The San Francisco Giants are relentless in their pursuit for consistent October glory, escaping a gritty, hard-fought series against the Washington Nationals in the NLDS to reach the league championship series for the third time in five seasons. The Giants simply found a way to steal three of four games from the Nationals, who entered the postseason as hands-down favorites to contend for the National League pennant. The Giants had other plans, though, and now turn their attention to the equally overlooked St. Louis Cardinals, who did what the Giants struggled to do in the division series: score runs.
The Giants scored a grand total of nine runs in four games against an outstanding Washington pitching staff, but squandered numerous opportunities that ultimately gave the Nationals hope down to their final out. To put San Francisco’s run production into perspective, or lack thereof, they scored eight runs in their wild-card win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cardinals scored 10 runs in their series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a game in which featured more total runs (19) than the entirety of the Giants series versus the Nationals (18).
Oct 3, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) is safe at home in the fourth inning while Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (40) awaits the throw in game one of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports
The orange and black admittedly win because of pitching and defense, grinding out at-bats to score often enough to withhold a chance to win in the late innings. It’s a formula that has gotten the Giants to the precipice of yet another World Series appearance, but a dangerous one at that. The Giants cannot continue to waste golden scoring chances if they’re going to defeat the Cardinals in a best-of-seven series for the second time in three seasons.
It’s not as if the Giants aren’t putting guys on base. The Giants collected 35 hits in the division series to rank only behind the Dodgers (39). They’ve had a bounty of chances to slap crooked numbers on the scoreboard and have often failed to do so. They’re lacking significant offensive contribution from the thick of their order and that needs to change in a hurry.
Buster Posey has posted a .391 postseason batting average to date (9-for-23), but is yet to record an extra-base hit. Hunter Pence has recorded six hits in 22 at-bats, but has not driven in a single run. Pablo Sandoval had a momentous game-tying double with two outs in Game 2 of the NLDS, but popped out with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 4, failing to help push across an insurance run in a situation that didn’t require a hit.
Oct 7, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval reacts after popping out with the bases loaded in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals during game four of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
If these trends continue in the NLCS, the Giants magical postseason push will come to a screeching halt at 3rd & King before the series ever has a chance to shift back to St. Louis for Game 6. It won’t matter how good their pitching staff performs…because you can’t win if you don’t score. The Giants realized that in Game 3, wasting another solid postseason start from ace Madison Bumgarner, who is unsurprisingly 0-10 on the season (regular season and postseason) when receiving fewer than three runs of support.
The stage is set for what should be an epic rematch of the 2012 NLCS that reached seven games and ended in a glorious downpour at AT&T Park in a blowout win for the Giants (9-0). San Francisco is hungry for another iconic championship series moment, much like Marco Scutaro’s outstretched arms in the ninth inning of the Giants’ pennant-clinching victory. It’s difficult to predict who will arise as the hero in this year’s LCS, but one thing is for sure: the Giants must increase run production if they’re going to claim a spot in the 2014 Fall Classic.