Man, we had a lot of stuff going on in this game. Both starters got knocked out early, 13 pitchers were used altogether, the Giants had another unlikely rally, the fans were loud, Hunter Pence signs were everywhere, the sky was beautiful and it was an exciting baseball game. Maybe not the best-played, but definitely exciting. The Giants haven't hit a home run in the series but they pulled out a 6-4 victory, and now all the Cardinals have to do is find a way to beat Madison Bumgarner to stay alive in the series. Good luck.
Five key moments from this one:
1. Giants don't get ball out of the infield, but score twice.
— #OctoberTogether (@SFGiants) October 16, 2014
What a fundamentally catastrophic inning for Matt Adams.
— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) October 16, 2014
The bottom of sixth also will be known as the "Matt Adams inning," which is a little unfair because Adams didn't make a debatable managerial decision or walk a guy who hit .170 this season.
The inning began with the Cardinals up 4-3 and Mike Matheny removing reliever Carlos Martinez and putting in catcher Tony Cruz for A.J. Pierzynski in a double-switch (Martinez would have led off the seventh). The question: Should Matheny have removed Martinez? He had pitched the fifth in only 17 pitches and didn't pitch in Game 3. He has started at times this season, so he certainly is capable of pitching multiple innings. However, check these numbers:
Pitches 1-25: .255/.317/.342
Pitches 26-50: .289/.431/.400
I'm not sure how instructive those numbers are. For one thing, I don't have the exact breakdown of, say, through 30 or 35 pitches. And most of those pitches beyond 25 came during his seven appearances as a starter.
The Giants had lefties Travis Ishikawa and Brandon Crawford up, followed by the pitcher's spot, and then two more lefties at the top of the order. So Matheny instead brought in rookie Marco Gonzales, who walked 21 in 34.1 regular-season innings but had walked just one in 5.1 innings in the postseason. Matheny went with that matchup, and it's hard to argue against the decision.
Gonzales just didn't do the job. Bruce Bochy pinch hit Juan Perez for Ishikawa and he drew a walk. Crawford singled. Pinch hitter Matt Duffy sacrificed the runners over. Gregor Blanco then grounded to the drawn-in Adams at first base, but Adams stumbled a bit and took an extra step before making a bad throw home that the speedy Perez beat without a tag. A good play does get Perez, who was running on contact. But Adams didn't make a good play.
Then Adams made another bad play. With runners now at the corners and the game tied, Joe Panik grounded a ball that took Adams to first base. He tagged the base, didn't appear to look at Crawford at third and threw a changeup to second base, off-line. Crawford scored, Blanco was safe at second and Giants led 5-4. Two runs without getting the ball out of the infield.
2. Buster Posey is good.
— Not A Real Fan™ (@Chris_Sherwood) October 16, 2014
The inning wasn't over. Seth Maness came in and Posey lined an RBI base hit to left. Posey is good. Had a nice little game: 2-for-3, walk, sac fly. He doesn't have an extra-base hit in nine postseason games but he's batting .333, getting on base and playing his usual solid defense behind the plate.
3. Yusmeiro Petit keeps the Giants close.
— #OctoberTogether (@SFGiants) October 16, 2014
— gabe kapler (@gabekapler) October 16, 2014
The hero of the 18-inning win over the Nationals in the division series when he threw six innings of one-hit baseball in relief, Petit was once again brilliant, allowing just one hit over his 47 pitches.
Petit spent the season going back and forth between the rotation (12 starts) and bullpen (27 appearances). He gained some notoriety when he broke the major league record for consecutive batters retired at 46 (set over several relief appearances and one start). He pitched in the rotation in September when the Giants bumped the struggling Tim Lincecum to relief, but Petit returned to the pen for the postseason.
Despite his 250-pound girth, he's not a hard thrower. Among 148 pitchers who threw 100 innings, he ranked 132nd in average fastball velocity at 88.8 mph. But here's the amazing stat about him: He ranked fifth out of those 148 pitchers in swing-and-miss percentage, behind only Francisco Liriano, Tyson Ross, Chris Sale and Masahiro Tanaka and just ahead of Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. In other words, he has some deceiving stuff even without the big velocity.
His curveball is his big swing-and-miss weapon, as batters swung at it 62 percent of the time and missed 47 percent. Batters hit .189 against it. Still, he has to get to the curveball, and he does an excellent job of painting the corners with his four-seam fastball, cutter, slider and changeup. He's what you might call a journeyman, but Petit had a good year and came up as the big man in this game.
4. Affeldt, Lopez, Romo, Casilla.
Underrated part about the Giants: Affeldt, Lopez, Romo & Casilla all there since 2010. How many bullpens stay good & together that long?
— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) October 16, 2014
@jaysonst Very true. They also use sorcery, alchemy, mirrors, mind control, extortion and criminal facilitation.
— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) October 16, 2014
These four longtime Giants relievers got the final four outs. The Giants have had a different closer in each of their three postseason runs -- Brian Wilson in 2010, Sergio Romo in 2012 and Santiago Casilla this year -- but these four have been there all three seasons. Casilla had pitched 11.2 hitless innings in a row before Jon Jay singled with two outs in the ninth.
5. Early offense.
— MLB Fan Cave (@MLBFanCave) October 16, 2014
31 hitters came to the plate in the first 3 innings. 16 of them reached base. Fasten your seat belts. One of those nights.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 16, 2014
In the first six half-innings, the leadoff batter reached base all six times with a hit -- four doubles and two singles. Two of those doubles glanced off the gloves of center fielders Jay and Blanco on plays that were ruled hits but ... well, let's just say they were plays that Lorenzo Cain makes. Anyway, both pitchers were giving up hard hits but both managers seemed a little slow to the bullpen, even though the Giants had starters Yusmeiro Petit and Tim Lincecum down there while the Cardinals had Michael Wacha, Gonzales and Martinez, all of whom started at times during the season.
Vogelsong, who had never allowed more than one run in his five previous postseason starts, was finally gone after Kolten Wong's two-out home run in the third made it 4-1 for the Cardinals, with Bochy pinch-hitting for him in the bottom of the third. And, really, it could have been worse as Pablo Sandoval started two nice 5-4-3 double plays to help prevent further damage.
Matheny's decision with Shelby Miller was more curious. After giving up three hits, a walk and two runs in the third, he was the second batter up in the fourth inning. The Giants would have two lefties, the pitcher, and then two more lefties batting in the fourth. So why not pinch hit for Miller in the top of the inning? Especially since Matheny lifted Miller for Randy Choate after he walked Brandon Crawford and the top of the order coming up.
If we read something into this, it's that Matheny doesn't have confidence to use Wacha in a close game, which is understandable since Wacha hadn't performed well in September after returning from shoulder injury and hadn't pitched since Sept. 26. That only raises the question of why he's on the roster if he's not used in the early innings of a game where the starter is struggling.
Oh, give credit to the hitters. They were stinging the ball. And Wong? I'd love to buy stock in his future.