I can’t even begin to pretend to understand what I just watched. But I’ll tell you one thing: I was getting ready to say good-bye to the 2012 Giants — to write an end-of-season post, pointing out that despite the thrashing the Giants received to put an end to their season, we shouldn’t forget that 2012 was a great ride. No need for that. Not today, at least.
For most of the game, the score was tied. Both teams were in it. But it didn’t feel like it. For most of the game, it felt like the Giants were done, waiting for an inevitable end to their season. Like they were just going through the motions. It took them until the sixth inning to get their first hit of the game. Marco Scutaro singled to right to put an end to the no-hitter; Pablo Sandoval then came up, promptly swung at the first pitch — nowhere near the strike zone — and flied out. That’s the kind of game it was.
Through nine innings, the Giants had one hit. Had the game not been forced into extra innings, the Giants would have become the first team ever to collect fewer than three hits in back-to-back postseason games. It took the following tenth inning sequence to bring the Giants a victory: Buster Posey singles to right; Hunter Pence, with a full count, hits a grounder mere inches from Scott Rolen that goes through for a single; Brandon Belt and Xavier Nady each strike out swinging; runners advance on a passed ball from Ryan Hanigan (who had only allowed three passed balls during the regular season); Joaquin Arias hits grounder to Rolen, Rolen bobbles it, his throw to first is late — and Posey scores on the play.
That’s what it took for the Giants to win this game. They struck out 16 times. They drew only one walk. They collected only three hits, none of which drove in a run. And yet they walk away with the victory.
Not to be forgotten in all of this: the outstanding efforts from every Giants pitcher in this game, particularly Ryan Vogelsong and Sergio Romo. Vogelsong was able to move past a rough first inning, holding the Reds to one run over five innings of work. Credit Bochy as well, here — he pinch hit for Vogelsong in the sixth inning, something he probably wouldn’t do in normal circumstances; even though Aubrey Huff didn’t get a hit, the Giants went with the bullpen for the rest of the game, and the bullpen shut the Reds down.
And that’s where Sergio Romo comes in: in the ninth inning of a tied game, he set the Reds down in order. Bochy stuck with Romo after the Giants took the lead, even though a) it meant letting Romo hit and b) Romo rarely has long relief appearances. You know how many times Romo pitched two innings this season? Once. But he came out in the tenth, and once again set the Reds down 1-2-3 to seal the win. Kudos to Bochy, again, for sticking with Romo there.
So the Giants live to see another day. It wasn’t pretty. But a win’s a win. And if the Giants can somehow manage to pull off two more of these, they’ll advance to the next round. They’re still hanging by a thread, skating on thin ice — whatever you want to call it. But they’re one step closer to the NLCS. Baseball’s weird.
You might notice I didn’t bother writing about Sunday’s game. What do you expect? It was probably the most miserable game of 2012. Bronson Arroyo, one of the most hittable pitchers in baseball, nearly no-hit the Giants. Madison Bumgarner couldn’t make it through five innings. The Giants, already down 1-0 in the series, took a beating in their own park. Enough about that game. I’d rather just pretend that didn’t happen.
The Giants’ season is now hanging by a thread. In order to avoid elimination, they must a) beat a 97-win team b) three games in a row c) on the road with d) Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito starting two of those three games. Do they have it in ‘em? Probably not. But as baseball great Lenny Kravitz – er, Yogi Berra — once said, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
1. CF Angel Pagan
2. 2B Marco Scutaro
3. 3B Pablo Sandoval
4. C Buster Posey
5. RF Hunter Pence
6. 1B Brandon Belt
7. LF Gregor Blanco
8. SS Brandon Crawford
9. SP Ryan Vogelsong
1. 2B Brandon Phillips
2. SS Zack Cozart
3. 1B Joey Votto
4. LF Ryan Ludwick
5. RF Jay Bruce
6. 3B Scott Rolen
7. C Ryan Hanigan
8. CF Drew Stubbs
9. SP Homer Bailey
Game two — sort of a “must-win.” The lineups are the same as yesterday:
In other news, the Game Three starter has been named Ryan Vogelsong. Tim Lincecum will be used out of the bullpen, with Barry Zito or Matt Cain (on short rest) starting Game Four. I must say, I’m not too keen on the idea of Zito starting over Lincecum. I’ve brought this up a few times, but the Reds’ offense has fared a lot worse against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching, and the Giants should capitalize on this.