The only change in the San Francisco Giants 25-man roster from the NLDS to the NLCS version is the addition of Michael Morse and no more Gary Brown. So team speed takes a bit of a hit, except the only decent hitter on the team who the Giants really would’ve considered replacing with a pinch runner was Morse anyway.
- Buster Posey? No way.
- Pablo Sandoval? Nuh-uh.
So now that we know who’s available to do battle with the St. Louis Cardinals, here are some questions that need answerin’.
1. What is Morse’s role?
He took his first “fully pain-free” batting practice on Tuesday before Game 4. It’s difficult to imagine that Bruce Bochy would ask Morse to take on more than he could handle, so a look at what he said in the clubhouse the other night during the celebratory booze-spraying gives us a good idea as to how he’ll be used.
“I’m hoping to pinch-hit, if anything. I haven’t played in the field for a long time, so I don’t expect to jump out there,” Morse said.
“If you take a couple days off, it’s tough. I haven’t played in over a month. These games mean so much, I want to be 100% comfortable. If you tell me to play (in the field), I’ll do it. Of course.”
The only way Morse will be asked to play defense is if the Giants play another 18-inning game and somehow lose Posey, Brandon Belt, Travis Ishikawa and Joaquin Arias, making Morse the only available first baseman. Left field ain’t happening.
2. Will the Giants dust off the Freaky Franchise?
Tim Lincecum is the only player on the NLDS roster who didn’t make an appearance. Bruce Bochy is still mum on who’ll start Games 3 and 4, but that’s probably gamesmanship unless either Tim Hudson or Ryan Vogelsong is dealing with an injury (which could be the case for Hudson, who’s been dealing with a sore hip for most of the season). They still have Yusmeiro Petit, who has — no fooling — been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball for at least two months.
Lincecum will only see the mound in St. Louis if a blowout occurs, BUT … he threw eight shutout innings against the Cardinals at AT&T Park on July 1. That was the start after his no-hitter, when we were all mesmerized by the “new Tim Lincecum,” but the Giants didn’t add him to both postseason rosters to wear a hoodie in the bullpen (which in AT&T Park’s case is the dugout). Since this series is probably going at least six games, I’d bet we’ll see Lincecum in Game 3, 4 or 5 (as a reliever).
3. Will the extra rest benefit Giants starters again?
Madison Bumgarner had seven days of rest before shutting out the Pirates. Jake Peavy had five days of rest before Game 1 of the NLDS. Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong looked like new men after nine and ten days off, respectively.
Bumgarner is starting tonight on four days of rest — not a surprise, since he’s the best and youngest member of the rotation. Peavy will have rested eight days by the time he gets the ball tomorrow evening. If Hudson starts Game 3, he’ll have the benefit of nine days between starts. Vogelsong would be getting seven days of rest if he starts Game 4. Yusmeiro Petit last pitched on the same day as Hudson, so he’s well rested, and Lincecum hasn’t pitched since Sept. 28.
And I need at least five days of rest after writing that paragraph.
The Cardinals are in the same boat, with Adam Wainwright pitching tonight on seven days rest and Lance Lynn doing the same tomorrow. Maybe this question should’ve been, “Will Madison Bumgarner survive being the only starter in this series to go on regular rest?” I’m pretty sure the rule in this case is that if you can pour five beers into your face hole at the same time, you can pitch after four days off.
4. How many reasons are there to hate the Cardinals?
I’m writing this from a Giants fan’s perspective — I’m clarifying only because the rest of the nation is past the point of being fed up with the so-called “best fans in baseball,” especially after the way some Cardinals fans are inserting the Ferguson mess into baseball games in October. I’ll throw Cards fans into the mix (just check out @BestFansStLouis for plenty of examples why), but the roster is irksome as well.
A.J. Pierzynski (from a 2005 column by Bruce Jenkins): “One of those now-it-can-be-told stories the White Sox, A.J. Pierzynski’s new employer, surely haven’t heard: During a Giants exhibition game last spring, Pierzynski took a shot to his, shall we say, private parts. Trainer Stan Conte rushed to the scene, placed his hands on Pierzynski’s shoulders in a reassuring way, and asked how it felt. ‘Like this,’ said Pierzynski, viciously delivering a knee to Conte’s groin. It was a real test of professionalism for the enraged Conte, who vowed to ignore Pierzynski for the rest of the season until Conte realized how that would look. The incident went unreported because all of the beat writers happened to be doing in-game interviews in the clubhouse, but it was corroborated by a half-dozen eyewitnesses who could hardly believe their eyes. Said one source, as reliable as they come: ‘There is absolutely no doubt that it happened.’
John Lackey: Won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, looks like the kind of mouth-breather who’d repeatedly push the “close doors” button if he saw you running toward his elevator.
Matt Holliday: Did his best to end Marco Scutaro’s career, and is the “only great player” in this series … according to Gary Sheffield.
5. Can we withstand Joe Buck? (Or the complaints about Joe Buck?)
As you can see, I didn’t include Mr. Buck in my response to the fourth question. Granted, it sure as heck seemed like he and Tim McCarver were waving Cardinals pennants during the Giants-Cardinals LCS’s of 2002 and 2012. And Buck will probably get a little more excited for Wainwright’s strikeouts and Holliday’s base hits than Bumgarner’s Ks and Buster Posey’s singles and doubles (and maybe even homers).
But at least Buck has a legitimate reason (his dad made it to the Hall of Fame through his work calling Cardinals games, and Joe even called some games with Jack), and his rooting is subtle. Contrast that with the lack of professionalism shown by Matt “Nat” Vasgersian during the NLDS.
I’ve talked to enough people in local media circles to state this without a doubt: Vasgersian isn’t just an A’s fan, he’s one of those bitter A’s fans who openly detests the Giants. Nat was openly rooting for Nationals walk-off hits in Game 2 (to be fair, it was really late and he was assigned to an NFL game the following day in another city). Every time Bryce Harper preened his pompadour, Vasgersian swooned.
Buck knows Giants fans hate him (just like fans in just about every other city), and he’ll probably say “San Fran” at least once each game just to troll us a little bit. But whenever Buck seems less than enthused when the Giants score a run, just remember Nat’s vocal pitch whenever his 21-year-old hero went deep against Hunter Strickland. After that nonsense, Buck — at least to me — is going to sound like Duane Kuiper.