Playoff baseball is really awesome until it doesn’t go your way. Feel free to steal that one.
After the first loss of the NLDS, I could honestly shrug my shoulders and say, “Welp. That’s baseball.” Because the loss that ensued after Game One was an easy loss to digest. You take away a hanging Cain curveball and maybe add a couple of inches to a couple of Giants’ line drives, and things would surely look different. The theme of Game One was one of hard contact, but right at ‘em. The pitching wasn’t terrible, Cain wasn’t at his best, but it was a gradual loss — one that happened without the huge, nasty flaming wreckage of ‘we’re all going to die’ type of moments. It was a slow-paced, gradual loss. And it was pretty digestible, as far as postseason losses go.
Game Two, however, was the exact opposite of Game One in every single way.
For seven innings the Giants’ hitters were mesmerized by Bronson Arroyo’s pitch array of slow, slower, and slowest. Arroyo isn’t a power arm. He’s not an elite-level pitcher by any stretch, but he made Dusty’s decision to start him in Game Two look downright genius. I think it’s worth stating that Arroyo had a pretty nice season for the Reds. He’s not an ace, but he’s a solid #3-4 on most teams. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to digest. The idea that Bronson Arroyo shut down the Giants like he was vintage Greg Maddux is repulsive, especially when you’re already down in the series and headed for three straight games in Cincinnati.
The parallel to Arroyo’s mastery was a very un-crisp Madison Bumgarner. I’m legally obligated to say that Bumgarner is still very young and very good, but it just wasn’t his night. Things got messier in the fourth inning when the Reds strung together some base hits and took advantage of Hunter Pence’s throwing mistake — not hitting the cut-off man on a Scott Rolen single, allowing Rolen move up to second on the throw — which was followed by a Ryan Hanigan two-run single up the middle, just out of the diving reach of Marco Scutaro.
Speaking of Hunter Pence, the Giants will need him to do something and do something soon. With the way Pence is swinging the bat, and constantly chopping infield grounders, it’s clear that opposing teams really have no reason to pitch to Posey. Bruce Bochy might like Pence’s RBI total and the “damage” he does when he swings, but it sure feels like it’s time to swap Pence and Belt in the batting order. Won’t happen. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be at least considered, even for a moment.
The odds of the Giants winning the next three are slim, but who knows. A win in Game Three would go a long way to at least letting me entertain the idea of a comeback, and really, that’s all I want right now. Little, tiny hopes, these things.