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GIANTS WIN SERIES! The Amazing Madison Bumgarner

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Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey Raise Their Arms in Victory

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” 

The San Francisco Giants didn’t get many home runs this season, but timely hitting, amazing defense and the pitching of a young man named Madison Bumgarner who did something that no pitcher has done since the dead ball era.

Bumgarner won two games in the this World Series, giving him four career World Series wins, and he earned the save tonight in game seven, pitching five innings of shutout ball. He had a World Series Record 0.43 Earned Run Average over 21 innings pitched in the series. He allowed just one run in his three games, of which he had a win in game one going seven innings, a complete game shutout in game five and coming back on short rest to pitch five innings of scoreless relief in game seven. In an era where pitch counts have ruled, Bumgarner defied the odds. During the regular season  he pitched 219 innings. He then pitched 48 and 2/3rds innings in the playoffs, he won two games in the NLCS against the Cardinals and had a complete game shutout of the Pirates in the Wild Card. His only blemish was a loss to the Nationals in game four of the NLDS. It was one of the most amazing post-season performances, not to mention World Series performances in baseball history.

I grew up with the Giants and I love their orange and black American League counterpart Baltimore Orioles as well. I have loved both teams since I was a child. I was hoping for a total orange and black World Series, but the Kansas City Royals put that wish to rest by sweeping the Orioles in the ALCS.

This World Series has been weird for me. I expected the Giants to win but I also expected the normal amount of “torture ball” from the Giants, who over the past five years have found ways to keep their fans on chewing their fingernails, drinking too much beer and resorting to whatever superstition gets them through. For me it is making sure my trusty Papillon-Dachsund mix Molly, is there with me. When she could still see, she went blind in early 2013, she would sit on “her” bean bag and watch the game with me. Since I was traveling during this post season we didn’t have as much Molly-Daddy baseball time, but tonight during game seven she stayed on the couch with me the entire game. Molly is my good luck charm when watching the Giants torture all of us. But I digress…

I watched game one with friends at Gordon Biersch last Tuesday, saw game two at home before flying to Stockton California for my induction into the Edison High School Hall of Fame meaning that I got no sleep the night before the flight. I watched game three with my brother, missed game four due to the induction ceremony, watch game five on my iPad on my flight home, saw most of game six at Biersch and tonight since we were all tired, stayed home to watch game seven.

Tonight was special. I have had a week of tremendous ups and downs and so my stomach was in a knot the whole game. I was sure that the Giants would win, but after the 10-0 defeat in game six I was a bit nervous, even though I actually felt better with the blowout than had they lost a close game. During the pre-game shows it seemed that many of the commentators were almost cheering for the Royals to win and constantly talking about how the last nine game seven’s have been won by the home team. I knew they were full of crap but nonetheless, it was annoying.

When Pablo Sandoval was in the dugout getting ready to step into the on deck circle in the top of the first, he turned to the camera and winked.

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http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2014/10/29/7129621/pablo-sandoval-is-not-feeling-the-world-series-game-7-pressure

At that point, any doubts faded, but that being said I was still nervous. I watched the game but also did a few things to take the edge off at times. I looked at other news stories on the internet, republished an article about Gettysburg, drank beer and snuggled next to Molly on the couch.

I think that the Giants are one of the most amazing “teams” in the game, and under manager Bruce Botchy they accomplish amazing things in the most unlikely of ways with a team of regular guys. A rotund third baseman called “the Panda,” a wild-eyed right fielder named Hunter Pence, a rookie second baseman named Panik, a solid bullpen, and apart from Bumgarner a starting pitching staff that struggled much of the season. It seems like every year the Giants find another unusual way to win, especially when they get to the post-season.

Tonight was no different. Their starting pitcher Tim Hudson, the oldest pitcher to ever start in a World Series game, didn’t get out of the second inning. So Bruce Botchy brought in Jeremy Affeldt, a lefty who normally pitches in late inning relief. Affeldt had never come into a major league game in the second inning during his career. The crafty left-hander shut down the Royals for 2.1 innings earning the win while Bumgarner, after initially being credited with the win, earned the save. Affeldt and Bumgarner proved Earl Weaver’s wise saying that “The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Affeldt and Bumgarner dominated the Royals from that hill. 

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Joe Panik tossing the ball to Brandon Crawford with his glove to begin the 5th inning double play (AP Photo) 

They were backed up by just enough timely hitting and outstanding defense, especially after Bumgarner came into the game and Second Baseman Joe Panik made one of the most amazing double plays I have ever seen. Panik dove and robbed Eric Hosmer of a hit, tossing the ball with his glove to shortstop Brandon Crawford who threw out Hosmer who was diving head first into first base. Initially Hosmer was ruled safe, but the very first manager’s challenge replay reversal of an on field call in the World Series ended a potential threat.

As the game went on into the seventh inning I began to count down the outs with Molly at my side. When Alex Gordon singled and reached third base after a fielding error by Giant’s Center Fielder Gregor Blanco with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, yet another element of torture ball. I was standing, and when Salvador Perez popped up to Pablo Sandoval in foul territory to end the game I was jumping up and down and screaming for joy, thanking Molly for staying on the couch and not moving, ensuring that nothing that she or I did would jinx the Giants. Yes this is superstitious, maybe even idiotic, but it is the way I deal with the World Series when the Giants are playing in it. 

Congratulations to the Giants, and kudos to the Royals who surprised everyone with their playoff run this year. I expect them to be a force to be reckoned with in the American League for years to come, provided of course that free agency does not rob them of their tremendous late inning bullpen staff.

With that I need to attempt to get to sleep, if I can. For once though if I don’t sleep it won’t be because of anything bad, just the post-game excitement that won’t let me sleep.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

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The Return of “The Freak”: Tim Lincecum Pitches Second No-Hitter of 2013 MLB Season

Tim Lincecum

“It’s pretty surreal for me to be a part of that, obviously I’ve gotten to see a couple of those, but to be in the middle of one is a little different. I’m still kind of pinching myself right now.” Tim  Lincecum 

Last night in San Diego San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum added another accomplishment to his career. The two time National League Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player pitched his first no hitter against the San Diego Padres.  It happened 11 days after the Giant’s were the victims of the first no-hitter of the season pitched by Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds.

I tuned in late to the MLB channel when I saw a tweet that Lincecum was pitching a no-hitter through 6 innings. Watching Lincecum, his shirt drenched in sweat shut down the Padres over the next three innings was nothing short of amazing. Now shorn of the long hair that was a part of his image since his first year in the majors Lincecum showed his mettle and with each batter dominated the Padres, striking out 13 during the game.

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It was good to see. Lincecum, a pitcher who is a class act and well liked around the league had fallen on hard times since helping lead the Giants to their first World Series title in San Francisco in 2010. In 2011 he went 13 and 14 despite keeping a respectable 2.74 ERA but in 2012 he struggled, eventually being regulated to the bullpen when to the surprise of many he went about his business in a stellar fashion pitching middle relief including during the playoffs and World Series where he was a key part of the Giant’s success in winning their second World Series title in three years.

He has struggled again as a starter in 2013 but has begun to break out of his funk through dogged perseverance. Last night Lincecum, nicknamed “the Freak” no-hit the Padres on 148 pitches. It was the second highest number of pitches served up by a pitcher completing a no-hitter since Edwin Jackson did so with 149 pitches for the Diamondbacks in an inter-league game on June 25th 2010 and the second highest pitch count total in a no-hitter since 1988.

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Hunter Pence makes a Diving Catch to Save the No Hitter in the 8th Inning

I am hoping that this really marks the return of the “old” Tom Lincecum, both for his sake and that of the Giants. No matter what it was a magical night where “the Freak” made history and was backed up by the outstanding defense of his team, especially Hunter Pence who made the defensive play of the game to end the 8th inning snagging Alexi Amarista’s sinking liner with a full dive to end the inning. Lincecum said “I thought for sure it was a hit. You see Hunter flying out of nowhere making the flying grab. That was a really impressive big play for us.”

Coming off their 2012 World Series title the first half of the 2013 season has been miserable to say the least. Yet despite a being in 4th place with a 43-51 record the Giants are only 6.5 games behind the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks. If Lincecum and his fellow starting pitchers can get back to their old form the Giants could still take the West.

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If nothing else last night was something to celebrate, and I like many if not the vast majority of Giants fans hope that this signals the return of “The Freak” to greatness.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Giants Down Tigers: Take 3-0 Lead in Series

Hunter Pence Scores in Game 3 (SF Chronicle- Lance Iverson)

This was not the way anyone thought that this series would go. Detroit’s hitters would feast on Giants pitching that had not been as dominant as it has in years past and the weak hitting Giants would knuckled under beneath the Tigers’ starting pitching.

Barry Zito (AP Photo: David J Phillip) 

The Freak in Relief: Tim Lincecum (Getty Images: Doug Pensinger)

Sergio Romo (USA Today Photo: Kelley L Cox)

Madison Bumgarner (Sacramento Bee Photo)

The Journeyman: Ryan Vogelsong 15 Teams in 14 Years (SF Chronicle- Lance Iverson)

No one expected that the Giants would score 8 runs in game, plastering Justin Verlander or that Barry Zito would dominate. Nor did anyone think that Madison Bumgarner who had struggled in the playoffs would do the same. Then there was Tim Lincecum coming out of the bullpen to dominate the mid to late innings when needed, finally Ryan Vogelsong pitched his way out of trouble on a number of occasions to get the win in Game 3. No one expected that the Tigers could not beat a Giants team that only scored 2 runs each in Game 2 and Game 3, but they were shut out in those games. The Giants have held the Tigers to just 7 hits in the last 18 innings and just one extra base hit, that in the first inning of Game 2. Sergio Romo has come into his own in the closer role getting saves in each of the last two games.

The Panda, Pablo Sandoval Goes Deep in Game One (AP Photo: David J Phillip)

The Giants pitching has been superb but then there is the Panda. Pablo Sandoval who is hitting .636 with three home runs in the World Series and has 23 hits in the post season including 6 home runs and 5 doubles and 13 RBI. Other Giants have come up when they needed to in clutch situations but the Panda has been outstanding at the plate and at 3rd base.

Gregor Blanco (AP Photo)

Buster Posey Tags out Prince Fielder on a key play in the 2nd inning of Game 2 (AP Photo David J Phillip)

Then there are the fundamentals. Defense, small ball and base running. The Giants have done both well, only one error in the first three games that almost was an out. Gregor Blanco in Left Field has had an amazing defensive series robbing Detroit hitters of what looked to be sure hits at key junctures.

So the Giants now stand one victory away from their second World Series title since 2010.  No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the World Series. Yes anything can happen in baseball and the Tigers are an excellent team, but right now they seem totally out of sync at the plate and could not support excellent outings by Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez.

Sunday Matt Cain will face Max Scherzer in Game 4. Cain won Game 5 in the NLDS against the Reds and Game 7 against the Cardinals in the NLCS. The possibility of a sweep looms large, something that if it does happen that no one saw coming.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS

Buster Posey hits a Grand Slam in the 5th Inning (AP Photo- David Kohl) 

Bruce Botchy’s San Francisco Giants appeared to be done. Their bats were lifeless and the Dusty Baker’s Cincinnati Reds looked like they would easily defeat the NL West Champion Giants as they went back to Cincinnati following their 9-0 drubbing of the Giants in San Francisco. But as the Giants have showed all season, the the going gets tough, the Giants get going and did so in a never been done before way.

Scott Rolen’s critical error in Game 3 (Jonathan Daniel Getty Images)

The Giants were the first team in the history of baseball in a 5 game series to lose the first two games at home and then win the remaining three games on the road. It was a remarkable feat made even more impressive by the dominance of the Reds pitching and slugging at the Great American Ballpark in the regular season.

Tim Lincecum in Relief (Andrew Weber US Presswire) 

In game three the Giants faced Homer Bailey who had thrown a no hitter in the final week of the season. Bailey was still hot. He went 7 innings and struck out ten Giants and allowing just one hit. However the Giants eeked out a run in the top of the third inning when Angel Pagan hit a sacrifice fly to score Gregor Blanco who had gotten on board after being hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. The score remained tied at one into the top of the 10th inning. Giants catcher Buster Posey led off with a single and advanced to second base on a single by Hunter Pence. Then reliever Jonathan Broxton struck out Brandon Belt and Xavier Nady. Joaquin Arias then hit a grounder to Gold Glove third baseman Scott Rolen, Rolen bobbled the ball and Arias beat the throw to first as Posey running on the pitch scored the go ahead run. Giants’ closer Sergio Romo downed the Reds in order in the bottom half of the inning to secure the win.

Reds Starter Matt Latos after being pulled following Buster Posey’s Grand Slam in Game 5 (AP Photo Michael Keating) 

On Wednesday the Giants got out to an early 3-1 lead but starter Barry Zito began to have control problems and gave up a lead off home run to Ryan Ludwig and with two outs in the bottom of the third inning Botchy pulled Zito for George Kontos. Kontos stayed in the game until the 4th inning when he gave up a one out single to Zach Cozart. Botchy brought in Jose Mijares to face Reds slugger Joey Votto who he struck out. This gave Botchy the chance to double switch bringing Joaquin Arias to shortstop and bring in former starter and two time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum into the game. Lincecum pitched 4.1 innings giving up a run on one hit while striking out six Reds. While Lincecum shut down the Reds the Giants bats erupted for 2 runs in the top of the 5th inning and 3 more in the top of the 7th. Santiago Casilla came on in the 9th to finish the game and pull the Giants even in the series and send the series into the deciding game 5.

Today the Giants starter Matt Cain and Reds starter Matt Latos had a pitcher’s duel going through the first 4 innings, then things fell apart for Latos and the Reds. Gregor Blanco singled and scored when Brandon Crawford tripled. Crawford scored when Zack Cozart committed an error on a ground ball hit by Joaquin Arias. Latos then walked Marco Scutero and gave up a single to Pablo Sandoval. With the bases loaded Buster Posey homered to deep left center to make the score 6-0. That would be enough. The Reds scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 5th and a run in the bottom of the 6th to make the score 6-3. Botchy used 5 relievers in the final three innings and the Reds threatened but were not able to score again.

The Giants had done what no one thought was possible. They had won three on the road against the Reds, and their offense which had been dormant in San Francisco plated 14 runs in the final two games of the series. In games one and two the Reds had done everything right but after the error by Rolen in game three nothing seemed to go right and the Big Red Machine broke down.

Dusty Baker disappointed again (Getty Images)

The loss of the series was another disappointment for Reds manager Dusty Baker who having suffered through a mini-stroke in the final week of the season and had come back to manage following several days in hospital. Baker who was the manager of the Giants in 2002 lost in the World Series when his team was leading the series against the Angels and in 2003 now managing the Chicago Cubs got to the NLCS against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs led the series 3 games to 2 and had a 3-0 lead going into the top of the 8th inning. That inning was a nightmare. With a runner on second and one out  Luis Castillo hit a foul ball to left field. The ball drifted into the first row of the stands and into the outstretched hand of Cub fan Steve Bartman. The Cubs plead for a call of fan interference but that was denied. The rest is history, a critical error and some clutch hitting by the Marlins gave them an 8-3 lead and the win. The Cubs lost game seven and Baker was stung by much criticism for the Cubs loss.

Giants Celebrate (AP Photo Michael Keating)

The Giants who had battled injuries, a suspension of their leading hitter for the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs and pitching that was not what it has been the past couple of years proved to be the gritty and tough team that won the NL West. They will move on the face the winner of the NLDS series between the Cardinals and Nationals which the Nationals forced into game five when Jason Werth hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th inning at National’s Field this afternoon.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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UNBELIEVABLE! Braves and Red Sox Collapse Complete! Rays and Cardinals win Wild Cards, Orioles sink Red Sox with 2 Outs in Bottom of the 9th as Longoria hits walk off against Yankees

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon reacts to the Orioles scoring the winning run (Getty Images)

What an amazing and unlikely end to the regular season. The Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox who appeared to have their respective Wild Card berths cinched on September 1st had their seasons end tonight in the most unexpected and unlikely ways.  Both the Braves and the Sox had what seemed to be insurmountable leads as August drew to a close.

“It’s like living out a bad dream. You never expect this to happen to you.” Chipper Jones

Matt Holiday and Chris Carpenter celebrate the Cardinal’s Wild Card win

The Braves were up by 10 ½ games over the Cardinals on August 26th and had an 8 ½ game lead on September 6th and slipped into a tie on Tuesday against a resurgent Cardinals team.  The Cardinals defeated the Houston Astros 7-0 behind a two hit performance by Chris Carpenter earlier in the evening putting all the pressure on the Braves to try to force a one game playoff to decide the Wild Card.  The Braves looked like they would force the playoff and had a 3-2 lead with one out in the top of the 9th against the Phillies.   With one out and their ace closer Craig Kimbrel saw it slip away as Chase Utley hit a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Pete Orr to tie the game.  The Braves could not score a go ahead run and in the top of the 13th the Phillies put the final nail in the Braves coffin as with 2 outs in the top of the 13th when Hunter Pence singled to score Brian Schneider to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.  The Braves could not score in the bottom of the 13th completing a most amazing collapse.  Kimbrel said after the game “It was tough to be so close and then have the feeling like it was falling out of your hands, and that’s the feeling I have now.”   One has to feel for Kimbrel and other Braves relievers who have endured a punishing season and faltered down the stretch due to a starting rotation which struggled in their performance and due to injuries to young pitchers Jair Jurgens and Tommy Hansen.

A stunned Braves bench after their loss to the Phillies

For the Braves it was an epic collapse but the Tony LaRussa’s Cardinals after having been written off by every expert managed to catch the Braves and steal the Wild Card berth.

While the National League decision was exciting it paled in comparison to what happened in the American League East on Wednesday night. The Rays appeared to be done early as starter avid Price was hit hard by the Yankees especially by Mark Teixeira who hammed a grand slam home run in the top of the 2nd off Price inning to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead and a solo shot against Price in the top of the 4th. When the Yankees finished their at bat in the top of the 8th they had a 7-0 lead.  It looked like the Rays were done unless the Orioles could come from behind to defeat the Red Sox and force a playoff.  As their fans began to leave Tropicana Field the Rays scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th and then tied the game with a two out home run by Dan Johnson in the bottom of the 9th.  The game went into extra innings and as the Rays battled the Yankees an even more remarkable story was developing in Baltimore.

Evan Longoria raises his arms in triumph after his walk off home run against the Yankees (Getty Images)

The Red Sox had led the Orioles for most of the game and had not lost a game all season when leading in the 9th inning.  They were 76-0 in this situation.  A rain delay pushed the game toward themidnight hour and when it resumed the Red Sox seemed to be ready to put the Orioles away.

Robert Andino hits a walk off single to score Nolan Reimold against Jonathan Papelbon

With a 3-2 lead the Sox sent their vaunted closer Jonathan Papelbon into the game. After retiring Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds on strikes Chris Davis doubled and the O’s sent in Kyle Hudson to run for Davis.  Papelbon worked a 2-2 count against Nolan Reimold who hit a ground rule double to scoreHudson.  This brought up Red Sox nemesis Robert Andino who hit a walk off single to score Reimold stunning the Red Sox Nation in an unbelievable finish, but the Red Sox had life if the Yankees could put away the Rays in Tampa, but that hope would be dashed three minutes later.

As the Orioles drove the stake into the heart of the Red Sox Nation Yankees reliever Scott Proctor retired B. J. Upton on strikes.  This brought Evan Longoria to the plate. Longoria had hit a 3 run homer in the Rays 6 run 8th inning and took Proctor’s pitch and hammered it down the left field line where it ended up in the stands.  It was only the second time that a walk off home run put a team into the playoffs, the last was Bobby Thompson’s “shot heard around the world” in 1951.

Orioles celebrate. After a rough season they turned into winners in September and ended the Red Sox playoff hopes

It was an amazing finish that was unimaginable and thrilling to behold.  For the Orioles it was their World Series. They have been dominated by the Red Sox for years and going into September had won just 3 games against the Sox all season.  Then in September the Orioles began to win.  They split 4 games with the Yankees, took 2 of 3 from the Rays, 3 of 4 from the Red Sox at Fenway, 2 of 3 from the Angles and split a four game series against the Tigers.  After the 4 games in Boston the Orioles hosted 3 games against the Red Sox at Camden Yards.  They won the first, lost the second and stunned the Red Sox on Wednesday night.

As the bell tolled midnight on the east coast the unthinkable had happened.  Two epic collapses, two remarkable comebacks and an underdog Orioles team that rose to the occasion to beat the Red Sox 5 of 7 games in September.  No one could have scripted the end to this regular season and one can expect that the playoffs will be equally exciting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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