You know how we as baseball fans tend to see things through a particular brand of glasses that make it appear as though there is only ever one team on the field? If our favorite team wins, they did it through their awesomeness. If our favorite team loses, they allowed it to happen by playing horribly. The success and failures of the opposing team don’t really factor in at at all in our very biased view.
Tonight, the San Francisco Giants won a game of baseball quite decidedly against the St. Louis Cardinals – it was their third must-win game in a row and the sixth this post season – and I can’t really explain how it happened. I’d like to write that the Giants overwhelmed the Cardinals, and the scoreline would probably appear to back up my argument. However, as anyone who watched the game would tell you, San Francisco capitalized on a combination of luck and a St. Louis team that collapsed in the third inning, through hittable pitching and shoddy defense, to allow the Giants to put up a crooked number from which the opposition simply couldn’t recover.
This was the case, despite a very mediocre outing from Matt Cain, who went five and two-thirds innings, somehow without allowing a run to score on five hits and a walk. But even if Cain had allowed a couple of runs to score, it wouldn’t have mattered much, as the San Francisco Giants scored nine runs in total on Monday night, going on to win Game Seven of the NLCS by the score of 9-0. They’ll now go on to represent the National League in the 2012 World Series.
Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro knew first. Back to back singles to lead off the bottom of the first inning put runners on the corners, and Pablo Sandoval knocked in Pagan for the first run of the game with a ground out to the pitcher. In the second inning, Matt Cain played the role of the hero, hitting a single to center field to knock in Gregor Blanco to make it 2-0.
And then …
THE THIRD INNING.
It went something like this:
Marco Scutaro: Single +
Pablo Sandoval: Double +
Buster Posey: Walk +
Hunter Pence: Double +
Brandon Belt: Single +
Gregor Blanco: Walk +
Brandon Crawford: Fielder’s Choice (error) +
Matt Cain: Strike out +
Angel Paga: Fielder’s Choice +
Marco Scutaro: Walk +
Pablo Sandoval: Line out.
Five runs, and a 7-0 lead.
San Francisco added a run in the seventh inning when the pinch-hitting Aubrey Huff hit into a double play, and Blanco scored the team’s eighth run of the game. Then, in the eighth inning, Brandon Belt hit a solo shot to right field to make the score an embarrassing 9-0. It ended this way, with the St. Louis Cardinals heading home after a season for which they should feel no shame, despite losing three straight NLCS games, and the San Francisco Giants, staying home and preparing for the arrival of the Detroit Tigers for Game One of the World Series on Wednesday night, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:07 PM ET, or 5:07 PM local time.
The Game In A Picture
The Win Expectancy Graph
The Most Important Play Of The Game
I’d like to go with the first pitch, a Matt Cain fastball to Jon Jay that was called a strike, because, well, the way that the Giants won seemed almost preordained. However, you could probably take any of the base hits from the third inning and make a case for it being the most important play of the game. According to win probability added, it was Marco Scutaro’s first inning hit that put runners on the corners with none out, but that didn’t actually score any runs.
The play that really put the game out of reach was the most awkwardly hit baseball I’ve ever seen. With the bases loaded in the third inning, Hunter Pence’s double cleared the bases to make it 5-0 for the Giants, and when he smacked the ball to center field on the first pitch he saw from Joe Kelly, it looked like this:
And it did this:
Pence swinging at the first pitch was the third straight Giants hit that came on the first offering sent their way. This seemed to be an overall strategy tonight, as Kyle Lohse, the Cardinals starter, who only lasted two plus innings, threw a first pitch strike to 69% of the batters he faced during the regular season. That represented a higher percentage of first pitch strikes than all but two Major League starters.
GIF courtesy of SB Nation.
The Shamsky Award
Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.
Yadier Molina, as he’s done all season, carried the Cardinals on his back tonight, going 4-for-4, collecting more than half of the hits that the San Francisco pitchers gave up on Monday night. He contributed 6% to the win probability added for his team’s losing effort.
The Aggravating Thing The Manager Did
Matt Holliday played in Monday night’s game despite stiffness in his back that kept him from taking batting practice in Game Six. Meanwhile, the best hitter in the St. Louis Cardinals lineup the previous game, Matt Carpenter, was left on the bench. Holliday ended up going 1-for-4, but twice flew out with runners on base.
In hindsight, maybe Joe Kelly wasn’t the best pitcher to go to in the third inning to relieve Kyle Lohse.
The Aggravating Thing The Other Manager Did
This is the epitome of nitpicking, but with two out in the top of the sixth inning, Matt Cain was pulled from the game by Bruce Bochy with the left-handed hitting Daniel Descalso coming to the plate. Left-handed pitcher Jeremy Affeldt was brought in to face Descalso, which appeared to make sense, but if you look at Descalso’s numbers, he’s a reverse splits guy, with an OPS versus southpaws that’s 250 points higher than it is against right-handed pitchers.
The Aggravating Thing The Broadcasters Did
Are you really waking sleeping giants when the name of the team you’re referring to is the San Francisco Giants? Unless, you’re literally waking them up, I think that turn of phrase is probably best avoided.
The Things You Won’t Believe
Over the last four games, San Francisco Giants pitchers have gone 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The entire St. Louis Cardinals team has gone 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position over those very same games.
By the end of the third inning, the Giants had a 98.2% chance of winning according to win expectancy.
Rain erupted in the top of the ninth, soaking the field, and making for puddles in the infield. It didn’t matter in the least to NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro.
This is what the field looked like moments before the final out of the game:
With the Giants victory tonight, the team has won six straight elimination games.
Tweets Of The Game
On Seven Night, my two favorite things from a great series have been how quietly Molina blocks balls and Brandon Crawford’s hands
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) October 22, 2012
No Koz to throw that ball home
— Sam Miller (@SamMillerBP) October 23, 2012
World Series began in 1903. Giants and Tigers have existed all that time, yet never have met in World Series.
— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) October 23, 2012
It’s not raining. It’s Tony La Russa’s tears all the way from Danville.
— Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders) October 23, 2012
@dustinparkes Fuck, if the Giants win 3 in a row, I’ll write that one, too.
— Brian K (@Briligerent) October 19, 2012
Somehow, the guy who wore Miami Marlins gear to a Game Seven of the NLCS involving the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants wasn’t even the weirdest person in his row.
I’m not sure if the scoreline has had the effect of eight beers in making me a sentimental fool, but Bryan McKnight’s God Bless America was maybe the best version I’ve ever heard of that song. If it was sung like that every time, I wouldn’t mind the seventh inning at all.
I seriously doubt that there’s a more fun place to watch a baseball game than at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
In case you thought about feeling any pity for the St. Louis Cardinals or their fans, you should probably check this out.
This is maybe the most San Francisco picture that I’ve ever seen (from the right field bleachers):
With every run that San Francisco scored, I made the sound that Orson Welles makes at the 0:25 mark of this horrendous commercial: