San Francisco Giants: Avoid return trip to Bryce-Land


The San Francisco Giants encountered technical difficulties when they attempted to complete the three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series, Monday afternoon, at AT&T Park, as the Nats had the unmitigated gall to not only put up resistance, but to actually win the game, 4-1.

Now the Giants, not yet pinned against the proverbial wall, and desperately wanting to skip the all-expenses-paid, round-trip excursion back to Nationals Park, must rally the troops for a clinching victory, Tuesday, in front of cheering fans, or return to Bryce-Land. There are five obstacles the Giants have to overcome in order to keep their feet on the ground and not in a plane.

The first is Gio Gonzalez. Though he did not face the Giants this season, he has a 2-2 lifetime mark against them, with a 2.59 ERA, and he is the first lefty that the Giants will face in the series. With five left-handed batters in the lineup, Bruce Bochy’s team faces an uphill battle. 

Gonzalez had a strong finish to his season, going 4-1 in September, with a 2.48 ERA, and shutting out the Mets for seven innings in his season finale. San Francisco has done better against righties this season (58-44) than southpaws (30-30), so they will have to beat the odds on Tuesday, in order to advance.

The second reason is the deflated offense. This year’s playoffs would appear to be a microcosm of their season: explosive start, struggles in the middle, with the conclusion yet to be determined. Since scoring eight runs against Pittsburgh, the Giants have played 36 innings, scoring a total of six runs. It’s a team-wide issue and they need to solve it as a team.

The third obstacle is Ryan Vogelsong. Whereas his postseason credentials are sterling from his experience in 2012, his credentials against the Nationals are missing in action, or he may wish they were. In two starts this season against the Nats, Vogelsong was 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA. In case you think that is an aberration, for his career versus Washington, the righty is 1-2, with a 6.16 ERA in nine appearances, five of them starts. Cause for concern? You think?

As improbable as this may seem, Pablo Sandoval is the fourth reason why the Giants face an uphill battle at AT&T Park Tuesday. Over the season, he had an OPS of .824 against right-handed pitchers, but that figure plunges to just .563 against southpaws. No Pablo? No Pablo?

Sep 6, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) in the dugout before the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, the past two games, 27 innings in all, have been challenging for rookie Joe Panik, who matched a franchise record by getting five base-hits in his first two playoff games. Since then he is 0-10, with one walk. Joe Cool, as he is referred to by teammates, seemed impervious to pressure during big moments in the regular season, and seemed on that route in the playoffs, drawing that oh-so-crucial ninth-inning walk in Game Two, but since then? 0-fer.

Grand. We’ve established the premise that there is an uphill battle looming. This is how the Giants roll.

Whereas Gonzalez has held the Giants to a paltry .181 batting average in his four starts, the Giants’ on-base percentage (OBP) is .261. Bases-on-balls, fielding errors and hit-batsmen are all tools that come stock in San Francisco’s toolbox. Besides, the Giants have beaten him half of the times out. Look for the Giants to find a way to get on base.

As for deflated offense, just as the Giants streaked out to a fast start in the playoffs, and then cooled off, it is now time to kick in the afterburners.

Keep in mind, the pressure is all on the nationals.

You must keep in mind-as I am sure the Giants have-that the pressure is not on them. It is square on the batting helmets of the Washington Nationals. Never leave Buster Posey out of the equation. Just saying.

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey has good reason to smile, his team being up two games to one.Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Vogelsong? You mean the guy who has pitched 24.1 innings in the playoffs and compiled a 3-0 record, with a 1.09 ERA and 21 strikeouts? You’re worried about that Vogelsong? The Giants are not worried.

Pablo Sandoval does not have good stats against Gonzalez either. He has one hit in ten at-bats, with a walk and an RBI. One hit-one RBI. That’s all it may take, and with his fourteen game hitting streak on the line, I’ll put my money on the Panda. Every time. 

And as for Joe Panik, as I wrote the other day in “Giants push right button: Joe Panik” this kid will find a way to put his personal stamp on the 2014 playoffs. He has already tied the mark for hits in his first two games, and he had the vital walk to start the tying rally in Saturday night/Sunday morning’s game, and he’s just getting started.

It’s October, Preacher Pence in is in town, and the Giants are in the playoffs. Sit down leave your seat belts fastened until the ride comes to a halt, sometime around the end of the month.

September 9, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (12) bats during the sixth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park. The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports