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Giants So Right, I Was So Wrong

By bullpenbrian - October 23, 2012 - 3:55 pm Leave a comment.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the Giants’ comeback in the NLCS. And I couldn’t have been more wrong about my prediction the series was over after the Cardinals took a 3-1 series lead.

As one reader (George A Giants) points out “Wrong on all counts, sir.” Well yes, indeed I was. Man guilty.

Perhaps it‘s my distaste for all things Cardinals baseball that clouded my judgment? Or maybe it was the fact the Cardinals seemingly could do no wrong the past two postseasons?

Whatever the case, I didn’t just question the Giants’ ability to win but accused them of lacking a ‘clutch’ gene following its Game 3 loss against St. Louis. Of course, I should have known better.

The Giants, of all teams, were arguably the most clutch of any contender this postseason when they bounced back against Cincinnati after an 0-2 start in the division series.

But once San Francisco set an identical scene in the LCS, forcing its hand to win three-straight games, it only appeared the G-Men were merely following suite with the rest of the National League and doing its part to bow-out against the ‘luck-be-a-lady’ Cardinals.

Not to mention, only twice in NLCS history has a team recovered from down 3-1 to win the series (and yes, sadly the 2003 Marlins’ comeback against the Cubs is one of them). And these were the Cardinals, after all–a team who seemingly poisoned the postseason with its frustratingly uncanny ability to stay alive against greater talent.

Then like a switch–’click’–the Giants turned back on. The many scoring opportunities wasted through the first four-games were no more, they capitalized on Cardinals miscues and most importantly, the Giants’ starting pitching was, in a word–outstanding.

Even when San Fran tied the series 3-3 I still figured the Giants were just setting us up for another Cardinals’ clincher…

Wrong again. Instead, the Giants handed St. Louis an old fashioned butt-whopping in Game 7, a 9-0 drubbing that was never a close match.

And despite all the thrilling games we’ve witnessed this October, I enjoyed not one of them more than last night’s Game 7. Why? Because finally a National League team stood up to the Cardinals and refused to give away the series as so many before the Giants had.

No one likes to be wrong, including me. But luckily, I’m absolutely tickled my NLCS prediction wasn’t accurate. And yes, I’ve learned my lesson, too. Forget not counting those Cardinals out, it’s the never-say-die Giants the Tigers should be worried about.

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Giants My New BFF

By bullpenbrian - October 23, 2012 - 12:15 am Leave a comment.

Let me introduce you to my new best friends: Barry, Ryan & Matt. They’re professional pitchers for the National League Champion San Francisco Giants.

These guys are so cool. They just restored order to major league baseball by defeating the Cardinals in three straight games to win the NL pennant.

I’ve been motivating them the whole postseason by telling them they couldn’t win. “Three straight on the road at Cincinnati–ha, you guys are finished!” “Three straight against the Pixie dust Cards–oh, you’re killing me Smalls!”

But now that it’s done, and the Giants have won six-straight elimination games to reach the World Series, we’re like BFF. So yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Oh, so you wanna be our friends, too? That’s cool but I’m warning you, we’re a pretty close-knit group. But because you also despise the Cardinals…you’re in. I can already tell this relationship is so going places.

Great guys, those Giants pitchers. Great guys!

Bullpen Brian

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Cardinals More Poppycock Than Pixie Dust

By bullpenbrian - October 22, 2012 - 4:00 am Leave a comment.

The Cardinals didn’t run out of postseason pixie dust. They were just outplayed by the Giants the past two-games. Imagine that.

In fact, it’s stunning how beatable the Cardinals look when their opponent actually steers clear of choking away games with poor fielding and ninth-inning collapses (you know who you are: Phillies, Brewers, Rangers, Braves & Nats).

Lately, however, it’s been St. Louis sputtering in the clutch while letting its 3-1 series lead slip to a Game 7.

Last night the Cards failed to get a single leadoff man on base while plating just one-run…their only tally over the last 19-innings. Even worse, four costly fielding errors have lead to the Giants scoring 10-unearned runs this series–the most ever allowed in an NLCS.

For once a National League team is taking advantage of Cardinals’ mistakes–and not the other way around.

The Giants’ lineup has capitalized on those extra outs and combined it with sensational starting pitching, a recipe for success against anyone, even the never-say-die Cardinals.

This of course has nothing to do with an immunity from postseason hocus-pocus, but everything to do with the Giants’ realization St. Louis is more poppycock than pixie dust.

Whether or not the Giants believe this truth for a third straight game is yet to be seen. But I’d love it if just once Cardinals fans experienced what it feels like to be defeated with pixie dust, especially in a Game 7.

Poof! Season over. NLCS choked away.

Fingers crossed…

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Giant Letdown In NLCS

By bullpenbrian - October 18, 2012 - 4:30 am 2 comments.

My gut feeling was the Giants couldn’t win two-in-a-row against St. Louis. So far I’m right.

I also said Game 3 was a must-win for San Fran if they were to maintain any chance of winning the NLCS. Of course, the the Giants lost 3-1, and in doing so seemingly assured us of another Cardinals vs. Tigers World Series.

Oh, the joy.

Perhaps what’s more frustrating, however, is the continued realization the National League’s best clubs are at home after choking away in the division series while the Cardinals get to play big brother against the bay boys.

That thought, in particular, has made it hardly bearable watching the Giants waste countless scoring opportunities against St. Louis, and even more difficult to understand how they failed to score despite posting the highest team-batting average (.272), on-base percentage (.348) and OPS (.707) of any team remaining in the postseason.

The Giants are getting scoring opportunities by the boat load this series, especially last night when Kyle Lohse walked 5 batters in 5.2 innings. But San Fran couldn’t capitalize on a single one, left 15 men on base all totaled, including going 0-for-5 with RISP and 2-outs and grounding into 2 double plays.

Where are the Nationals & Reds when we need them?

The big miss has been the Giants’ supposed big-hitters. Buster Posey has been virtually non-existent going 2-for-10 with no RBI and no extra base hits in the LCS. And for all the pre-game rah-rah chatter from Hunter Pence, he’s 1-for-11. Neither player has a single hit with a RISP.

When Ryan Theriot has your biggest clutch knock (a bases loaded 2-run single in Game 2) you know you’re performing well below standards offensively. 

The Cards, meanwhile, have only outscored the Giants by a messily 2-runs through 3-games. But that’s already enough to force the Giants into winning 3 of the next 4 to advance. Anyone willing to take that bet?

Sadly, Orangetober as we know it is dead. Albeit, unofficially. And even if the Giants do have a heartbeat, it’s not detectable…or better said, not scoring.

Must be nice for the Cardinals facing an opponent lacking a ‘clutch gene’ as the lone remaining hurdle to reaching the World Series. Only against the Red Birds would the National League make it so easy.

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NLCS Game 3 Must-Win For Giants

By bullpenbrian - October 17, 2012 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.

I wouldn’t bet on the Giants holding the Cardinals’ lineup in-check for a second consecutive game.

St. Louis has easily scored the most runs (45) and driven in the most RBI (28) with RISP of any team this postseason.

That kind of production can be halted with good starting pitching, which the Giants have plenty, but those Red Birds also have a knack for rebounding quickly from postseason losses.

Only once over its last 4 postseason series have the Cardinals lost back-to-back games: coming in Games 4 & 5 of the World Series at Texas last year, and even that didn’t prevent St. Louis from winning the next 2 contests and the world championship.

So from my perspective, that makes Game 3 a must-win for Matt Cain and the Giants this evening.

Otherwise, if St. Louis wins Game 3 and then simply goes on to trade victories with San Francisco, as they did through Games 1 & 2, the Cardinals eventually take the series in 7-games.

Of course, the Giants would still be alive even if St. Louis wins the next 2 contests, but what are the odds San Fran strings together another 3-game winning streak the likes of what they accomplished vs. Cincinnati in the division series?

We know the Cards will get their runs. The question is, will the Giants score enough runs of their own to win tonight? If they can’t, we can go ahead and pencil St. Louis into the World Series.

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March Madness In October

By bullpenbrian - October 15, 2012 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.

Baseball’s postseason is facing a dilemma that often challenges March Madness–the tournament has peaked in terms of national interest after the first weekend.

It’s been a sharp decline for baseball since the conclusion of the division series, which couldn’t have been scripted any better given each series reached a decisive Game 5–a first in postseason history.

But the outcomes of those series, unfortunately, has left us with a Final Four lacking virtually any rooting interest from the masses.

Nothing would’ve been more fun, more interesting, than watching the excitement of Moneyball II, the New Red Machine, BUCKleup and Natitude compete against each other for a World Series championship.

Instead, we’re left with another ALCS appearance by the Yankees and a Cardinals team we’ve seen reach the World Series in 3 of the past 6 seasons…and most likely 4 out of the last 7 years once they defeat the Giants in the NLCS (just a tinny little touch of sarcasm).

Aside from Buster Posey, there’s hardly anything exciting about San Francisco, whose most colorful player, Brian Wilson, was lost for the season due to injury, and whose best starting pitcher, Tim Lincecum, has been demoted to bullpen duty. Oh yeah, there’s also the Melky suspension.

Detroit, of course, offers us one of the game’s most dominating hurlers in Justin Verlander, and one of the game’s best sluggers in Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. But the Tigers are largely thought of as underachievers for its lackluster regular season play…and who wants to rally behind that?

It’s fascinating, yet greatly disappointing, how quickly this year’s postseason has lost its luster after all the all the dramatics and thrills from the final two weeks of the regular season through the division series.

If we’re lucky, we might get a World Series Game 7, something that would give baseball fans aside from the MLB Final Four cities a reason to care again. But until then, and if a WS Game 7 even happens, what’s there to root for, what reason do we have to care?

Our postseason brackets are busted, our teams bounced. It’s March Madness in October…and the best, it seems, has already come. At the very least, the first weekend was fun.

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Randy Hungry Like The Wolf

By bullpenbrian - October 14, 2011 - 12:45 am Leave a comment.

The postseason is suppose to be reserved for power-arms. But Randy Wolf, a soft-tossing lefty, dominated St. Louis in Game 4 to keep Milwaukee’s World Series hopes alive.

Honestly, I didn’t think Wolf had seven innings of two-run baseball in him. Not after surrendering seven earned runs to Arizona in the NLDS, which came on the heels of 10 runs allowed in 11.2 innings of his final two starts of the regular season.

But despite allowing two early solo home runs, Wolf settled down to retire 13 of his final 15 batters while keeping St. Louis hitless with RISP–The Cards finished the game 0-for-8 in that category and remain 0-for-15 after the first inning of Game 3.

For Milwaukee this October, it’s finally a starting performance that’s postseason worthy.

Game 5 starter, Zach Greinke, has allowed 16 hits and 10 runs for a 8.18 ERA over two starts. Shaun Marcum: 14 hits, 12 runs, and a 12.46 ERA in two outings.

Yovani Gallardo has been the most steady hand, but unimpressive for a staff ace: 18 hits in 19 IP, 8 walks, and 2 HR in three outings.

Even with the NLCS now a best-of-three series, the Brewers staff better find another Wolf-like performance in them. Otherwise, Randy’s gem could be the lasting highlight for a brilliant Brewers season.

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World Series Set, Almost

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2011 - 2:30 pm Leave a comment.

Get ready for a St. Louis-Texas World Series.

I’m speaking ‘unofficially,’ of course, but that’s where the LCS’s are headed.

Texas has the all too commanding 3-1 lead over Detroit. And even with the Tigers throwing Justin Verlander in Game 5…at best they’ll need him to come back on three days rest for a potential Game 7 in Arlington.

The Rangers’ bullpen, more so than its potent lineup, has been the difference maker. The relief corps allowed just a single run through 15 innings of the first three games–and one run in Game 4. Simply, Lights. Out.

Meanwhile, back in St. Louis…the Cardinals and Chris Carpenter withstood Milwaukee’s best chance to gain the series winning Game 3, 4-3.

For all intents and purposes, Yovani Gallardo lost the game, and perhaps the series, in the first inning allowing the first five Cardinals to reach base. Four of those runners scored–and that was that.

Cards win game. Cards take 2-1 series lead.

In fact, the Cardinals bullpen retired the last 12 Milwaukee hitters in a row and allowed just a single base runner from the fifth inning on. Sound familiar, Detroit fans?

Now St. Louis feasts on Randy Wolf in Game 4, coming off a 7 ER performance in his NLDS start vs. Arizona. And for dessert, a tasty treat of Zach Greinke and his 9.00 postseason ERA in Game 5.

The Brewers have lost eight consecutive postseason games on the road. They don’t beat the Cardinals in Milwaukee, and now they have to take 3 of 4 to win the series.

Not impossible, but not likely either.

St. Louis vs. Texas. Who knew?

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Cards Brewing Another World Series

By bullpenbrian - October 11, 2011 - 1:50 am 2 comments.

The Milwaukee Brewers are in big-time trouble.

Despite the major’s best home record during the regular season (57 wins), Milwaukee hasn’t figured out how to beat St. Louis at Miller Park, especially when it counts.

The Cards’ dominating 12-3 win in Game 2 is crucial not only because it ties the series 1-1, but because it swings the momentum heavily in St. Louis’ favor with the series shifting to Busch Stadium for the next three games.

Winning road games has been the Brewers’ Achilles heel all year (39-42), as was evident during its two losses at Arizona during the NLDS.

To make matters worse, Chris Carpenter, fresh off a complete game shutout against the Phils and publicly disrespected by Zach Greinke, goes in Game 3 against the Brewers top-gun Yovani Gallardo, who appears the Brewers last hope to send the series back to Milwaukee.

Although a single victory for the Brewers in St. Louis returns the series back to Miller Park, you can forget any notion of a home-field advantage for the Beer Makers.

The Cardinals have won 7 of its last 9 meetings against the Brewers in Milwaukee, including a tense 3-game sweep during the first week of September that propelled St. Louis to its historic 10.5 game comeback against the Braves to win the Wild Card.

So it seems unlikely Milwaukee would win consecutive games at home against St. Louis, especially under the pressure of a Game 6 & 7.

In all likelihood, advancing the to the World Series for Milwaukee means winning its upcoming road trip. How’s that for home-field advantage.

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NLCS Poll

By bullpenbrian - October 10, 2011 - 1:01 am Leave a comment.
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