Game 1: Ho Hum

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If you are a diehard fan, you don’t like exciting games. And this one was exactly what a diehard fan wants. Very few moments of suspense. We yelled at Flannery for sending Posey home. What a stupid move! But it was only the first inning, and the Giants ultimately had the game already won by then. We later groaned when Brandon Crawford surprised us with an error, but Bumgarner got out of that unscathed, too. Giants got some more runs in the 4th and it was on to game 2. The only fear I had going into the late innings was that Lincecum was going to come in. It’s an agonizing fear because I so badly want him to pitch. He’s the most famous and popular Giant of this era and we want to see if he can dial it back to 2012 (having just about given up his dialing it back to the glorious days of 2010 when he rode off the field on everyone’s shoulders). But the potential of his pitching also produces great anxiety. If he does come in, is there any lead that is still safe? How horrible would it be if he came in and walked the leadoff hitter. Crowd rises to their feet, bullpen is on alert, and we have a ball game again. He goes 3-0 on the next batter because no one is swinging at the change up in the dirt, and now here come’s the 90 mph fast ball down the middle… Fortunately, Bochy chose not to go there, and it was the right move to re-establish Strickland as a late inning force. This game didn’t require too much strategizing, but as always, Bochy made every right move, like having the guts to pinch hit for Ishikawa in the 4th inning, and bunt for an extra run and get better defense. Giants are 9-1 in their last 10 WS games. Expect the unexpected, they always say. But this world series has the feel of their last two, and if the Jake Peavy feel good story continues….

>>>P

Also here’s the answer to Mark’s question.

Greatest Moments in Giants Playoff History

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Where does Travis Ishikawa’s 3-run walk off home run tonight rank in this incredible run of Giants success. Let’s go all the way back to 2000 because there are some amazing moments from back then. This may not be the greatest win of the whole run, but it’s the greatest single moment. I’m going to skip some of the incredible moments that were negative (Kolten Wong’s home run, JT Snow getting thrown out at home to end the series against the Marlins, game 6 against the Angels).

1. Ishikawa. The fact that it was Ishikawa, and not Brandon Belt or Crawford or anyone else, adds to the incredibleness of the event. And even though it happened with the Giants winning 3-1 in the series, if they lost, they were in serious trouble with the series going back to SL. I’ll add that Jake Peavy trying to tackle Ishikawa between 2nd and 3rd base added to the excitement.

2. JT Snow’s 3 run home run to tie game 2 of the playoffs against the Mets (although they ended up losing the game). The desperation of the moment and the fact that the Giants hadn’t yet won a WS made that pretty incredible. I cried when it happened.

3. Tim Lincecum shutting out the Braves. The first game of the new Giants. Tim Lincecum on the national stage for the first time. Maybe the most dominant playoff pitching performance I’ve ever seen. Struck out 15, gave up one hit.

4. Juan Uribe hitting the winning home run against the Phillies. The Phillies were such big favorites, the former champions with all the cy young’s. I was still experiencing PTS from game 6 of the WS against the Angels. That was the turning point.

5. Barry Zito, game 5 of Cardinals series. I’ve said enough about this before. The most improbable moment of so many improbable moments.

6. Buster Posey’s grand slam against the Reds in game 5 in a 2-2 series.

7. Shawon Dunston’s home run in game 6 of the WS against the Angels. This moment was extra special because Dunston was met at home plate by his son, and prior to the game Dunston cried talking about how his son had asked him why he didn’t start anymore and he had to explain that he was old and not very good. And then to hit the home run that at the moment looked like was going to lead to a Giants championship. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it.

8. While on topic… JT Snow grabbing Dusty Baker’s 4 year old son who was in the way as Snow was scoring at home. As Snow scored, he grabbed Darren Baker by the hood and picked him up out of harm’s way.

9. Lincecum v. Cliff Lee in the middle innings. Two great pitchers totally locked in in a 0-0 game with the innings going by so fast because no one could get on base.

10. Hmm…so many still left. How about a tie between Brian Wilson’s final out in 2010; Edgar Renteria’s winning home run that game; Michael Morse tonight; Pablo Sandoval’s 3 home runs against Justin Verlander; the tying run in the 9th of game 3 against the Reds, the broken bat hit by Hunter Pence…What am I forgetting?

Giants have won 8 straight playoff series. Were they favored in a single one? I believe the answer is ‘no’. I guess they might well be against the Royals for the first time.

Giants MLB Drafts, first round: 2002–Matt Cain, 2006, Tim Lincecum, 2007, Madison Bumgarner, 2008, Buster Posey.

Why Bochy is a better manager than me: I thought they should have taken Ishikawa out after his at bat in the 7th inning for defense.

These last four games are why baseball has no peer when it comes to playoff tension. All sports have great finishes. No sport has every moment be potentially game changing. And no other sport involves so many players in so many crucial moments.

Crazy–these last five years for the Giants will be remembered forever. (In twitter years, that means at least until next month).

Oh, and check out https://twitter.com/BestFansStLouis. Not nice losers. The like the ‘f’ word a lot.

Giants and Jameis

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Giants: what can you say that hasn’t been said? The room for error with them is so small because they are so not a dominant team, that it’s excruciating every time a mistake is made. But then they keep getting them back.

Why aren’t Tom Verducci and Frank Thomas managers? Or at least bench coaches? Verducci is right on every piece of strategy. Like Brandon Crawford’s success against lefties.

Add to the Giants post-season miracle list: Travis Ishikawa’s 3 run double. If the series were over today, he’s as good an MVP as anyone right now.

Everyone was screaming at Bochy not to go with Hudson in the 7th for the various reasons. With the bottom of the order there, why not give Tim Lincecum a shot? He sucked in 2012 then caught fire in the playoffs. It is possible that Big Time Timmy Jim is truly a big game pitcher and that might have been a spot to see if it was so. What a huge weapon he was then, and somehow I feel like he deserves a chance to show if he could be again. [I know: that's an unrepentant homer moment; but at least I didn't gratuitously point out how everyone is crediting Barry Bonds with Brandon Crawford's ability to hit lefties.]

The media loves to lump things together to create a personality that is “controversial.” In so doing, they often lump minor things with major things. “Ray Lewis was involved in a homocide and later failed to pay for a parking ticket.” With Jameis Winston, why won’t people focus on the real issue: he was accused of rape and Florida State University didn’t investigate and didn’t ever force Winston to account for his actions, actions that–even if his side of the story is in any way correct still are suggestive of major impropriety on his part. That’s the issue. Full stop. All the attention to his signing autographs for money or making lewd comments is makeup for a major fuck up on his and FSU’s part.

What is amazing for Winston is that he got away with something, and potentially something that should have landed him in jail for many years. Give Ray Lewis at least this credit: he became a saint (at least in the public eye) after his “mistake.” Winston doesn’t seem to realize he’s accountable for anything. That said–he’s 20 years old. Florida State remains the true evil here–if they had any inch of integrity, they’d ban Winston from playing until all of this is sorted out, and they’d give back their championship from last year for the way they acted. They didn’t follow basic due process, and that deserves punishment for the university.

And by the way, since this blog is largely serving to fill a tiny empty hole in the infinite inter web universe (I don’t even think Facebook or the NSA bothers to check here), I was out on a run tonight feeling pissed off about the assholes at my day job (#firstworldproblems) and was looking for a good pissed off song to listen to on my iPhone. Not the normal self-loathing angsty stuff I typically listen to. Something just straight forward angry. Nothing was quite right–Lydia Loveless enjoys her anger too much in “Head”; old stand by “Twenty Four Hours” by Joy Division wasn’t enough unhinged; and Pearl Jam’s “Once” was too triumphant. Stumbled onto “Territorial Pissings” by Nirvana. What’s remarkable about the song is not just how angry he is, and how amazing Dave Grohl’s drumming is, but how hopeful Kurt Cobain is. I think. Either that, or he just snapped 2/3s of the way through the song. Mark, what’s your go to pissed off song?

Is Hunter Strickland Bochy’s Kryptonite?

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Bochy’s the best. One loss doesn’t change that. And he’s the best with relief pitchers in the playoffs. One loss doesn’t change that.

But How many times is Bochy going to let Hunter Strickland throw fastballs to fastball eating left-handed power hitters?!?!?!

Exhale.

Now that I got that off my chest. Great game. Total classic which shows why October baseball can be really really exciting.

[Addendum: The usually exceptional Jonah Keri seems a bit hit and miss today with his "numbers" analysis of managerial decisions from last night. He's right on Machi and Strickland. Those both seemed pretty obvious without numbers, and can't get less obvious with. I'd have like to have seen more numbers with regards to the Peavy-Carpenter decision in the 4th. It wasn't just about Peavy-Carpenter. It was the 4th inning. Bochy has 2 lefties--Lopez and Affeldt. If he uses Lopez in the 4th, how many situations are being created for later in the game where he has to use a righty against a lefty? And in the ninth, Keri doesn't use numbers at all with regards to Romo, but I think he's unfair nonetheless. Romo's numbers post-all star break have been exceptional (1.80 era, .85 whip, 23 ks in 20 innings), as has his playoff experience thus far. AND, he's got huge playoff experience. Petit has a single great performance in long relief, which deserves all the credit in the world, but getting 6 innings out between the 12th and 18th inning is easier than getting 3 outs in the 9th. I don't see that as a situation where Bochy is trying to get cute with a lesser pitcher.]

Too bad no one is watching. And that’s because MLB would rather make money than let anyone watch. Why the f*** is this game on Fox sports 1. I went to watch the game at a bar tonight. They didn’t have it. Went to a second bar. They didn’t have it. Found it at a cheesy corporate restaurant which was blasting the volume on a 27-0 NFL game. [Respect to Victor Cruz].

Fox sports 1 absolutely sucks. Not only can’t anyone find it on their television, their studio crew really sucks. Gabe Kapler has to drink a few less red bulls. [this is why his baseball career sucked too. while everyone else was doing PEDs, he was downing red bulls and hit like zero homeruns]. And ESPN, which has been doing it all year, doesn’t have the games, so they don’t give it much attention.

How is it that corporate America hasn’t totally ruined sports. I mean, they have. College basketball is a sewer of corruption. College football is the part of the sewer where all the rats hang out. But why haven’t Americans gotten angrier about all the ways that corporations have destroyed their sports. In the two games in Washington, D.C., there were dozens of empty seats in the first few rows behind home plate. Likely because they were going for $20,000 a seat. No one cares. Now, we can’t even watch baseball without it being on an extra charge pay channel. It’s outrageous. And MLB will get away with it just like every other corporation does. What happened to the populists? Why don’t the 99% protest the corporate takeover of sports? Can’t some of the Tea Partiers stop worrying about Latino children and focus on the evil that is FOX and cable television? [FOX sports 1 is owned by the same people that own FOX news? I'm shocked.]

Here’s a list of the most improbable things that have happened to the Giants in the playoffs since 2010.

1. Barry Zito beating Cards in game 5 2012

2. Pablo Sandoval hitting 3 home runs off Justin Verlander in 2012.

3. Cody Ross hitting 2 home runs off Roy Halladay in 2010.

4. Barry Zito beating Justin Verlander in game 1 of WS 2012.

5. Edgar Renteria hitting a 3 run homer off of Cliff Lee in WS 2010.

6. Hunter Pence’s 3 hit single against Cards in 2012.

Add from tonight:

Juan Perez getting a hit off of Trevor Rosenthal.

Matt Duffy scoring from second on a wild pitch by Trevor Rosenthal.

I look forward to Tuesday. In addition to Molina being out, the Cardinals don’t have a closer with confidence. Can a team win the WS when their closer doesn’t have confidence? [Pausing to think for 5 seconds… No.]

>>>P

Photo Credit Thomas Huston

Joel Freeland and Google

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Google “Joel Freeland,” the hard working backup center for the Portland Trailblazers who has worked his way from stacking shelves to the NBA, and what comes up is: “Gordon Hayward Posterizes Joel Freeland,” and “Gordon Hayward Dunks all Over Joel Freeland,” and “Gordon Hayward embarrasses Joel Freeland.” That’s the reality of being a professional athlete and everyone will forget this moment and move on to the next dunk, scandal, or championship.

But for Joel Freeland, how long before you google his name and this doesn’t come up? (too bad it didn’t happen to Joe Smith). That’s what sucks about google. And Joel Freeland’s story is at least good for a laugh–he didn’t do anything he should feel ashamed of. Think of all the other otherwise obscure people who have one really embarrassing or regretful thing happen to them. It’s going to sit there forever.

If it ever happens to me, my two choices are to go more extreme so that there’s even a more embarrassing story for google to cover (is full frontal in a supermarket line with some LOL cats involved enough?) or to move to the end of the earth, which is–with global warming–somewhere just off the northern coast of Maine. You’ll know where to find me.

>>>P

October is Their Time of Year

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Undefeated in October. Your 2014 Boston Celtics.

Marcus Smart looks competitive. Evan Turner looks pretty good. Sullinger is helping us forget Ray Allen with his 3 point prowess. Marcus Thornton is going to make us quickly forget Jordan Crawford.

No snark: team looks good so far. It is pre-season but they already look like what they ultimately are–young, versatile, hard working on defense, and no real go to scorer. It also seems like a team that will win about 35-40 games whether they have Rajon Rondo or not. But you’ll have to play him to get trade value. Your 2014 Boston Celtics.

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That was one crazy game and crazy series. Any game in which a pitcher is able to record just one out, which occurred by way of a wild pitch he threw while attempting to complete an intentional walk, but resulted in tagging Buster Posey out on a close play at the plate because he was blocking the plate in a way that the “Posey Rule” is supposed to prevent, is the definition of crazy. And as a giddy Giants fan, I have to say that at least a small part of me feels bad. Almost like we took something we didn’t deserve. Three runs scored on a walk, a ground out, and a wild pitch. Bryce Harper’s home run went farther than all of the Giants hits combined.

The Giants are always this way, but this year seems more extreme than others. In 2010, the Giants pitchers were legitimately elite–Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and the bullpen were as good or better than anyone, and the only reason they were underdogs that year is because no one on the east coast knew of them yet (and they had a lineup filled with Uribes, Burrells, and Renterias). That was fun because it allowed me to prove to all my east coast friends that the Giants were as good as I had been saying. In 2012, they still had the core of their elite pitching staff, and hot hitters like Pagan and Scutaro and Sandoval and an MVP in Posey.

This year, just about no one is hitting and their only remaining elite pitcher lost the game he pitched. Their closer is unproven, and their best pinch hitter is a pitcher. By contrast, everyone in the Nationals lineup was a threat to hit a home run or at least a triple. The Giants have only two and a half guys in their lineup to be at all scared about. The half is Sandoval because you never have any idea what he can hit and what he can’t. If Joe Panik isn’t hitting as was happening in games 2-3, there’s basically 4 automatic outs all looped together from 8-9-1-2.

Last night looked ominous. The Giants lineup looked like it would be absolutely horrible against a really good left handed starter. I counted 6 easy outs in the lineup to start (Sandoval was batting right handed which neutralizes him; I included Crawford because he can hit lefties). That’s not promising. But the 8-9-1-2 guys were huge last night, even if it included errors, misplaced bunts, and scratch singles. If the 3-6 hitters did anything, they’d actually have won last night running away. And now the best 4 teams have already been eliminated and the Giants have a realistic chance to win it all, again. Incredible.

It does have to be added that Bochy got away with a huge mistake last night. If they had lost, the decision to let Strickland face Harper was huge. Don Mattingly and Matt Williams would be getting a hundred derisive questions with that one. Harper loves fastballs, and particularly Strickland fastballs. But who cares. Bochy and the Giants can do no wrong in October.

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