Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LA               89-68      ...                  Greinke carries the torch tonight.
GIANTS     85-71    3 1/2  GB       It took 13, but it was a huge win.

Pittsburgh   85-71      ...                 Second straight 1-0 shutout win..
GIANTS      85-71      ...                 Won't go quietly, if at all.
Milwaukee  80-76      5  GB          Two more losses will end it.

Giants defeated LA, 5-2, in thirteen innings,
Pittsburgh defeated Atlanta, 1-0.
Milwaukee was idle.

Giants at LA; 7:15 local time. The Big One. Madison Bumgarner versus Zack Greinke.
Pittsburgh is at Atlanta, Milwaukee at Cincinnati.

Last Night's Game
Gregor Blanco's leadoff homer was the only hit the Giants got off Dan Haren, but thanks to some sloppy LA fielding and Jake Peavy's bulldog toughness, it was sufficient to extend the affair into extra innings. The bats came alive then: nine hits in all from the tenth through the thirteenth against five of the eight Dodger pitchers employed by Don Mattingly. But all of them went to waste until Andrew Susac, pinch-hitting for wining pitcher Santiago Casilla, drilled a RBI single in the top of the thirteenth. Blanco-- and what a night he had-- followed with a double to right that scored two more runs before he himself was himself thrown out at third trying to stretch it. Hunter Strickland, a 23-year-old rookie callup, got through the bottom of the frame without incident for his first major-league save.

Blanco, whom we've excoriated as a leadoff hitter this year, did the job last night and then some. His drive to right in the third was misplayed into a three-base error by Matt Kemp, and he then scored the Giants' second run on a sweet little squeeze bunt by Joe Panik. When it became clear that the opening homer was the only hit the team was going to get against Haren, it became Peavy's mission to keep the game close until Haren was out of there. He did-- barely, as LA tied it in the fifth on a homer by Carl Crawford and a double by our old friend, Juan Uribe, who later scored on a sacrifice fly. But keep it close he did, allowing nothing more through seven. Then began perhaps the greatest bullpen performance of the season. Sergio Romo, Jean Machi, Casilla, and Strickland pitched six innings, eight through thirteen, and didn't allow a single baserunner-- no, not one. While the awakened Giants were pounding the LA corps and leaving men on base, these four kept that dangerous Dodger lineup on ice until the inevitable breakthrough. Hats off to those guys; they're as big a reason as any that tonight's game still matters.

Numbers Game
That excruciating sweep at San Diego means the Giants have to sweep this series or the division is lost. Taking the first step last night was huge, and with "Bum" on the hill tonight, things can really get exciting. Of course, "Cy" Kershaw waits in the wings for the finale, and the situation is dire enough that taking two of three in Dodger Stadium, normally cause for celebration,  would leave us right where we are now, three and a half back-- but with only four games to play. The Dodgers would need to lose all three weekend games at Colorado while the Giants would need to sweep San Diego, four straight, at home just to tie and force a playoff. That's how pretty LA is sitting. They only need one win here to essentially clinch the thing. That's how much the San Diego disaster has cost the Giants.

On the wild-card side, things are looking up with each win. Milwaukee really can't afford to lose at all, and the issue now is whether Pittsburgh or the Giants will get home field for that one-game showdown., The Buccos have three more at Turner Field before finishing the season on the road at Cincinnati. The Reds, who are hosting the Brewers in the first of three tonight, thus have a matchless opportunity to be spoilers for two teams-- both of them division rivals.

The NL wild-card showdown is scheduled for next Tuesday.  Looking down the road, the Giants have a decision to make regarding who starts Wednesday. Will it be Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, or a surprise starter from among the September callups?  Yusmeiro Petit and Ryan Vogelsong open the San Diego series at home, with Peavy and Bumgarner, for now, scheduled to conclude it. That would leave the wild-card starting spot wide, wide open-- at the moment. Of course, if things are settled prior to Sunday, Bruce Bochy could hold back Bumgarner for the Pirates. But given the way this nutball season has gone, who would expect things to be "settled" any time at all?

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