The San Francisco Giants face the St Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium in St Louis tonight. Game time is slated for 7 PM local time (8 PM EDT). The Giants must win tonight to stay alive in the series after last night's 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the defending world champions.
Every now and then a team goes through one of 'those' games: a stealthy but unmistakable feeling of foreboding creeps into the early innings, followed by a steady series of small incidents which add to the air of impending doom, and finally a full-scale off-come-the-wheels meltdown halfway through the affair, in which we either shake our heads and wonder if this is the same bunch we saw play with such confidence a couple of days ago, or we turn off the television in sudden weary disgust. It was all on full display here at Stormy Acres last night, and if things don't change pronto this is likely the next-to-last missive you, dear readers, will enjoy until midwinter.
Tim Lincecum started, along with batterymate Hector Sanchez replacing Brandon Belt in the lineup, and he pitched three strong innings in which he allowed no runs and only two baserunners. Unfortunately, those were the second through fourth innings. In the first and fifth, he surrendered four runs on six hits and thereby took the loss. The game was a microcosm of Lincecum's unhappy season. He pitched from the stretch position throughout, and that tells us his off-season mission will be to completely tear down, analyze, and then rebuild the eccentric, effective motion and delivery that earned him his nickname and won him two Cy Young awards. We may get an idea next year whether we've got the next Juan Marichal or the next Mark Fidrych here.
Hunter Pence, whom we suggested Bruce Bochy bench for his late inability to hit, provided the Giants' entire offense through eight innings when he ripped a 0-1 fastball from Adam Wainwright into the left-field seats in the second. The Cards' one-time ace had few problems with the rest of the lineup, however; unlike the previous night the Giants managed only six hits, didn't draw a single walk, and consequently left few on base. Pablo Sandoval had one of those hits, a towering two-run homer in the top of the ninth off reliever Fernando Salas that perhaps-- perhaps-- will provide a little momentum going forward. Grasping at straws, we are.
Bright moments were few; Angel Pagan's leaping catch at the center-field wall to rob Yadier Molina of a homer in the third (accompanied by some emphatic body language from Lincecum), Sanchez gunning down Pete Kozma on a second-inning steal attempt, Javier Lopez' quiet ninth inning after the Giants' bullpen had turned the game into a rout over the middle frames. George Kontos, Jose Mijares, and Guillermo Mota all decided to have their 'bad' night on the same night; the sixth and seventh were so unspeakably ugly we gave up and switched over to the 49er game, amid comments about "slaughter rules" and other delightful topics.
With Madison Bumgarner's 23-year-old arm clearly tired after a full-season load, Bochy has tabbed Barry Zito for tonight's start. No doubt some of you are already waving the white flag and e-mailing the team website with a reminder that the forfeit score in baseball is 9-0, but from our perspective there's little to worry about. Zito was lousy in his last start at Cincinnati, true, but the Giants did win the game, and regardless, we're faced with the truth. After six years and over a hundred million dollars, and at least a hundred million critical comments from fans and detractors alike, for the first and perhaps the only time the Giants' fortunes for the entire year rest squarely upon the shoulders of the Man Who Broke the Bank at San Francisco. Go Barry Z, and go Giants!