Monday, September 5, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 76 60 - Biggest lead of the year.
GIANTS 73 63 3 Seven blown saves for Casilla.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 73 63 - 0-for-8 with RISP yesterday.
St Louis 71 64 - Can put a hurting on Bucs.
New York 71 66 1 Took 2 of 3 from Nats.
Pittsburgh 67 67 3.5 Six straight losses now.

Giants lost at Chicago, 3-2, in thirteen innings, after blowing a ninth-inning lead, thus losing three out of four in the series.
LA defeated San Diego, 7-4.
St Louis defeated Cincinnati, 5-2, New York beat Washington again, 5-1, while Pittsburgh was massacred, 10-0, at home by Milwaukee and Miami dropped off the map with another loss at Cleveland.

Giants at Colorado; 2 PM MDT, 4 PM EDT, their fourth straight daytime start.  Matt Moore against Chad Bettis, whom the Giants beat back in May. Don't worry about the Rockies catching up; they're 11 games out, but they can put a major dent in the Giants' prospects in this series regardless. 
LA stays at home against Arizona.
St Louis moves on to Pittsburgh with a chance to essentially eliminate the sinking Pirates from the postseason mix. Conversely, the Bucs can make up a lot of lost ground quickly if they get off the mat here.
New York is at Cincinnati.

Yesterday's Game
Santiago Casilla's seven blown saves are tied for the major-league lead, and if there's a more tellingly depressing statistic available this morning, we don't want to know about it. The latest fiasco unfolded at Wrigley Field yesterday, after Johnny Cueto had pitched seven stout innings in a good duel with the venerable John Lackey and bequeathed a fragile 2-1 lead to the bullpen. Casilla immediately gave up a leadoff double to Addison Russell, obligingly wild-pitched him to third, and then surrendered an RBI single to Jason Heyward. With the horse now safely galloping down the road, Casilla shut the door on that ninth inning, but few Giants fans would have risked a plugged nickel for the team's chances going into extra innings. A series of relievers-- including the long-lost Joe Nathan, of all people-- held the fort through 12, before the inevitable happened in the 13th, courtesy of Mr Heyward again. Hard to fault loser Matt Reynolds-- the game was lost in the ninth.

The Giants thus drop three games behind LA, with St Louis and the Mets creeping up from behind in the Wild-Card Stakes. All four games of this Cubs series were one-run affairs, all could have gone either way, and the dramatic differences between the two clubs were highlighted. The Cubs have a little more depth and power in the lineup, and they have a lot more depth and reliability in the bullpen. 

Casilla's seven blown saves-- and don't it feel more like seventeen, sport fans?-- are only one more than the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen, but Jansen has converted 41 of 47 (87%) while Casilla is 30 of 37 (81%).   Most of the guys at the top of the list have blown about three or four; only Baltimore's Zach Britton is perfect (40 for 40). No one really expects perfection, but seven blown saves when the standard is three or four equals-- well, it equals three games out of first place in the standings, is what it equals. 

Bruce Bochy is pretty much out of options at this point in the season, especially with the only other viable candidate, Derek Law, on the DL. Sergio Romo, of course, has closer experience, as does Nathan, an All-Star closer for years after we traded him away-- but Nathan is 42, he's pitched a total of three innings in the last two years, and hasn't pitched well since 2013. Add to that the difficulty of finding an assignment for Casilla if he is demoted, and you get the sense that "Boch,", regarding closers, is gonna dance with the gal what brung 'im, even if she does have buck teeth and two left feet.  

Reviewing the top "closers" (pitchers ranked by save opportunities) we see, near the top, Francisco Rodriguez, the once-fearsome "K-Rod" of the then-Anaheim Angels, whom the Giants faced in the 2002 World Series. He was a rookie on that team then, as was yesterday's starting pitcher Lackey. Oddly enough, the former strikeout king now has by far the lowest strikeout percentage of any top closer (44 in 50 innings). Jansen and Aroldis Chapman are the leaders in that department...  Shades of Roger Craig: Ehire Adrianza drove in Eduardo Nunez with a perfect bunt on the suicide squeeze yesterday in the fifth...  Heyward dropped a routine fly ball that led to the Giants' first run, but he more than made up for it by driving in all three of the Cubs' runs... Russell and Anthony Rizzo also had three hits each, but the Cubs stranded 11 runners... Brandon Belt was beaned by lefty Rob Zastryzny in the sixth, but walked it off and stayed in the game... Given the state of the bullpen, it's only right to credit Romo, Javier Lopez, George Kontos, Josh Osich, Corey Gearrin, Steve Okert, and Nathan for four spotless innings of relief.  It was Kontos, Osich, and Gearrin who performed a left-right-left one-inning minuet ably choreographed by Jerome Robbins-- er, Bruce Bochy-- which, among other things, helped stretch the game to its four-hour and twenty-three minute duration.   

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