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San Francisco Giants: Relief provides key to success

By Mark ONeill
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Good pitching beats good hitting, and good pitching, plus experience, stifles it. The San Francisco Giants have superior postseason relief pitching; therefore, they will find a way to limit the St. Louis Cardinals’ potent offense. Four of the Giants’ eight relievers have pitched in all three San Francisco forays into the postseason, and therefore have the depth of experience for us to expect them to be able to repeat the feat.

At this point all Giants pitchers have performed in the playoffs, even newcomers Jean Machi, Hunter Strickland, and Yusmeiro Petit. Six of this corps go back to the 2010 team, while Ryan Vogelsong came on board for the 2012 playoffs. They have functioned as a unit through two successful postseasons, with Bruce Bochy handling the tiller, and are prepared to do it again.

This combination of talent, experience, and managerial influence on the game, by a master at the trade, will allow the Giants to more efficiently prevent those seventh-inning-onward rallies, that have so permeated the 2014 postseason so far.

Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo have been on the Giants since 2010 and have been a big factor in their two world series championships. Their ability to function under the lights, on the biggest stage in baseball, gives Bruce Bochy an edge in the playoffs, and allows Giants fans to continue to fixate on the nature of even-numbered years, and their relation to Giants’ success.

Jun 8, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo (54) reacts after recording the final out of the ninth inning against the New York Mets at AT&T Park. The Giants defeated the Mets 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports


Affeldt, a southpaw, established his reputation as cool under pressure, when he came into Game Six of the 2010 NLCS, in the bottom of the fourth inning, with runners on first and second and no one out. The setting is key, because Jonathan Sanchez had just hit Chase Utley with the ball, and Utley had flipped the ball back in Sanchez’ direction, when tempers flared and both benches erupted.

Once order had been restored, not only did Affeldt retire the next three Phillies batters, he retired the side in order in the fifth inning as well. He preserved the 2-2 tie, until Juan Uribe could come to the plate in the top of the eighth, and put the Giants ahead with a solo home run, which would seal the victory in the series. Affeldt has pitched in 25 playoff games, with a 1.27 ERA and a 0.750 WHIP, in 21.1 innings pitched. He has walked six and allowed three earned runs. 

Javier Lopez has also got 25 playoff games under his belt, with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.257 WHIP in 14.1 innings pitched, while walking six. His stats are inflated by one outing against Cleveland in 2007, in which he surrendered four of his total of six earned runs. Like Affeldt, Lopez is a lefty and Bochy uses him primarily in late innings, to get that one, or maybe two outs, from the big left-handed bombers of the opposing batting order.

Photo by Denise Walos

Sergio Romo has pitched in nineteen games and has an ERA of 2.08, with a WHIP of 0.95. He has given up six earned runs and walked two. Romo, who throws a wicked slider, began the year as the closer, but surrendered it to Casilla, after a wretched series in Colorado. He displayed class in gracefully accepting the demotion, settling in as the eighth-inning, right-handed, setup specialist. He has a mountain of heart inside that diminutive frame.

Casilla has pitched in eighteen games, throwing 14.2 innings, walking three and surrendering two earned runs. He has an ERA of 1.23 and a WHIP of 0.95. He has fulfilled many roles for Bochy since coming from the Oakland A’s back in 2010.

These four have walked a total of seventeen batters in 67-and-two-thirds innings, and they have collectively given up 13 earned runs in 87 games. They know what is expected of them, work well with Buster Posey, and provide the Giants with solid insurance.

As everyone knows, good insurance is critically important, and hard to get, so if you have something that’s working, you stick to it.

Watch for these four harbingers of relief to slam the door during the NLCS, lock it, and throw away the key, because they don’t need it; they already have the key to success.

Aug 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Santiago Casilla (46) reacts with catcher Buster Posey (28) as they beat the Chicago Cubs 5-3 at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

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