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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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Two Tied Wild Card Races: Who would have Thunk It?

Carpenter (Sports Illustrated Photo) or Hudson (AP Photo) 

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

What a night for baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals came back to defeat the Astros after falling behind 5-0 and the Boston Red Sox narrowly held off the Baltimore Orioles 8-7 after leading by scores of 5-1 and 7-3.  The Atlanta Braves fell again to the Philadelphia Phillies to allow the Cardinals to tie them for the Wild Card lead.  With the Tampa Bay Rays coming from behind to defeat the Yankees and turning a triple pay in the process the Rays and the Sox remain knotted for the AL Wild Card.  The hopes of four teams are on the shoulders of four men. John Lester, David Price, Chris Carpenter and Tim Hudson.

Price (Getty Images) or Lester (AP Photo)?

The cool thing about this is that the races have come down to the last day of the season and these is the real possibility that both could remain tied and force not one but two one game playoffs to make the post season.  This has never happened.  There have been one-game playoffs to enter the post season before but never two of them in the same season.  If by some chance the Brave and Cardinals end up tied they will have to face each other in a playoff and the same is true for the Rays and Red Sox.  Does it get any better than that?  As a baseball fan I think not.

The Cardinals will start Chris Carpenter who is 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA in September against the Astros.  The Astos will start veteran Brett Myers who is 7-13 with a 4.31 ERA for the season but has been great in September with a 4-0 record and an ERA of 1.58.  The question is will the Cardinals be able to take this all the way home? The stumbling Braves will send Tim Hudson up against the Phillies. Hudsonis 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA in September and lost in his last outing against the Phillies.  Philadelphiawill start Joe Blanton 1-2 5.03 ERA who spend most May and all of June July and August on the DL.

The American League race has Boston’s John Lester who is 1-3 in September with a 6.07 ERA facing Baltimore’s Alfredo Simon who has had a miserable September.  The question in this contest is whose bats will show up big?  Down inTampathe Rays will start their ace David Price 12-13 3.35 ERA who has a 0-2 record in 5 starts with a 3.08 ERA in September.  The Yankees have not announced a starter for Wednesday’s finale.  The question here is can the Rays nail down one last game?

In the end it comes down to four starters for the four teams vying for the Wild Card. John Lester, David Price, Tim Hudson and Chris Carpenter.  Four men, four teams, two playoff berths.

This will be an amazing finish to the regular season.  Who would have bet on this on September 1st? Not me, but I am not unhappy.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Conrad’s 3 Errors Help Giants Win 3-2 to Take Series Lead

Brooks Conrad looks down after his 3rd error of the game (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Once again the Braves and Giants had a pitcher’s duel going as their starters maintained a firm grip on the game as Jonathan Sanchez set the pace for the Giants holding the Braves to two hits and a run in 7.1 innings work and Tim Hudson holding the Giants to an unearned run in 7 innings work.

Jonathan Sanchez dominated the Braves for 7 innings (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Giants led by a score of 1-0 until the bottom of the 8th inning scoring their run in the second inning when Mike Fotenot tripled and then scored on Brooks Conrad’s fielding error on a Cody Ross ground ball. The lead held up until with one out in the 7th Sanchez gave up a single to Alex Gonzalez. This brought in Sergio Romo to face pinch hitter Eric Hinske. With a 0-2 count Hinske drilled a shot just over the right field wall next to the foul pole to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.  This sent the fans at Turner Field into a tomahawk chop frenzy, the Braves dugout was celebrating and the Giants appeared to be thunderstruck.  Sanchez appeared to be in shock and others were shaking their heads.

Aubrey Huff drives in the tying run off of Mike Dunn with 2 outs in the top of the 9th (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Giants came up in the bottom top of the 9th inning to face Craig Kimbrel.  Kimbrel got leadoff batter Cody Ross to pop out to second for the first out. Travis Ishikawa pinch hit for Romo and drew a walk. Kimbrel then struck out Andres Torres for the second out.  With the crowd roaring Kimbrel had Freddy Sanchez down to his last strike when Sanchez singled up the middle to keep the Giants in the game. That was all for Kimbrel who turned the ball over to left hander Mike Dunn to face Aubrey Huff who hits left handed pitchers like piñatas.  Huff was behind in the count but ripped a slider on the outside corner into right field where it dropped in from of right fielder Jason Heyward to score Ishikawa.  Dunn was done in by the hit and Bobby Cox brought in Peter Moylan to get Buster Posey. Moylan did his part; Posey hit a sharp ground ball to Conrad which went between his legs into right field allowing Sanchez to score giving the Giants a 3-2 going into the bottom of the 9th. With the exception of scattered boos for Conrad the crowd sat in stunned silence and all the energy disappeared from the Braves dugout.

Freddy Sanchez celebrates with Nate Schierholtz after scoring the go ahead run (AP Photo/John Amis)

The Giants brought in Brian Wilson to close the game and Wilson back in form shut down the Braves to get the save and give the Giants a 2-1 series lead. The teams will meet Monday with the Giants’ rookie Madison Bumgarner (7-6 3.00 ERA) going against Derek Lowe (16-12 4.00 ERA) in what could be the final game of Bobby Cox’s long career.  One wonders if the Braves can rise to the occasion.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Errors Cause Giants to Lose to Braves 5-4 in 11 Innings

Rick Ankiel’s 11th Inning Blast put the Braves in the lead but Giants errors opened the door for the Braves (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

In my NLCS predictions I said that the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves series would be the hardest to pick as the teams were so evenly matched. I gave the edge to the Giants based on how their starting pitching has done in the final month of the season and I still predict the Giants to win in four or five games.  Last night it looked like the Giants were on their way to going to Atlanta with a 2-0 series lead and then the improbable happened.  Leading 4-0 the Giants committed two Costly errors gave the Braves to opportunity to tie the game and eventually win it on Rick Ankiel’s 11th inning home run that landed among the kayaks in McCovey Cove.

Giants’ starter Matt Cain gave up just one run, an unearned one in the top of the 6th created by a fielding error by outfielder Pat Burrell on a Derek Lee single. Lee took second on the error and scored when the next batter, Brian McCann singled to make the score 4-1.  The Giants failed to capitalize in the 7th inning and the game went into the 8th with Sergio Romo coming into the game in relief.  Derek Lee and McCann singled and Romo was pulled for closer Brian Wilson.  Wilson faced Melkie Cabrera who hit a ground ball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval who whose errant throw pulled first baseman Aubrey Huff off the bag allowing Lee to score.  After a sacrifice bunt by Brooks Conrad sent the runners to second and third Alex Gonzalez doubled to left to score McCann and Cabrera to tie the game.

The game went into extra innings and in the bottom of the 10th the Giants had the bases loaded with one out.  Reliever Kyle Farnsworth got Buster Posey to hit into an inning ending double play.  Ramon Ramirez working his second inning of relief made one bad pitch which Ankiel slammed with such authority that Giants right fielder Nate Schierholtz didn’t even turn around.  The Giants did not score in the bottom half of the inning giving the Braves who led the majors in come from behind wins yet another improbably victory.

On Sunday the Giants will send Jonathan Sanchez (13-9 3.09 ERA) who has won 7 of his last 10 games to the mound.  Sanchez lost his last appearance against the Braves last only 4 innings giving up 4 runs on 5 hits. He will face Braves ace Tim Hudson (17-9 2.83 ERA) who won his last start against the Giants but struggled down the stretch going 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA.  Hudson has a career 13-13 record and 3.56 life time ERA against the Giants.

The Braves have the best record at home in the Majors this year and took their season series against the Giants 4 games to 3, and took 3 of 4 at home against the Giants this year which gives them a slight advantage in the next two games. I expect that the teams will manage a split in Atlanta and take the series back to San Francisco. This should continue to be the best and most interesting series of the 2010 Divisional Series playoffs.

Peace,

Steve+

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