BY TED SILLANPAA
The Giants were put in their place by the baseball gods Saturday night.
Oh, don’t think the baseball gods aren’t aware that Giants’ fans had actually started to believe that the team was as good as its winning margin in the NL West seemed to indicate. They knew. The gods always know.
The baseball gods showed Giants fans the flaws in their team in a 5-2 National League Division Series loss Saturday night … in San Francisco … in a game where the Reds lost their best starting pitcher Johnny Cueto to injury just eight pitches into the game.
The baseball gods must be lashing out at the Giants and their fans. There was some sort of cosmic payback going on Saturday. Not only did the Giants fans watch the team lose … they watched the team lose after having the baseball gods answer their baseball prayers:
“Please, baseball gods, let Buster Posey come to bat in the ninth inning as the winning run! Hey, it’s a longshot. The Reds have five runs and all. But, please, just let Buster get a whack at winning the game. Please?”
The baseball gods put Posey at the plate … with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth … with the Giants trailing by three runs.
You don’t think the baseball gods are teaching the Giants and fans a lesson? Man, Aroldis Chapman blew Buster away with a 100 mph fastball. Good night. Game over.
The Giants flaws, revealed by the baseball gods?
The Giants have trouble scoring runs against good pitching. Fans sort of forgot that after the late-season dash to the finish line against the Padres, Rockies, Padres and Dodgers. Yes, certainly, the Giants hit in tough luck Saturday night. Lines drives get hit right at people, though. That’s baseball. The Giants can’t afford to hit in tough luck because they don’t hit nearly enough.
The bullpen is … not that good. This isn’t that 2010 world championship team Giants’ pen. This is a pen held together with duct tape and manager Bruce Bochy’s ability to work favorable matchups for situational relievers, none of whom have the dominant stuff and consistency to close games. George Kontos and Guillermo Mota had to pitch meaningful innings with the game on the line. That’s not good. Then, Santiago Casilla unraveled and gave the Reds insurance runs that calmed fireballing Chapman when hell should’ve been breaking loose after he loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth. See? We know now that the Giants’ bullpen isn’t good enough to do what’s necessary for the club to avoid trying to rally against the Reds’ bullpen.
The Giants don’t hit many home runs. Without Buster Posey, they almost never hit home runs.
The starting pitching isn’t great and might not even be good right now. Matt Cain lasted five innings and lost Saturday. Now we get to the real questionable starting pitchers, guys who have struggled or have typically struggled. And, we get to them with the Giants needing to win Sunday and then win twice more in Cincinnati. It’s not actually good enough for Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito and Ryan Zito to be good guys, fan favorites and to have pitched well at various points this season. They need to pitch well right now, which means only Zito has the luxury of pitching now like he has been pitching. (I know, huh? The baseball gods let Giants fans chew on the idea that Zito has been the club’s most consistent starting pitcher.)
The baseball gods showed Giants fans that the Reds are the best team in the National League. (Positive thinkers by the bay will think, “Great! Now we know what it’ll take to beat ‘em!”)
The Reds have longball power up and down the lineup. They couldn’t hit Cain at all, until they hit balls over the fence.
They run the bases well and they play crisp defense. It wasn’t entirely blind luck that resulted in the Reds catching every line drive the Giants hit. The Reds catch almost everything hit near them.
And, the Reds have an exceptional bullpen. Exceptional.
The baseball gods showed Giants fans all that on a night when they also showed manager Dusty Baker handling a serious pitching problem absolutely brilliantly. San Francisco fans still kind of blame Baker for losing the 2002 World Series by mishandling his pitching and on Saturday, when Cueto went down, Baker wound up looking like a genius.
Ouch! Man! The baseball gods were in a foul mood.
The Giants can win the NLDS. Obviously. One game doesn’t mean anything, even if it is a game where the Reds lost their ace pitcher to injury and still won.
The Giants just need to figure out how to win after the baseball gods made in clear that the Reds are better.