These Giants are stone cold. The Pirates … well, they weren’t ready systematic dismantling like this. Here they were, with dreams of smacking the Cardinals around on Monday and stealing the NL Central. Then they face Madison Bumgarner and an army. Bye-bye.
Hunter Pence said the Giants are headed to the dance, in so many words. Next stop for a baseball tango: Washington, D.C., after a 8-0 bludgeoning.
Bumgarner was so good that Russell Martin — the only guy to get a hit off him in the first three innings — tried to bunt for a base hit with Andrew McCutchen on first (he walked) and one out in the fourth. Martin is a catcher with a bum (no pun intended) hamstring, by the way. At one point, Bumgarner had 20 strikes against three balls. The aforementioned walk was the only one he allowed. Other than four singles, that was it.
The only thing Bumgarner didn’t do was hit. He struck out 10, kept a boisterous crowd quiet all night, and pounded four beers at once in the clubhouse.
I kept saying that Clint Hurdle pissed off the baseball gods by starting Gerrit Cole on Sunday, but then I wondered if I was pissing off those same gods on the Giants’ behalf by repeatedly besmirching the great name of Edinson “EDDIE, EDDIE, EDDIE” Volquez. But after the second inning it was clear that Volquez was no match for the Giants.
Pablo Sandoval grounded one up the middle to break the ice, Brandon Belt went from an 0-2 count to a free pass, and Brandon Crawford — maybe the team’s best “clutch” hitter this season, if the measure of that magic word is a player’s production with men on base in key situations — lined a shot right to Starling Marte.
No runs were scored, but it was only a matter of time. And the top of the fourth inning was just a better version of the top of the second. Sandoval, who’s in the kind of zone where his zone is from the top of his helmet to his spikes, drove a single to right. Hunter Pence pounded a single between short and third, and Belt drew another walk.
Here’s where it got interesting. Today’s lineup wasn’t all that unexpected, given that everyone knew Travis Ishikawa would start in left. But Bruce Bochy really likes having Crawford in “that eight hole,” so to see him bat seventh made me do a bit of a double-take. Crawford absolutely deserved it, but it was an interesting move nonetheless.
As expected (by no one other than really optimistic people who’ve been watching Crawford hit over the last month), Crawford hit a grand slam into the right field porch, the first grand slam by a shortstop in postseason history (sorry, Jeets).
From there, it was a rout. And what struck me about this rout was that the Giants weren’t anything like the emphatic, defiant Royals one night earlier. The Giants were emotionless and swagger-full, and if the Willie Mac Award wasn’t proof enough that Bumgarner is at the very top of this team’s pyramid, look at Brandon Belt after he drove in Hunter Pence to put the Pirates away.
That’s a full grown
Alright, it’s overly simplistic to say Bumgarner’s steely-eyed expression on the mound led Belt to stop being a chatterbox every time he reaches first base. After all, it was less than two weeks ago when Belt made several off-the-record comments about his baby’s poop in the dugout (oops — sorry, Brandon).
But Belt was one of the least ebullient players in the Giants clubhouse after they clinched a playoff spot — he sounded downright veteran-ish than night when he said, “We’ve got a good team. We’ve got to win some ballgames, so we’ve got to stay focused right now.” That sounds like a standard athlete comment, but Belt generally doesn’t travel in cliche-speak. He really meant it. He’s angry about how his 2014 season turned out, and we haven’t seen Belt angry before. The Giants have to love the hell out of this.
Maybe I’m overly surprised that after Pence’s naughty speech, and his “Yes! Yes! Yes!” call and response after the regular season finale, that the Giants would look like a team of robots programmed to destroy the postseason hopes of everyone else. But here we are.
— “I’m definitely planning on playing this season and I definitely plan on being there when we go to the playoffs,” Belt said on Aug. 21.
— It’s not too often when a team makes two errors in a playoff game and the tension level never rises above “I’m going to shift my weight from my right hip to my left hip, and maybe take an extra sip of this beverage.” By the way, I’m talking about fan tension. The players drink after the games.
— I find the term “x-factor” rather silly, but it seems to have been created for Joe Panik. Without him, none of this occurs. And he went 3-for-5 tonight, showing once again that he has absolutely no fear of anything (on a baseball field — he still gets nervous when he has to put on the headset and talk to Kruk and Kuip after a game).
— LOL KNBR put together an amazing set of 10 videos to get you guys fired up for the postseason. Now that we know the postseason will last another five days at the very least, you should probably watch every single one of these.
— Buster Posey went 2-for-5 and easily could’ve gone 4-for-5. When Panik, Posey, Sandoval and Belt are hitting line drives, and Pence finds ways to get on base, and Crawford comes through with a massive uppercut at just the right time … it’s easy to forget about Angel Pagan being this team’s most irreplaceable player.
— Do Pirates fans hate the Giants? I’m guessing some do, and they really should. Barry Bonds, Jason Schmidt, Freddy Sanchez, Hunter Strickland, Ryan Vogelsong, Javier Lopez, and all the dreck the Giants sent to Pittsburgh. Now this — the poor Pirates fans dressed for a funeral (BLACK OUT!) and got one.
— How about Sandoval’s circus catch (no exaggeration) where he hung onto the dugout rail and spun around like a gymnast? Not bad for a Gold Glove candidate (favorite?) who started multiple rallies. Larry Baer talked to Sandoval for a bit in the clubhouse on the night they clinched, and it seems almost likely at this point that Baer will have a chat with Sandoval’s representation after this season is over.
— Finally, Bumgarner proved he can pitch well in a non-World Series postseason game. Took him long enough.