like this, the idea is to put pressure on as much as you can. Force that other team to have to execute. The game is different this time of year. Everything is magnified."
Even the pressure.
There's so little margin for error in October. This is no longer that 162-game marathon. There's no second chance by grabbing a Wild Card spot to force your way into the postseason. The Giants have done that, but now the margin for error has been narrowed.And:
"This time of year, there's not much room for error," said Bochy.
And San Francisco isn't a team that is going to blast away, at least not so far this October. The Giants have hit only two home runs in this year's eight postseason games.
"Believe me," said Bochy, "I love home runs. But it is all about execution. If you don't hit home runs, you better do the little things, which we do. You've got to keep the pressure on those other guys."
Most of all, though, Bochy loves winning.
The Giants keep finding a way to claim wins this postseason.
It's not always pretty.
"But," said Bochy, "there aren't any ugly wins."And not just this postseason, but in 2010 and 2012 too. The Giants keep the game close most of the time, with great pitching from their starters and, lately, in particular their relievers, plus stellar defense (or even so), keeping the other side from getting that extra run that they need to win, while holding the fort so that our offense can finally scratch out that extra run that we need.
As Crawford notes in the video accompanying this article (bunch of interview sound bites from many players, nice listen if you got time), the Giants play these games as if it was the regular season, and so they try to have fun. If your guys are executing and performing, then it becomes a game of chicken between the teams where you wait for the weak link in the chain to break, whether Conrad in 2010 or Carpenter in 2012 or Choate 2014. Much like that 18 inning game against the Nats, our relievers held the line until the Nats had to use a reliever who made a mistake pitch to Belt.
There is an interesting article on Shelby Miller on Fangraphs. It discusses how he seems to be throwing more high fastballs. It also notes that whatever changes he has made, he has not really been that effective with it most of the year, until lately.
He pitched nicely against the Bridegrooms, though not great, giving up 3 walks in 5.2 IP, and only striking out 4, but giving up two runs. So he continued to do OK, continuing his year end jump in performance noted in the article. In fact, he was not that great until September, when his K/9 went up to 7.7 and K/BB jumped to 5.2 (from the poor under 2's he was putting up all year).
It appears that he got lucky in September. His playoff start is more in line with the work he was doing earlier in the season: less K, more BB, lousy K/BB. He was also extremely lucky with the BABIP in September as well, low 200's. Prior to September, he was pitching like a #4 starter, 4.19 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 1.49 K/BB. And his FIP showed that, 4.54 vs. his 3.74 ERA, he's been lucky with the BABIP this season for the most part.
And his penchant for high fastballs intersects with two Giants players who will hit the high fastball, every now and again, into the seats: Panda and Pence. So those matchups will be interesting during today's game.
And beyond them, he's a guy a bit on the wild side generally, while not striking out a lot of guys, so our other hitters, like Blanco, Panik, Posey, Belt, Crawford, Ishikawa, they are guys who know how to take a walk, and a couple are good at avoiding the strikeouts too. On top of that, LHH has the advantage over him, they get more hits, and hit for more power, while walking more and striking out less. And Posey hits RHP as well as he does LHP.
Meanwhile Vogie just set a record in playoff history by pitching five games and giving up only 1 run or less in each outing. Hopefully the rest did him good still, unlike Hudson yesterday, who appeared to tire at the end there (in an interview, he said he was still strong; but everything is relative). Looks to me that if Vogie can keep the Cards offense corralled again, Miller looks like a pinata waiting to explode into a bunch of runs at some point during the game, the Giants bats just need to keep the pressure on.
Don't know if the hitters are tired or the other teams been pitching well against them, but nobody on the team is hitting for much power. Top ISO: Crawford 138, Belt 120, nobody else is even over 100, Sandoval is next at 93 ISO. And OPS, Oh Poy Sonny, only Belt has a good one, .949 OPS, Panda next at .728, Posey .684, Ishikawa .683, Panik .648. Pretty anemic. And the bench has not done too much so far (in particular Arias, he has actually played very little so far).
Somebody needs to pick the power up. Posey is battling like he is tired, which he probably got after catching 18 innings in the second game against the Nats. Both Panda and Pence look like they are just not getting lucky, both have good enough strikeout rate, while walking a fair amount too, which leads to a lot of BIP.
In fact, that is what this team has been doing, putting the ball in play. Panik leads the bunch with only 1 K in 33 AB. But most of the hitters are right in that optimal minimum range of 15-20% strikeouts, Belt (5 K's in 32 PA), Posey (only got 2 himself), Panda (6 K's in 35 PA), Pence (5/32), Blanco (2/36), Ishi (3/20). Only Crawford is striking out a lot, 8 in 32 AB.
And everybody got at least 2-3 walks (a lot since most are in the 30-35 PA range), with Belt having 6 walks. Given how good he is hitting and getting on base, maybe Bochy should move him up to batting second and make Panik the leadoff guy, because Blanco is not doing it, .125/.200/.125/.325. That's largely bad BABIP (.133) but sometimes hitters make themselves like that.
But that's sometimes what the other teams pitchers make the hitters look like. Miller appears to be a weak link in their rotation compared to the Giants. Hopefully guys will knock the ball around against Miller and knock him out of the game early.