Mr. October

Game three of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals started at 1PM Pacific time and ended a bit before 8PM Pacific time. No, it wasn’t a seven hour game. There was a three and a half hour rain delay in the middle. October baseball!

Before the rain delay, the Cardinals took advantage of a Matt Cain mistake and the Giants couldn’t take advantage of any Kyle Lohse mistakes, or Cardinals’ unlucky breaks. Cards’ slugger Carlos Beltran, who had a drink of water with the Giants last year, came up lame after his at-bat in the bottom of the first inning and had to pull himself out of the game.

(Beltran causes a lot of unnecessary hate from Giants fans because of how much it cost to get him last year before the trade deadline. The Giants traded their number one prospect (and one of baeball’s top pitching prospects) Zack Wheeler for Beltran’s year-end services, but Beltran wasn’t completely healthy, and the Giants ran out of time and missed out on the playoffs.

Beltran wasn’t interested in signing a short deal with the Giants and turned them down. He bet big, but no teams came calling and he had to accept a similar deal with the Cardinals. That’s where some Giants fans place the blame on Beltran. They think that he spurned the Giants for the Cards. While it eventually happened that way, it’s not exactly what happened. No one offered Beltran what he was looking for and by the time he signed with the Cardinals, the Giants had already moved on, trading for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan.)

All-time SLG % Leaders

Back to Beltran – when he came out of the game in the first inning, Giants fans felt a bit of relief. No one wants to see anyone get hurt. But Beltran has the highest postseason slugging percentage in baseball history. Yes, higher than Babe Ruth. Beltran leaving the game should’ve been a huge break for the Giants. But it turned out to not be the case. Enter, Mr. October Matt Carpenter.

The Giants had taken the lead in the top of the third inning with no outs on a Pablo Sandoval groundout which scored Angel Pagan. After Buster Posey was unintentionally intentionally walked, Hunter Pence hit into a double play, which was one of the many scoring chances that the Giants couldn’t take advantage of.

Carpenter replaced Beltran in the top of the second. Jon Jay singled with two out in the third inning. Jay looked to be ready to steal and Cain threw over to first to keep him at bay. But his toss to first was over Brandon Belt’s head and Jay went to second. At that point in the game, I thought to myself that I hope that wasn’t the break the Cards needed to win the game. I hate it when I think those kinds of things to myself. Two pitches later, Carpenter deposited a flat slider into the right field seats for a no-doubt-about-it homerun.

And really, that’s all the Cardinals needed. The Cards had taken a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 7th to give them some extra cushion, but it was more about what the Giants couldn’t do in the top of the 7th. They had their best chance to score after Pablo Sandoval hit a booming laser over Matt Holiday’s head in left field with one out. But, he either thought it was gone and was trotting, or he didn’t want to take the chance of being thrown out at second and he stayed at first. Had he made it to second, he may have scored on Buster Posey’s base hit to left. With runners on first and second, Mitchell Boggs replaced Edward Mujica and easily struck out Hunter Pence and then Brandon Belt. Pence, the inspirational leader on the team has just five hits all postseason, and just one in the first three games against the Cards. Belt’s called third strike was on a pitch that was low and away and hadn’t been called a strike all series long. He was screwed either way. He waves at that pitch and he doesn’t touch it.

The Giants had two more shots after the three and a half hour rain delay. But they weren’t even dramatic shots. Closer Jason Motte came in to get six outs and get six outs he did. None of the six Giants hitters even had a good swing on him. He threw just nineteen pitches in those two innings. I wondered what would happen if the Giants put him into deep counts because game four and five are Thursday and Friday before the travel day, but they didn’t and he’ll be as fresh as a daisy tomorrow.

For the Giants, game three was a crucial one because of how the back end of their rotation works out. Barry Zito has been tapped to start game five on Friday and it’s a cruel irony that Zito, who has been a disappointment ever since coming over to the Giants since 2007, could start another elimination game. He finally had a decent season in 2012, but in his one game in the NLDS, Bruce Bochy quickly removed him after just two innings because of his lack of command. Thus, Thursday becomes somewhat of a must-win for the Giants. Madison Bumgarner looks to have been relegated to the bullpen because of his uncharismatic performance in game one and his comments after, which suggested that he’s either lost confidence or is battling a tired arm and doesn’t know how to add life to his pitches. The Giants need to get back to Ryan Vogelsong as quickly as they can. If they don’t, it will be all she wrote. It’s up to Big Time Timmy Jim.

By the way, I found a video on the internet and had to share it. It’s an old video tape of a 1988 fight between the Giants and the Cards. The Cards had eliminated the Giants in 1987 in the NLCS and there was bad blood then. Will Clark takes out Jose Oquendo on a feet first (and not bush, unlike Holliday’s) hard slide. Oquendo takes a couple of shots at him while he’s on the ground and when Clark fights back, Ozzie Smith takes a shot at Clark from behind. And low and behold, Candy Maldonado (one of the goats from the 1987 NLCS) comes flying through with a clothesline. I was watching that when it happened and I’ve never forgiven Ozzie Smith for the cheap shot. Disliked him ever since.

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