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That was stressful. Not just yesterday, but all month. Remembering back to the 9th inning of game 1 against the Nationals seems like 5 years ago. Wasn’t that the game that Hunter Strickland struck out Ian Desmond and looked like a huge new addition to the Giants bullpen arsenal? I don’t even have much to say–just tired. Glad the Giants have won; glad I can return to normal life. One championship was amazing. 2012, especially with the whole season riding on Barry Zito, was an embarrassment of riches. Now this, it’s almost too much. [Of course it's not--I want more!]

It goes without saying how amazing Bumgarner was. But is it the best performance ever? Factor in that he did it on the road against a team and crowd that was so poised to defeat anyone and anything and doing it on two days rest. And two days rest doesn’t even say it all. Two days after throwing a complete game shutout, at the end of a long season approaching 300 innings pitched, with another 68 pitches, every single one with huge pressure. Even just the last batter–after a crazy play puts the Royals 90 feet from coming back–to go 6 pitches against a tough hitter, to never back down, never get fazed.

As amazing as Bumgarner was, and it was amazing, I liked the 2010 and 2012 versions of the Giants pitching staff better when it was a dominant staff that shut down the opponent just about every night. Of course this was a team effort–Panik, Morse, Sandoval, Pence, Affeldt, and so many other guys all playoffs long. Everyone did something. Even the coach that told Juan Perez to play exactly in the spot to catch Aoki’s otherwise game tying line drive. It’s just that one guy did just about everything else.

Looking ahead: Next year’s starting rotation–Bumgarner, Cain, Petit, Hudson, Lincecum? Lineup has pretty much all its parts coming back as well, depending on Sandoval. I hope Morse comes back even if he can’t really field. Romo, too. I’ll write more when I wake up. I feel almost as tired as Buster Posey.

Line of the night: of course, Madison Bumgarner, 5 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, .026 ERA in 5 WS appearances and 3 championships.

Runner up: Pablo Sandoval: 3-3 and multiple panda heads.

2nd Runner up: Rajon Rondo, 13 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds.

3rd runner up: Kobe Bryant, 31 points, -26 point differential while in the game.

+++Paul

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Lions in Winter

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Kobe Bryant is about to have a bad year but I doubt he’ll regret it. Kevin Garnett? He might. These are two men who were unafraid to make enemies. The aging NBA player can have a lot of fun. Robert Parish played on a hundred teams post-Celtics making a ton of dough and smoking a ton of doobies. But this guy:

No effing way. Look, I hate the Lakers. I hate Kobe but I have a soft (get it) spot for aging superstars that give zero fucks. Kobe will be fun. KG is going to get dunked on. A lot. It’s going to Wizards era Jordan only worse. Think Joakim Noah is going to go easy on KG? Think he forgot about 2008? Neee-ope. I hope KG “hurts his back picking up luggage” like our buddy Steve Nash.

Meanwhile I hope this Kobe gif leads to more love for NXT Enzo Amore. Dude is great.

>>>>>>Mark

Photo credit: Safari Partners

Gifs: fuck if I know.

Go Time

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The NBA is back! And good timing because there’s nothing else going on in sports. Only three games, but a good finish for the defending champs.

Line of the night: Anthony Davis, 26 pts, 17 rbs, 9 blocks. Runner up: Nicola Vucevic with 15 points and 23 rebounds.

There was one other game, but it was over before the end of the first quarter. Unfortunately, that left 7 innings. Which, compared to the crushing 2002 loss to the Angels, provides much more hope for the Giants. In fact, after spending an hour or two in the fetal position, I’ve re-emerged and I think the Giants are going to win game 7. Here’s why:

1. Barry Zito 2012.

2. Tim Hudson 2014. I think he’s going to give the Giants 4-5 innings.

3. Jeremy Guthrie 2014. He can’t pitch well again, can he? His career stats are 83-100 with a 4.23 era. He’s not much younger than Tim Hudson. If Hudson goes 5 innings, 1 run, and Guthrie goes 4 innings, 3 runs, the Giants are in command. The Royals middle inning options are shaky. How beautiful will it be when the Giants go ahead on back to back homers by Buster Posey (avenging an awful awful awful at bat tonight where I wanted to throw up after an incredible at bat by Joe no Panik) and Pablo Sandoval, who will then stare at Yordano Ventura in the Royals dugout. At that moment (top of the 5th), FOX is going to show #40 warming up in the SF bullpen.

4. Bumgarner is going to pitch a shut out 5th and 6th. Tim Lincecum is going to warm up and then sit down for the 8th time in the playoffs, just so we get to be reminded he’s with us.

5. Affeldt, Romo, Casilla. Giants win 5-1.

I feel good. I almost believe it. I really hope it isn’t going so badly that I start turning on NESN to see Rondo v. KG

Greatness Sunday: Bumgarner and… Tom Brady?

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Mark is tired of creating illustrations of the San Francisco Giants. So, forget about Madison Bumgarner’s game for the ages. Let’s talk about Tom Brady. Was it even three weeks ago that people were saying he might be done? (By which I mean, worth dropping from a fantasy team? And for the record, I have Brady on my fantasy team, and I didn’t drop him, and I appreciate his 34 fantasy points today). He’s been incredible ever since. Five touchdowns, 30-35 passing, 354 yards.

Ok. Enough of that. I didn’t even watch the game. For all I know, all five of the touchdowns bounced off linebackers before miraculously ending up in Gronk’s hands.

I did watch Bumgarner and the Giants. Things are going so awesomely right now, that I feel I should go negative so as not to jinx it. So, here are the ways it could even be better (besides the series already being over with a Giants victory).

1. It’d have been nice to see Lincecum one more time–maybe the 8th inning of game 4 instead of Romo with the Giants up 11-4. Not just because I love Timmy. He’s potentially going to be a critical option in these next two games and it’d be nice to know if he’s looking up to being in such a critical situation. Unless Peavy or Hudson pulls out a Tom Brady-like throw back performance, we’re looking at a lot of tense bullpen situations. The great Petit can give them a few innings in one of those games. Maybe Bumgarner can give them some innings in game 7. But it’d be nice to know if Lincecum is one of those guys, and we don’t have enough to go on to know.

2. Santiago Casilla has not had a save opportunity in this series. I can imagine a very stressful 9th inning in front of a loud KC crowd.

3. I think that’s it… They could have handled the 6th inning better in games 2 and 3, but they’ve responded great. They hit KC’s bullpen, too, so they aren’t as scary. But, I still remember 2002, and won’t forget it until they pull this one out.

It’s all about the 6th Inning

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Baseball isn’t doing so well on the national stage with not many people watching and FOX putting WS post-game coverage on another channel about two hours after the game is over (which has enabled me to watch an exciting finish between USC and Utah handled by the most exciting announcer in America, Gus Johnson). It’s popularity has dropped so much, they are going to need Men in Blazers to start hyping it to replace soccer as the third most popular sport in America.

Hopefully, people watched tonight. With KC’s bullpen so good from the 7th inning on, the Giants had to get a lead early. Trailing 4-1 after a disastrous 3rd inning didn’t help. But that meant there was an incredible amount of strategizing, excitement, tension, and huge moments between innings 3 to 6 from both teams, and especially the Giants. So many different players mattered, so many different pitches, hits, and catches were absolutely critical. And the best part of it as that the Giants made more of the biggest plays.

Jonah Keri has an article repeating the new mantra about the importance of the 6th inning and the need to both pull starting pitchers and put top relievers in that spot. He criticizes Bochy’s choices in game 2 when he left in Peavy too long, and followed him with Machi and Strickland who imploded. Same thing happened in game 3 when Bochy left Hudson in too long and Javier Lopez couldn’t clean up the mess. In game 4, it was Ned Yost’s turn to be scrutinized because he didn’t go to Herrera in the 6th, the inning which the Giants scored 3 runs to take a 7-4 lead.

Long term, the statistics on starting pitchers failures for the third time through the order could really change the game. With the exception of a few elite pitchers, the rest of baseball’s starters will be going 5 innings, and guys who can pitch the 6th and 7th will go up in value. It doesn’t work so well during the season because guys are going to get tired. It also didn’t work at all for the Colorado Rockies last year who tried a version of this.

Even in this WS, it’s not so easy to employ. Herrera looked exhausted in game 3. I’m not sure he was ready for game 4. Petit starting the 6th inning of game 2, in hindsight, would probably have been genius. Here’s where Lincecum in 2012 and his potential for 2014 could have mattered, too. (I’d have liked to have seen Lincecum in the 8th inning last night instead of Romo–they are up 11-4, so save Romo and see if Lincecum has the kind of stuff to make him relevant in the way he was in 2012. I do like going to Strickland in the 9th. His stuff is electric, and he’s still a tantalizing option against a hitter here and there with the right matchup.) Also, if you manage the 6th like its the 8th or 9th, you still have to manage in the 8th and 9th. Everyone is criticizing managers for decisions in the 6th; wait until the 6th goes smoothly, and Bochy is having to turn to Machi and Strickland in the 8th.

As Keri rightly points out, Petit is an unmatched and underutilized weapon of the Giants. Going forward, hopefully Bumgarner can do his thing in game 5 and the Giants can lead the series. For game 6, Bochy should go with Peavy for 3-4 innings, and then Petit from 4-6, with Affeldt, Romo, Santiago for the final 3. Peavy is awesome first time through the order, Petit is awesome in the middle, then we go to our big 3. If there’s a game 7, I’d do the same thing, with Bumgarner taking the role of Petit. And you’ve still got multiple other guys for big outs here and there.

Don’t worry, Mark. only a few more days, and its time for basketball.

Ruh Roh

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I’ve never been anything approaching a professional athlete. But I’ve played enough sports to know that when I’m playing, I’m rarely much fazed when I’m losing. If I think I’m the better player and on the better team, I have no fear that I can come back from whatever the obstacle. And I know the Giants feel that way now being down by a very manageable 2 games to 1.

As a fan, I’m in full panic mode. Why we are in trouble:

We have only one starting pitcher that we can confidently think can win a big game for us.

Our MVP, Buster Posey, is slumping. The game was lost tonight in the 6th inning with the tying run on second, one out, and Posey up. He grounded out on the first pitch.

Our lineup is not having the good at bats they were even three days ago. They are swinging into outs on the first and second pitches, not battling deep into counts the way Hosmer did tonight against Lopez.

The KC bullpen is not faltering the way the Nats and Cards provided. It, admittedly, looks pretty good. But we should be pouncing on their starting pitchers.

Why we will be ok:

We’ll start hitting. It’s all about that. We have to start hitting and getting ahead early in games. Bochy, I trust, will make the adjustments to make it happen. Can Morse not go back to playing left field? If Vogelsong makes it through the KC order twice, I’ll be very curious to see if he gives him a chance to make the same mistakes Peavy and Hudson just did. I really hope not.

We’ve been down before in the playoffs and pulled it out each time. We win on the road and we win with our back against the wall. Actually, history is the only thing that gives me any comfort tonight.

Highs and Lows of a Timmy Fan

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The first 6 plus innings were a blur. All I remember is there was Tim Lincecum on the mound to start the 7th. And he looked like vintage (2012) Lincecum. All was again good in the world. Tim Lincecum was fluid, making bats miss. Was I the only one thinking, ‘game 4 starter?’ Or at least, 2012 super-reliever?

The wonders lasted just 5 hitters. An injured leg? A tight lower back?

This sucks. Tim Lincecum deserves better. I know his stats this year. And last year. And, for the most part, the year before. I think the year before that, too. But this Giants run that started in 2010 started with Tim Lincecum. Don’t let anyone in the media tell you otherwise–Giants fans really appreciate Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. We have a lot of affection for Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence.

We love Tim Lincecum. Love him. He is way overpaid, he has pitched terribly, and we still love him. Because he turned this team around and led them to their first WS championship. And we’ll never forget that, and we want him to be apart of this next run. Today looked like the beginning of a special turning point in this series…hopefully, we get him back. We need him. If he’s not hurt, we’re going to see him again.