The San Francisco Giants were able to eke out a much-needed win over Cincinnati last night to avoid a sweep, keeping their 2012 World Series chances on life support. San Francisco was able to use a familiar formula to get the win as they bled the Cincinnati offense dry while taking advantage of every opportunity and miscue available to gain a hard-fought 2-1 win in 10 innings. The Giant’s scratch-out-just-enough-to-win formula, known to their fans as “Torture”, has proven to be a highly successful way to win for this franchise in particular, and last nights game must have felt a little like 2010 for Giants fans. Only the Dodgers have won more games while scoring 2 or fewer runs than the Giants have over the past 3 seasons, and while it’s not a viable way to consistently win games, it’s nice to know you can get a win when the offense isn’t performing. Last night was no exception as San Francisco struck out 16 times total and mustered just 3 hits. Some other notes from last nights game:
-This was just the 21st time all season that a team collected 3 hits or fewer and still won the game. In fact, teams that racked up 3 hits or less in a game this year (including playoffs) went a combined 21-186 (.101 win %), which makes sense when you consider how difficult it is to score if your bats are silent.
-Buster Posey has been the only weapon in San Francisco’s arsenal. He’s hitting .273 on the series with 1 homer and is just one of the two Giants who have a batting average above the Mendoza line (.200) through 3 games. He scored the game winning run on the Scott Rolen error after hitting an absolute rocket through the right side of the infield to reach 2nd base.
-It may get lost in the noise, but Hunter Pence absolutely has the heart of a warrior. He came down with a severe cramp during his 10th inning at bat, and nearly fell over on top of the plate after a bunt attempt. Giants’ trainers came out to look at him, and after some examination Pence picked up his bat and dug back in the box. A couple of pitches later the Giants’ left fielder knocked a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield, hobbled over the 1st, and the rest is history. After the game Pence tried to keep it light, saying: “I was fine. I had to make it through the frame. Maybe it helped my at-bat because I couldn’t move my legs.” He’s expected to play in Game 4.
-The San Francisco bullpen should be credited with saving their team’s season for their 5 innings of shutdown work. Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo allowed just 2 base runners during the back half of the game, which eventually allowed Buster Posey to come through with a huge RBI single in the top half of the 10th.
-The Giants lineup was absolutely dominated by Cincinnati pitching for most of the night striking out 16 times as well. Homer Bailey contributed a career-high 10 to that total, walking 1, allowing just 1 hit and 1 run. He was absolutely dominant for most of the night, handcuffing Giants hitters with an array of fastballs and sliders. Bailey threw strikes on 68.1% of his pitches, and he did an excellent job of moving the outside corner of the plate on left-handed hitters. In his last 7 regular season starts Bailey began to use his fastball and slider a bit more with great success, posing a 1.85 ERA and a .153 batting average against. The Reds righty was considered an elite prospect in the minors, twice ranking in the top-10 in Baseball America’s preseason top 10, which means he’s always had the stuff to become an ace. Bailey may be making his star turn now, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Cincinnati, who may be without staff ace Johnny Cueto for the rest of the National League playoffs.
-Ryan Vogelsong was as clutch as clutch can be in pitching with his team’s back to the wall. He matched Bailey step-for-step, allowing just 1 earned run in 5 innings of work while striking out 5. He was wisely lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the 6th with San Francisco’s offense struggling to muster so much as a hit. The pinch hitter, Aubrey Huff, struck out but it was still the right decision.
-Speaking of Mr. Cueto, it has just been announced that he will not be making the Game 4 start, leaving the Reds with two choices: Mike Leake or Mat Latos. If they decide to start Leake, that means Cueto or another pitcher will be removed from the roster and will be ineligible to pitch until the World Series, should Cincinnati make it that far. The Reds have to add Leake to the postseason roster and in order to do so, they will have to drop Cueto for this round and the NLCS, which prompts the question: should they instead turn to Game 1 hero Mat Latos? The 6’6″ right-hander threw 4 enormous innings in relief on Saturday, which took a total of 57 pitches. Even though that was Latos’ normal throw day, that was still his first career appearance on short rest, and asking him to turn around and make a start on 3-days rest may be too asking for a little too much. I don’t think Leake will make the start, because the Reds don’t want to lose Cueto for the next round as well, and it he can’t go, expect Latos to get the call.
-The Giants will now send Barry Zito to the mound tomorrow to once again stare elimination in the face. San Francisco has won his last 11 starts, with Zito picking up 7 of those wins. But don’t let that record fool you, because the Giants’ highly-compensated lefty hasn’t actually been all that good. Over the 11 game stretch he has a 3.92 ERA and a .296 batting average against while walking 16 and striking out 43 batters in 62 innings. Over that same stretch of time, the much-maligned Tim Lincecum has a 4.31 ERA with 54 K’s, 33 walks, and a .250 batting average against while throwing 62.2 innings. The Giants have gone just 7-4 in his starts, although that’s probably due more to the fact that the offense has averaged 4.54 runs per start for Lincecum, compared to 6.18 runs per game for Zito over the span. I dunno about you, but I think the Giants are making a mistake by handing the ball to Barry over Timmy in Game 4.