The Giants looked flat on Saturday night in game one, and then they were steamrolled Sunday night. Their bats were so listless that all the erectile disfunction ads TNT was showing could’ve spliced in shots of the Giants hitting in with the horse back riding and no one would’ve blinked. When the game was finally over, the Reds won 9-0, taking the most commanding of commanding leads in the divisional series. Watching the game as a Giants fan, it felt like 100-0.
For Giants fans, it’s easy to play the blame on the offense. The Giants were last in the league in home runs with 103, though they were sixth in runs scored during the regular season. Throughout the season, they were able to score runs without the long ball, do in part to hitting their fair share of doubles and leading the league in triples. But they also got on base. They were fourth in the National League in team on base percentage, stole the fourth most bases in the league, and even led the league in sacrifice flies. They figured out how to score runs without circling the bases the easy way.
If you wrote a script for the Giants to go deep into the playoffs, it would include getting a few runs early, solid starting pitching, late scrappy runs, and the bullpen closing it down. The script would not include having to score 10 runs per game, or battling back from large deficits. They’re just not that team.
So yes, in a weird and twisted way, when the team has scored just two runs in two games, I’m blaming the Giants starting pitching for being down 2-0. The Reds are really the antithesis of the Giants. They hit nearly 70 more homeruns, yet didn’t score as many runs in the regular season. They’re like a fast breaking offense in basketball while the Giants slow the game down and pound it down low. Fast breaking offenses feed off momentum. That’s what the Reds did. In the second inning, Ryan Ludwick hit a blast deep over the centerfield fence that gave the Reds a 1-0 lead. And the Reds took off from there. They scored in every even-numbered inning except for the 6th.
Giants starter Madison Bumgarner didn’t look like the guy who was 10-3 at home throughout the year. He looked more like the guy who tired down the stretch, posting a 5.47 ERA in September and October. He wasn’t hitting his spots. In a specific sequence (and I can’t remember the batter), he went 0-2 and Buster Posey called for a high fastball. Bumgarner’s fastball was right down the middle and lasered down the left field line, but foul. He followed up with a slider in the dirt as a waste pitch before striking out the hitter with a fastball that caught way too much of the plate. While it was actually one of Bumgarner’s best moments in the game, it showed that he wasn’t sharp.Singles by Scott Rolen and Ryan Hannigan plated three more runs in the fourth and while Bumgarner would get out of the fourth, he would only get one more out before leaving in the fifth. George Kontos was able to induce a double play to end the fifth. And that’s where it started to get weird. In the Giants half of the inning, Bruce Bochy had Tim Lincecum get warm. Lincecum looked to have thrown only a handful of tosses before the inning ended. Lincecum went to the dugout, figuring that he didn’t warm up enough to be put in the game, but Bochy had other plans.
Lincecum took the mound in the 6th inning after the confusion and the crowd was on its feet. While Buster Posey has taken Lincecum’s role as the star player on the team, the Giants fans still have so much love for the wiry right-hander. His 2012 season was a nightmare for him. While many thought he’d be in the playoff rotation simply because he was Tim Lincecum, the ace of the World Series winning team, news came out early Sunday that he wasn’t going to be in the rotation. Bochy had chosen Ryan Vogelsong as his game three starter in Cincinatti and said Lincecum would be used as a reliever for the remainder of the series.
Lincecum is a moody pitcher by nature. When he’s on, he’s pumped up. When he’s not, his face shows signs of frustration. When he went to the mound in the 6th, he looked agitated. But after striking out Ryan Hannigan to end the sixth, he was fired up again and the crowd was on its feet.
It seemed like a the perfect storm on the crazy night. The team was down 4-0, and the previously dead crowd was alive again. But the electricity didn’t last. The man of the hour, Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo didn’t allow the crowd to get the Giants back into the game. The Giants had only one hit off Arroyo through his seven-inning stint, a base hit by Brandon Belt. With the crowd fired up, he sat the Giants right back down, going through Brandon Crawford, Xavier Nady, and Angel Pagan with ease. And that would be that. The Reds would tack on five more runs in the 8th and two Reds relievers would finish the shutout.
The reality for the Giants is that they have to go to Cincinnati now and win three straight on the road. Cincinnati hasn’t lost three in-a-row at home all year long. The Giants will send out Ryan Vogelsong, who started two games this year against the Reds that the Giants eventually won. He wasn’t the pitcher of record and the Giants had to score late to win both games (thanks to Angel Pagan both times). But he tamed the bats decently well enough that maybe he can be the spark that the Giants need. If not, the Reds will advance and the Giants will be able to make their vacation plans. To win three games straight on the road to win the series seems like an impossible mission and if the team that showed up in games one and two makes its way to Cincinnati, not even Tom Cruise will be able to save them.
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