The Giants spent Game 1 doing what they’ve been doing throughout the postseason. They pitched well, played close to perfect defense, and scored a few runs while leaving a ton of guys on base. They also won their seventh straight road postseason game, this time by a score of 3-0, and took a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven series. Now the Cardinals pretty much have to win tomorrow with a starting pitcher — Lance Lynn — who’s good against just about every team except the one the Cardinals are facing in the 2014 NLCS.
Let’s get this out of the way in the beginning, or close to it. Madison Bumgarner balked. Bob Davidson probably would’ve called two balks in the seventh inning with men on second and third after Bumgarner came to a set position, then started his motion, stopped, stutter-stepped a bit, then stepped back off the rubber. But Bumgarner and the Giants weren’t penalized. Then he struck out Tony Cruz on the very next pitch, which is what makes Madison Bumgarner … Madison Bumgarner.
You know what he isn’t — or, more specifically, who? Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw got spanked by these Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS in Los Angeles, then Matt Adams hit a three-run homer to give Kershaw another “hard luck” loss in St. Louis to clinch the series in four games. Bumgarner is that dude in the playoffs. Kershaw isn’t.
Harsh? Lo siento. Baseball isn’t fair, and the baseball world has been in the mood to hand excuses to Kershaw. Oh, poor guy! His bullpen is awful! His manager is substandard! Ignore the fact that in the playoffs he goes from the best pitcher alive to Atlee Hammaker, he’ll figure it out soon enough!
But enough about the Dodgers.
Bumgarner’s streak of consecutive scoreless postseason innings on the road has reached 27 2/3. “There’s a stat for everything these days. It’s funny that it’s worked out that way. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything different. It’s just happened to work out that way,” is what Bumgarner told CSN Bay Area after another 7 2/3 scoreless innings, in which he gave up four hits (and one of those was a check-swing drop-shot from Jon Jay).
It’s a good thing for the Giants that the first inning is just an inning. Adam Wainwright threw a lot of pitches to Gregor Blanco, but otherwise he looked like he was on his way to out-dueling his younger, left-handed counterpart. Bumgarner gave up a leadoff single to Matt Carpenter (probably the hardest contact the Cardinals had all night) and got out of it with three flyball outs. You got the feeling that he was on the verge of getting rocked for the first time this postseason, then he started taking advantage of Phil Cuzzi’s low strike zone (something Mike Krukow mentioned before the game) while mixing in a few high fastballs here and there. Just a masterful job of moving the Cardinals’ hitters’ eyes throughout the game. Up, down, in, out and even some more curveballs than they might have expected.
The Giants put together one of the grosser two-run innings you’ll see in the second, similar to their two-run second inning in Game 4 against the Nationals. Pablo Sandoval got it started with the hardest ball anyone hit all night, a double that probably should’ve been secured at the wall by Randal Grichuk (Hunter Pence would’ve had it). Travis Ishikawa doinked one over Carpenter’s head to drive in the first run with the bases loaded. After Bumgarner hit a liner to short, Carpenter made an awful error on a routine grounder hit by Blanco to give the Giants a 2-0 lead.
That was all Bumgarner, Sergio Romo (two pitches, one lazy flyball from Matt Holliday), and Santiago Casilla (a perfect ninth) needed, which was fortunate because the Giants aren’t hitting for power or doing a great job clearing the bases in October (since the Wild Card game). But if you’re going to flounder in one phase of the game, a poor mark at the plate with RISP is preferable to poor pitching and flimsy fielding.
— Headline caveat: Bumgarner gave up six earned in 3 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the 2012 NLCS against the Cardinals (at AT&T), and Kershaw got the loss in Game 2 of the 2013 NLCS in St. Louis despite allowing no earned runs over six innings — the Dodgers lost 1-0, and the only run was scored on a sac fly after a passed ball by A.J. Ellis.
— The point remains: things could change a ton over the next 10-to-15 years, and Kershaw’s arsenal is ridiculously nasty, but I’m taking Bumgarner based on what I’ve seen during the postseason. Bumgarner doesn’t get rattled, and we’ve seen Kershaw in this pose several times.
— Bumgarner’s 2014 postseason: 23 2/3 innings, 14 hits, no homers, 23 strikeouts, three walks, two earned runs, 0.76 ERA, 0.72 WHIP.
— Bumgarner’s postseason (career): 59 1/3 innings, 49 hits, four homers, 55 strikeouts, 12 walks, 2.58 ERA, 1.03 WHIP (Giants are 6-3 in his starts).
— Kershaw’s postseason (career): 51 innings, 45 hits, six homers, 58 strikeouts, 18 walks, 5.12 ERA, 1.24 WHIP (Dodgers are 3-5 in his starts).
— According to Brooks Baseball, Bumgarner threw 20 curves tonight — the same as his combined total from his first two starts this October.
— Pablo Sandoval went 3-for-4, but Brandon Belt’s 1-for-1, two walks and a sac fly day seemed just as impressive. Where would the Giants be if Belt’s concussion symptoms never went away?
— It seemed like Tom Verducci came into this game with nothing but a book full of notes about how Bumgarner and Wainwright interact with the pitching rubber and the mound.
— If you’re looking for a couple unique orange-and-black postseason shirts, we worked with Fresh Brewed Tees on a couple ideas and they came up with two designs we like:
— Travis Ishikawa had two hits and a Marvin Benard special: a lunging catch where he probably didn’t NEED to lay out, but diving made it look much cooler. Great catch all the same from Ishikawa, who’s starting to look like one of those guys who could play into his late-30s: versatile, makes pitchers battle a bit, actually enjoys pinch-hitting.
— The Giants have allowed NINE runs in six playoff games, and one of those games was 18 innings. They’ve out-hit their opponents 54-34.
— The Kolten Wong play was pretty amusing. Bumgarner tagged him and then let his momentum slam into the little guy, which drove Mike Matheny to call for what might have been the shortest replay review of all time. It was like the umps humored him, counted off a few seconds, then turned around and told Matheny that Wong, indeed, was out. Duh.
— What do you do if you’re Matheny? No, not about the Wong play. He told the world that Wainwright’s elbow is bothering him (something Wainwright downplayed big-time before today’s game), then he watched Wainwright struggle through 4 2/3 innings without any zip on his pitches, and Matheny probably has to let him start Game 5 against Bumgarner anyway. Wainwright is the Cardinals’ ace, after all. But that’s going to be one uncomfortable start (if that’s how this series plays out).