Travis Ishikawa clubbed a 2-0 fastball for a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, sealing a 6-3 victory for the San Francisco Giants over the St. Louis Cardinals, in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, becoming the fourth player in Major League history to clinch a World Series with a home run, the first in the National League to do so.
Ishikawa’s blast was the third Giants home run of the game (Joe Panik and Michael Morse hit the other two) after the Orange and Black had gone the entire NLCS without going yard. After scoring runs in every which way but the long ball, San Francisco “piled on” a total of six Thursday night, all coming as a result of their newfound power.
St. Louis scored first in the top of the third inning, when Tony Cruz and Matt Carpenter drew the only two walks that Bumgarner would surrender on the night, and Jon Jay made it hurt, by doubling in Cruz, who scored two of the three Cardinals runs. Jay had gone 92 at-bats in the postseason, without an extra base hit.
Joe Panik answered back immediately in the bottom of the third, rocketing the AT&T Park crowd into ecstasy, by clearing the right field wall with his second major league homer of his brief career. It was the first Giants long ball in 243 plate appearances in the postseason.
Oct 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (12) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eighth inning of the 2014 National League Wild Card playoff baseball game at PNC Park. The Giants won 8-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Unfortunately, before the crowd had a whole lot of time to savor the 2-1 lead, both Matt Adams and Tony Cruz returned the favor by hitting solo home runs, and St. Louis took back the lead, 3-2, in the top of the fourth. The game would remain scoreless until Ishikawa’s game-ending blast in the bottom of the ninth.
Madison Bumgarner started for the Giants and went eight solid innings, giving up three runs on five base hits, while striking out five and issuing two walks, both in the third inning. He left with the game still 3-2, in favor of the Cards, being replaced by pinch-hitter Michael Morse, who hammered the second pitch he saw over the left-field wall to tie the game and let Bumgarner off the hook for a potential loss.
MadBum was ragged around the edges at the start of the game, uncharacteristically giving up two walks in the third and allowing the two home runs.
Madison Bumgarner retired the final thirteen batters he faced.
That being said, after the second homer had exited the building, Bumgarner went on to retire the final thirteen hitters he faced, including those during the deadly seventh and eighth innings, which saw St.Louis commence so many late-game rallies.
Santiago Casilla came in to close out the ninth, but was pitching for the third straight game, for the first time since July, and it showed. He walked both Matt Adams and Tony Cruz, and gave up a single to Randall Grichuk, before Bruce Bochy did the unthinkable, and removed him for Jeremy Affeldt, to face Oscar Taveras off the bench. As usual, the move proved brilliant, as Affeldt got Taveras on a come-backer, that he personally delivered to first base, foregoing the obligatory toss, in favor of a brief sprint. No sense in taking chances.
If there is a most-valuable-component-to-a-team award, the Giants’ bullpen would receive it. The bullpen, collectively, has been the reason that San Francisco has been able to subsist on a shoestring budget, as far as scoring runs is concerned. Despite a spate of six solo home runs allowed by Hunter Strickland (4) and Jean Machi (2), the Giants have managed to advance as far as they have, because of the efficiency and skill of the pen.
For the Cardinals the much maligned Adam Wainwright started and went seven dominant innings, setting aside premature rumors of his baseball demise, by allowing just the two runs on the Panik big fly, and a total of four hits. He walked one batter, struck out seven in seven innings, including the side in the sixth, faced only four batters over the minimum, and left with the lead, 3-2. It was a gutsy performance, that had the Giants and their fans, dazed and confused for the first seven innings.
Pat Neshek came in to face Morse in the bottom of the eighth, and two pitches later, the Giants had tied the game, 3-3. Neshek finished the eighth, and Michael Wacha came in for the fatal ninth. He gave up a single to Pablo Sandoval to start things off, got Hunter Pence on a fly ball to right field, and walked Brandon Belt, bringing Ishikawa to the plate. Ishikawa hit a 2-0 fastball over the right field wall, and the Giants poured out of the dugout to mob their teammate.
Oct 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) reacts after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 National League Wild Card playoff baseball game at PNC Park. The Giants won 8-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Ishikawa’s story is more involved than the average guy, having come close to hanging up his cleats over the summer, trying to decide if it was worth it. After a conversation with Bruce Bochy, Ishikawa rejoined the Giants, the team he had been with when they won the 2010 World Series, and the rest is history.
I thought Hunter Pence had an unusual hit in the 2012 World Series, the time he hit the ball three times with the bat, but Pablo Sandoval’s double right down the third base line, leading off the fourth inning, was one of the most remarkable pieces of hitting I have ever seen.
Batting left-handed, he had to reach out over the plate, and barely flick his wrists to send the ball down the line. If there had been a right-handed batter in the box, the pitch would have hit him squarely, it was that far off the plate. Sandoval’s ability to hit the ball where it is pitched, continuously amazing opposing pitchers, is legendary.
For once, Buster Posey did not factor into the scoring, going 0-4. Gregor Blanco had one key hit and was on base when Panik hit his homer. Hunter Pence and Belt went hitless, but each drew a walk, and Brandon Crawford went hitless in three at-bats. Sandoval was the spark-plug, leading off the fourth with a double, and getting the winning rally started-again-in the ninth, with a single.
Crawford, though hitless at the plate, factored into that ninth-inning rally, as he wont to do. When Grishuk sent a hot grounder Sandoval’s way, all Pablo could do with his full-length dive, was deflect the ball to Crawford, alertly backing up the play, so that Crawford could get the force at second by flipping the ball to Panik, resulting in a 5-6-4 putout for just one out. And no discussion of defense could occur, without mention of Gregor Blanco’s electrifying catch on a shallow center field popup, that Matt Holliday hit, to close out the fifth inning.
Travis Ishikawa will rightfully go down in history as the Man, but it was home-town favorite, Michael Morse, who made every Giants fan almost lose it, with his emotion-packed gambol around the bases after his eighth inning bomb not only tied the game, but left Madison Bumgarner out of the picture, as far as being charged with a loss.
The victory was a team effort, made all the more satisfying because of the absence of Angel Pagan. Though the Giants would very much like to have had Pagan with them, it was also key to prove that they could win without him. It is testimony to the bond of chemistry, which exists in the Giants’ dugout, that they were able to compensate for Pagan’s loss in the postseason, when they have been unable to sustain success, during the regular season, without him.
Now San Francisco faces the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, beginning Tuesday night in Missouri, ironically the place to which the Giants were trying to avoid returning.
It’s not quite the same, though, because this is one flight they have been anticipating since last February. Now we will see, firsthand, just how intimidated the Orange and Black are by the Royals’ 8-0 postseason record. Sporting an 8-2 playoff record themselves, the Giants are feeling pretty good about their chances.
I’m not sure, but with the Giants’ own recent track record of success, that it isn’t the Royals who should be intimidated. I would be.
But what do I know?
Oct 19, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) makes a sliding catch against the St. Louis Cardinals during game five of the 2012 NLCS at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports