The more I watch ‘Giants playoff baseball’, the more I’m reminded about how stressful these things can be. I’m going to look like Eli Whiteside before this thing is over with.
For the first time since 2002, the Giants are advancing to the NLCS. I’m going to keep this recap brief — I’ll expand more on tonight’s win later — but thank heavens for Cody Ross. Originally picked up as a claim to block the Padres, Ross was arguably the best player on the field tonight for the Giants. He drove in two runs in the final game of the NLDS. He hit a solo home run in the top of the 6th (the HR broke up a no-hitter and the shutout) to ever so slightly slow down Derek Lowe. Then, in the 7th, with 2 outs — following Aaron Rowand’s dreadful at-bat* against Jonny Venters — Ross hit a groundball single between 3B and SS to give the Giants the lead, 3-2.
* I know this year’s version of Pablo Sandoval has been a huge let down, but pinch-hitting Rowand against Venters (bases loaded, 1 out) was a little questionable. Venters features a nasty slider and we all know that Rowand struggles against sliders. The pitch sequence went as follows: Slider (called strike), slider (swinging strike), fastball (ball), slider (ball in dirt), slider (strike swinging in dirt). Rowand saw 5 pitches, 4 of them sliders. The last pitch was buried in the dirt and he couldn’t help himself. I know that Sandoval is a huge GIDP risk, but that matchup (Rowand vs. Slider Guy) seemed disastrous. Thankfully for the Giants, Cody Ross saved the day by hitting a single in the next AB.
Bumgarner pitched an excellent game — 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO — that kept alive a string of strong starting performances from the staff. Bumgarner’s velocity looked good with an average fastball velocity of 91-92 on the night. He even touched 95 mph once and he threw 14 fastballs that were in the 94-95 range. For the most part, Madison made all the: ‘How will this young rookie handle the playoffs?’ pregame talk irrelevant.
The Giants will get a few days off before Game 1 of the NLCS which will be played on Saturday, October 16 in Philadelphia. I know I can use a few days off. Whew.