I would’ve had to check under my couch for $100 bills if the Giants won Game 2 of the NLCS, which they did not. They lost 5-4 in the ninth inning of a tremendous baseball game that was probably seen by about 500,000 people, due to Fox using the NLCS to inflate a sort-of-new sports network.
With the seven-game road winning streak and their ridiculous numbers heading into this game against Lance Lynn — two things the Fox broadcast led off with, of course — the jinx was on. Throw in how the Giants had gotten to this point (nine runs allowed in their first six games), and a reversal of fortune was bound to occur.
Just kidding, the superstitious stuff had nothing to do with it.
Unless you’re new here (in which case, welcome!), you knew this series was going seven games. The Giants got the split they needed, and that’s the bottom line.
But man, oh man. The Giants really should’ve pulled this one off. Trevor Rosenthal is a mediocre closer, despite the triple-digit radar readings. But it’s difficult to win games when you allow home runs to four different hitters. Or even four home runs to the same hitter. Four home runs is a lot, especially when they’re hit by a team that came up with just 105 all season — which means it generally took the Cardinals a week to hit four dingers. But such is life in the postseason.
I’m going to explore these home runs, even though it’ll probably ensure that the bounce rate (the percentage of people who close out of this article within less than a minute of clicking on the article link) skyrockets.
1. Matt Carpenter off Jake Peavy (third inning)
90 mph, right in the old spank-me zone.
This is where we learned that the 2014 Cardinals take more curtain calls than the late-80/early-90s Giants. It’s true, those old teams led by Will Clark used to take curtain calls all the time. But I can’t remember any after the team took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. A three-run home run to go up 5-2 in the fifth? Sure. But this one seemed early. Oh well, St. Louis has the best fans in baseball and they know what they want — a quick climb to the top step of the dugout and a wave.
2. Oscar Taveras off Jean Machi (seventh inning)
83 mph, right in the old wheelhouse.
I turned to my wife when this at-bat started and said, “I don’t like this.” Maybe if she reads this recap she’ll jump into the comments and verify my claim.
I was covering the Giants for CSN Bay Area back on May 31 when Taveras made his MLB debut and hit a home run off Yusmeiro Petit. Since then, my opinion of Taveras has been inflated to otherworldly levels.
Javier Lopez was warming up as Taveras walked to the plate, and Machi has looked pretty mediocre for a little while now. Man, that splitter was terrible. I felt sorry for Buster Posey in this game — other than Jeremy Affeldt’s two innings, he looked exasperated by the stuff and location he dealt with all night long. Bad pitch, and Taveras — one of the most ballyhooed prospects in recent memory — showed us why the ballies were hooing.
3. Matt Adams off Hunter Strickland (eighth inning)
97 mph, in Adams’ happy place.
Adams was laughing at those curveballs, probably because he hasn’t been living under a rock. Strickland wants to throw fastballs by everybody, regardless of the hitter or situation. Bryce Harper is more talented than Adams, but the difference isn’t all that severe in a situation like this. Adams ruined 2014 for Clayton Kershaw, which is more than Harper accomplished this season.
Here’s a question for Posey (who was so unhappy with Strickland’s location that he came out to the mound after the very first pitch of Strickland’s outing to talk about something): why go to the fastball — Strickland’s best pitch — after getting to 1-2 with three curveballs?
It’s a fair question. I just don’t think Posey figured Strickland would make a location mistake here. Posey wanted a high fastball. Not top-of-the-zone high. Higher.
What’s the difference there, six inches? A foot at the most? Whatever Posey wanted, Strickland didn’t give it to him.
4. Kolten Wong off Sergio Romo (ninth inning)
84 mph, placed on a tee.
In the heat of the moment, I just saw a hanging breaking pitch, heard all the Cardinal noises, and saw Wong get a hero’s welcome. It wasn’t until the postgame interviews that I even thought to check — and that horribly-placed pitch wasn’t a slider, it was a changeup!
I’ve got to give a ton of credit to Alex Pavlovic, who took advantage of a rare chance to interview Sergio Romo after something bad happened and asked the following question. (A little background: Romo threw a lot of changeups in March to left-handers that got whacked. It seemed as if he went away from the changeup midway through Spring Training, but that’s probably just me being a ninny. According to Brooks Baseball, he threw something like 98 changeups all season. None in the playoffs until tonight.)
Pavlovic: You threw that pitch a lot this Spring instead of the slider just to get it ready. Was this the kind of situation you were thinking about?
Romo: I was working on it so I could better my arm, so I could better myself. In this game there’s ways to keep progressing. Me, I thought that that was one of the things I needed to work on. Today, I mean, it just didn’t work. Bullpen felt fine, I went in there confident. Did I expect to throw it down the middle? No chance.
— Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner know what they’re doing … if I could trust any trio to spend the next couple days figuring out how not to give up home runs to lefties and succeed, it’s this trio.
— But when are the Giants going to hit a home run or two? If Carpenter can hit four postseason home runs, the Giants should be able to get more than Brandon Crawford’s grand slam in the wild card game and Belt’s 18th inning blast last Saturday.
— That ninth inning really was something. The Giants left so many guys on base for the upteenth straight game, but Matt Duffy’s got some kind of moxie. I’ve never written that before. Moxie. A prospect barely anyone had heard of before his callup, who didn’t even play Triple-A ball, taking two bases on a wild pitch to tie an NLCS game in the ninth inning. Seems like as good a time as any to use that word, I don’t know.
— Lots of yelling in my neighborhood when Duffy came around to score.
— Here’s a guarantee: when Peavy pitches Game 6, he’s not going to be all nice and polite like he was tonight. I’m not sure why he toned down his act, but there’s no reason to ever do that again. Yell, Peavy! Who cares what people think? Nice job getting Carpenter to hit a harmless fly ball to Gregor Blanco to end the fourth, though.
— It seemed like Peavy shook Posey off at least a half-dozen times, which was kind of weird.
— Affeldt was outstanding, but he was needed two innings too early.
— Hunter Pence made a nice catch in the second inning — it wasn’t another “Air Pence” moment, but the tongue was still on display.
— Pat Neshek was nasty in the eighth, striking out Pablo Sandoval and Pence in a one-two-three inning. Then he seemed to enjoy this comment I made about his battle with Pence.
— Why didn’t Jhonny Peralta at least try to throw out Michael Morse in the seventh inning? Morse’s speed is Molina-esque when fully healthy, and that was his first plate appearance since Sept. 19.
— With the infield in close in the seventh inning, Blanco did exactly what everyone has been crying for — he hit a little grounder. Mostly forgotten in a game like this, but it took a little bit of sting out of his fifth inning strikeout against Lynn with Travis Ishikawa on third with two outs in the fifth.
— There are a million things I could write about this game, but since the Giants lost no one’s going to read this anyway … so let’s end with this a scorching-hot tke: Yadi Molina’s oblique injury, and the presence of A.J. Pierzynski, is probably going to affect this series. It could come up as early as Game 3 … we’ll just have to wait and see … won’t you watch with me? For free? On TV? Which channel? Beats me!