World Series #2: Series Gets Serious

World Series Giants Royals BaseballKansas City scored five runs in the sixth in which the Giants used five pitchers. Call it a Royals Flush. A night after the Giants won the battle of aces, the Kansas City Royals turned their doubters into jokers as they rolled to a 7-2 win in Game 2 to even up the World Series. Missouri is the Show Me State, so it is fitting to ask what the Royals showed us Wednesday night. No. 1, they have speed, as demonstrated when Lorenzo Cain scored from second on a bullet single to left field. Few runners would even think about heading home on that play. Some of the post-game analysis said Cain only tried it because inexperienced left fielder Travis Ishikawa doesn’t possess a powerful arm. Fact is, Cain could have beaten a speeding train to home plate. No. 2, the Royals can whack the ball around the yard, as they demonstrated in their sixth-inning offensive assault. No. 3, the flame-throwing bullpen trio performed up to the hype. And most interesting, they  were supposed to be the ones to crack on the big stage against the post-season tested Giants, yet it was a Giant who completely lost it in a nationally televised tantrum that surely embarrassed his veteran teammates.

Despite the dominating defeat, Giants fans should not despair. The Royals victory sets the stage for one of the grandest weekends in San Francisco baseball history. The Giants won the World Series of 2010 and 2012 on the road. Orange and Black Nation can now dream about a sweep, a Sunday clincher at home and a parade next week. AT&T Park is the biggest, longest-running party in the country with daily sellouts in one of baseball’s all-time environments, and the place will be revved up Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Of course, Giants fans shouldn’t get too carried away — some precipitation could affect play, and this pesky Royals club is good enough to rain on the Giants parade

Bring the broom: Here is  the recipe for a Giants sweep. The big concern now is the bridge between the starters and the back end of the bullpen of Sergio Romo in the eighth and Santiago Casilla in the ninth. The ineffectiveness of Jean Machi and Hunter Strickland in the game-changing sixth in relief of starter Jake Peavy raises legitimate concerns about the ability of the Giants middle relief corps to hold down the Royals if a starter lasts fewer than six innings. Here’s how the Giants should plan for the next three games: Game 3 is a Tim Hudson-Yusmeiro Peitit show. Hudson needs to survive at least five effective innings, and Petit can carry it for three innings and hand it off to Casilla. Ryan Vogelsong needs to go a minimum, six, maybe seven, and it’s all hands on deck to close it out. That puts game 5 in the hands of Madison Bumgarner.

Triple threat: The HDH bullpen, as they call them in Kansas City, lived up to expectations. Kelvin Hererra hit 100 mph in 1-2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Wade Davis threw a perfect inning in the eighth and closer Greg Holland struck out the side in the ninth. Untouchable? Their appearances came with the Royals in command, so they were pitching with a big margin for error. Looking forward to seeing them work against the Giants in a tight game where one mistake can be costly.

Blame Bochy? Just about every post-season move has turned to gold for Giants manager Bruce Bochy. The exception is reliever Hunter Strickland. Bochy can’t stop believing in Strickland despite the overwhelming evidence against him. Strickland came in for the fateful sixth, and threw a wild pitch and followed that by allowing a two-run double to Salvador Perez and a two run-homer to Omar Infante, his fifth big fly of the post season. Strickland’s tirade at himself appeared to also be directed to the Royals, who responded by coming onto the field. Bochy needs to sit him down with battery mate Buster Posey for some advice on how to act like a big leaguer. Still, knowing Bochy, I wouldn’t be surprised if Strickland ends up recording some big out before this one is over

Timmy: Tim Lincecum looked good, retiring five batters before breaking down with some type of back strain. I can’t help wonder whether the long non-activity contributed to the strain, as he tried to show his team that he could still get outs. For a moment, it looked like the old Timmy, face of the franchise, and Giants fans couldn’t help but fantasize seeing him come in to save the day at AT&T. Now one is left pondering whether Lincecum just threw his final pitch as a Giant if he can’t physically compete in this series. Lincecum has played the loyal teammate through his non-use in the post season, but there has to be some resentment inside, especially when he sees Bochy continually going to Strickland over him with mostly awful results. Lincecum is still on the payroll next year, but would he and the Giants really want to keep the relationship going if the club is afraid to use him? Final thought on Lincecum: If he had been brought in to relieve Peavy, would he have kept the Royals from scoring at all? Based on what Lincecum showed when he did pitch, the score would have stayed at 2-2 and they might still be playing.

Speed kills: The Royals haven’t been able to unleash their speed game yet. Posey even gunned down Alcides Escobar in the first. Kansas City should be aware that history shows the Giants will resort to dirty tricks to control base runners. The Royals topped the AL in stolen bases with 153, led by Jarrod Dyson (36), Escobar (31) and Cain (28), The Dodgers of 1962 led the NL with 198 steals, led by Maury Wills with a record 104. The Giants grounds crew created a sand  pile at first in a July game to slow runners, and followed that up a month later by over-watering to make a mud puddle at first. The ploy worked as the Giants bogged down the Dodgers running game, and went on to edge them out for the pennant.

Sunday celebration: Fans at AT&T will be ready for a party weekend and possible party Sunday night. But while the Champagne awaits a possible clincher, the Royals sobered the Giants crowd in Game 2. This team can pitch, catch, run and hit, and it’s hard to create a scenario that doesn’t have the teams heading back to Kansas City after hard-fought weekend at AT&T.


World Series #1: K.C. Succumbs to Bum

World Series Giants Royals BaseballIt was fitting that a game that included a panda and a moose would turn on “Big Game” James Shields being felled by Hunter Pence. World Series? It was more like the Wild Kingdom. This is supposed to be an evenly matched series on paper, as they say. Well, look out Kansas City because I think the Giants packed the paper shredder. This was billed as a David vs. David battle. All the Goliaths had already been slain, ie the Nationals, Cardinals, Orioles and Tigers. These games were expected to be decided with a slingshot, but the Giants showed up with a bazooka. Kansas City here we come? More like Kansas City here we come to conquer. All the visiting sportswriters keep drooling about Kansas City barbecue. After their 7-1 Game 1 loss to the Giants, some might be ready to stick a fork in the Royals already.

No doubt the Royals are consoling themselves with the fact that Madison Bumgarner can’t pitch in Games 2, 3 and 4. That is a sound way to look at things, since the rest of the rotation — Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong — are not likely to dominate. But does that matter? In a month that ends with Halloween, the Giants are becoming the scariest thing in October. The Giants have won 16 of their last 18 post-season games. If the Giants win three of the next six games, they will join company with the St. Louis Cardinals of 1942-44-46 as the only National League clubs to win three World Series in five years. The Giants now go to the World Series every other year. The Royals haven’t been there since 1985, meaning their next trip will come in 2043.

Bumgarner is likely to be retired at his ranch by then, but the record books and those who are witnessing his performance on the big stage are going to have quite a story to tell. His scoreless streak in his first 21 innings of World Series play is only topped by Giants legend/Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson. Bumgarner had a post-season road scoreless streak of 32-2/3 innings, He already has six post season victories. So with MadBum on the mound for Game 1, Giants fans weren’t too worried about the man they call James “Big Game” Shields. In fairness to the Royals ace, he does not refer to himself that way. It’s a label that friends gave him in high school. So I feel kind of sorry for him. Sort of how I’ve always felt about a player from the early 1900s called “Home Run” Baker. Talk about creating high expectations every time you got up to bat.

Shields recorded only nine outs, allowed seven hits and left with the score 4-0, Pablo Sandoval drove in one run with a double in the first, and Pence rocketed one over the right center-field fence for two more. Pence figured into the scoring again in the fourth with a double, scoring on a single by DH Michael Morse. On this night, Shields was no “Big Game” James Worthy, the NBA legend with the same title. Nor was he even James “Big Game” Smith, a professional wrestler. Yet, Bumgarner was so country hardball tough on this night that he might have beaten Worthy in a one-on-one matchup or even body slammed the 6-2, 327-pound Smith. In Kansas City on Tuesday night, it appeared that everyone would succumb to Bum. And one more MadBum observation. Two balls were driven right back at him. He grabbed one and knocked the other down for outs. These defensive gems should not be quickly dismissed. When I’ve seen video of pitchers who were drilled by line drives in the head area, almost  every one shows a pitcher  whose follow through makes them totally vulnerable to a violent come-backer. Bumgarner finishes his delivery with his glove out front and in perfect balance. Other pitchers couldn’t match his stuff, but they would be wise to learn how he defends himself.

So is the World Series over?

The Royals can’t be written off, having gone 8-0 in the post-season to get to the World Series. But they didn’t even come close to playing their game in the opener. The Royals led the major leagues with 153 stolen bases, yet couldn’t even make an attempt because they had such few base runners. The Royals are known for defense, having committed just three post-season errors, and yet outfielder Nori Aoki misplayed Joe Panik’s single into a triple. The Royals boast of a bullpen trio of set-up men and a closer who take it personally if a batter even reaches first base, but they never got into Game 1. So the Royals and their fans can make their case for a turnaround.

But they may be dealing with more than just another good team.

In 1972, author Roger Kahn wrote a book titled “Boys of Summer” that told the story of Dodgers players before and after Brooklyn won its first and only World Series championship in 1955. Forget that this was about the Dodgers, Giants fans. The powerful book, one of the best ever about baseball, was about nostalgia and passion for the game. The Giants of 2010, 2012 and 2014 are headed for a powerful place in baseball history if they can successfully hunt down their prey in this World Series. The Boys of October may be on the verge of something very special.

World Series is better than Super Bowl

IMG_1114My first recollection of the World Series was in 1959, when the Dodgers played the White Sox. The Series games those days were played around 1 p.m. local time, so I remember getting home from school just after three with the Dodgers leading 9-3 in Game Six and just three outs from winning the championship. My friends were in front of my house yelling at me to come out and play touch football, but I kept stalling. It wasn’t until the Dodgers dominating closer Larry Sherry got  Chicago’s Luis Aparicio to fly out to Wally Moon in left to start the celebration that I joined my friends.

I was only eight, but I had already chosen the World Series over football.

As a I look forward to the start of the 2014 World Series in two days between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals, I haven’t changed my preference. In fact, I can comfortably say that watching the World Series is better than watching the Super Bowl. I know that sets me apart from my fellow Americans. Last year’s Super Bowl was watched by 108.4 million in the USA. A per game average of 15 million watched the 2013 World Series. The Giants-Royals are likely to dip even lower. The 2012 Giants-Tigers World Series drew an all-time low audience of 12.7 million average per game.

Now I should probably toss in a disclaimer that I’m not down on football. I’ve watched every Super Bowl on TV, starting with the first one on Jan. 15, 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. That was so long ago that they didn’t even call it the Super Bowl then — it was more modestly labeled the AFL-NFL Championship Game. I love football, and always look forward to the next Roman numeral showdown.

So let’s break it down, as the analysts say, and explore why the World Series is better than the Super Bowl.

1. Condensed hype: Baseball allows as little as two days between the two league championship series and the World Series, although the time can be stretched out a couple days if the league series ended in fewer than seven games. The NFL has a two-week gap. Among the big events the NFL schedules to keep their fans interested during this time is Media Day, which is more painful than a knee injury. Baseball keeps the momentum in its post-season going, and that can possibly affect the games. For example, if a team had to go seven in the league series, it may have had to use up their ace, while the team that swept their series would be able to have their rotation totally rested.

2. Pregame show: The World Series pregame starts at 4:30, 37 minutes before the first pitch. The Super Bowl pregame starts so early, farmers wake up the roosters when they turn it on before dawn. The baseball pregame sets up the actual matchup. The NFL pregame is about as interesting as the Pro Bowl.

3. Best of seven: The World Series is a good book, read slowly, savoring every word. The Super Bowl is a one-game Tweet. The Series can last up to nine days, with two for travel and seven for games. Each game is a new chapter, with a new storyline. National media has been writing that the Giants are lucky to have gotten this far. But luck has little to do with who wins the World Series. The Series is a mental and physical endurance test. The teams have played up to 175 games to get there, so it’s hard to have a fluke World Series winner. The one-game Super Bowl leaves a lot to luck if the game is close. The World Series also allows for clunkers. While today might be a  blowout, tomorrow may bring a thriller. An early Super Bowl rout not only means that the party host will have a lot of guacamole left over as the guests leave early, but one lopsided score ends the season cold.

4. Getting to know you: The multi-games provide the casual fan who has not followed the World Series teams to get to know about the players’ stories. Did anyone beyond the Bay Area know who Travis Ishikawa was until he won Game Five? I doubt many baseball fans know anything about Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, but they will learn quickly about the man who is greeted from the stands with “Moose” calls, and that foam moose antlers are a big-selling item in the Kauffman Stadium gift store. These are the kind of stories that can be revealed over the pace of a week of games. You’re not going to get that kind of intimacy in the fast-paced Super Bowl telecast.

5. Word from our sponsor: Unless the Clydesdales are involved, I’m not interested in the Super Bowl ads. They don’t even wait for the game anymore. Now you can view the commercials online days before the kickoff. Quick, name one memorable commercial from a World Series game. When an inning is over, there is time to review what just happened and look ahead to who is up next and who might come in to pitch. There’s no time to talk football strategy for fans during Super Bowl breaks. We gotta watch some potato chip ad instead.

6. Take me out to the concert: The game is second billing to casual football fans, with many of the millions who have TVs tuned to the Super Bowl more interested in the moves of the performers in the halftime concert than the moves of the wide receivers. The NFL extends halftime for a pop song concert, underscoring the fact that this day is really not just about football. The World Series only interrupts play for “God Bless America” and Take Me Out To the Ballgame” in the seventh. The Royals’ hit theme song was written by a Christian music artist and the Giants play a recording of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” by Tony Bennett after a home victory. The NFL holds its hand on the bleep button as Madonna sings “”Sexy and I Know It.” Baseball let’s the music roll, confident that the Christian guy won’t have a wardrobe malfunction.

7. Parties and pools: I’d rather watch the Super Bowl alone so I can focus on the inside-football part of the game, but invariably get corralled into going to a Super Bowl Party. That is the worst place to watch the game, and I usually have to watch a recording later on at home to understand what happened. People don’t have World Series parties. They just watch the game, as revolutionary an action as that is.

8. Everybody in the pool: People at Super Bowl parties aren’t even rooting for a team. They instead are rooting for the score of a given quarter to match up with their square in the pool. I’ve never known anyone who bet on a baseball game (Pete Rose excluded).

9. MVPs: Since 1988, 10 of the 16 Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks. Since 1988, pitchers were the MVPs in just four years, with the rest of the honors shared by position players with the exception of one DH winner. The World Series hero is more likely to be a common-man player rather than a superstar, and no position has an advantage such as the quarterback does. This adds to the intrigue of who will rise to World Series glory?

10. No place like home: This is where baseball really has the advantage over football in sports’ biggest stage. The World Series is played before the home fans, allowing them to watch the team they have supported all season go for the championship. The Super Bowl is played at a neutral site, eliminating the exciting  buzz of home-field crowds, and reminding the ordinary folks who support the team the rest of the season that it’s time for the corporate types and celebrities to take their place in the stands at a stadium far away from their city and price range.

So it’s Play Ball! I’ll be in my easy chair charting every pitch of the World Series, unless some friends show up outside my house wanting to toss the baseball around. Not sure what to do if that happens.






NLCS #5: Goin’ to Kansas City

NLCS Cardinals Giants BaseballMisdemeanor Row turned into Murderers Row as the Giants stunned the Cardinals 6-3 in Game Five to win the National League pennant. The Giants hadn’t hit a homer since Brandon Belt ended the 18-inning marathon against the Washington Nationals on Oct. 4. The odds were that the Giants would finally break out of the big fly slump, and bettors were likely to put their money on Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence as the primary candidates to lead the way. Nobody put their money on the trio of Travis Ishikawa, Michael Morse and Joe Panik to all go deep together, which made one of the most dramatic wins in franchise history even more incredible.

This is the franchise that owns the most famous home run in baseball, Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning three-run homer against the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds in 1951. Thursday night ended with Ishikawa putting his name high on the list of famous franchise blasts. The night began with Ishikawa possibly putting his name high on the list of franchise goats. The Cardinals John Jay hit a line drive to left in the third that appeared catchable. Ishikawa took a step in, momentarily froze, and then came to the sickening realization that the ball was carrying over his head. Jay had an RBI gift double and the Cardinals had struck first for a 1-0 lead. To the credit of Giants fans, there were gasps but no boos. Most understood that Ishikawa is not a left fielder, but that with Morse limited by an oblique injury. manager Bruce Bochy had taken the risk of weakening left-field defense in the post season with the tradeoff of keeping a potentially threatening bat in the lineup.

Ishikawa was not as forgiving of himself as the fans, and said in a post-game interview that when the Giants trailed 3-2 late in the game, he still felt responsible. As it turned out, redemption was just one swing away. Ishikawa batted in the ninth with the score now tied at 3-3 with one out and Brandon Belt at first and Pablo Sandoval at second. Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha came in with a 2-0 fastball, and Ishikawa crushed it. The crowd that stuck with Ishikawa when things went bad went into full bedlam mode for him as the ball sailed into the arcade. I don’t know if this shot was heard around the world, but San Franciscans within 10 blocks of AT&T must have heard the roar.

Ishikawa’s heroics, of course, never would have happened if not for fellow sluggers Panik and Morse.

In an interview with writer Damon Runyan in 1912, New York Giants .300-hitting second baseman “Laughing” Larry Doyle said, “it was great to be young and a Giant.” The 23-year-old Panic would probably second that motion today. The Cardinals were stung by veteran second baseman Marco Scutaro, when the Giants battled back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat St. Louis in the 2012 NLCS. The position delivered another blow to the Cardinals in the 2014 version when Panic slugged a two-run homer in the third off Adam Wainwright to put the Giants in front 2-1.

Madison Bumgarner kept the Giants in the game despite not having his best stuff which was demonstrated when Matt Adams and Tony Cruz blasted home runs in the fourth for a 3-2 Cardinals lead. The game stayed that way into the bottom of the eighth, but even the most diehard of Giants Nation had to see little hope against reliever Pat Neshek. The combination of a baffling herky-jerky motion and heat had Neshek toying with the Giants in games three and four. It took Neshek just 23 pitchers to dispatch the Giants in two innings without allowing a run or hit. But in the eighth of Game Four, it took just one pitch to pinch-hitter Morse to tie the score. Morse, who has been sidelined with the injury through most of September and during the NLDS, hit a wicked, curving shot into the left-field bleachers. If Ishikawa’s homer was one of the all-time Giants game winners, Morse’s clout will go down in club history as one of the most clutch.

The Giants like to say that a big part of their success comes because everyone has everyone’s back, that a real team effort is about one player picking up another. That was the story of Game Five. Panic picked up Ishikawa after the misplay in left, Morse picked up the whole team’s struggling offense with his homer, and Jeremy Affeldt picked up Santiago Casilla in the ninth when the closer uncharacteristically stumbled. And then in the bottom of the ninth, the Giants left fielder went one better. He smoked a home run for the ages, and with that clout, Ishikawa had picked up Ishikawa.

So now they are goin’ to Kansas City, but don’t expect the Giants to continue to put on a repeat of the 1927 Yankees Murderers Row. No, get ready for three-run balks, bases-clearing wild pitches or whatever crazy way you can fantasize about the Giants scoring runs. What is making the next step even more intriguing is the Royals play a similar game. Oh well, the home runs were fun, but here we go back to Misdemeanor Row. Would the Giants Faithful really want it any other way?

NLCS #4: Don’t Call Giants Lucky

NLCS Cardinals Giants BaseballThe evening began with Barry Bonds throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for Game Four of the National League Championship Series. Giants fans roared out their love for the man who built their ballpark and created so many electrifying moments with his soaring game-changing home runs. But that was so 2003. For the 2014 post-season Giants, it might have been more realistic to have the first ball thrown out by little Matty Alou, one of best bunters and contact batsman in S.F. Giants history. The Giants, now a win away from heading to their third World Series in five years after rope-a-doping the Cardinals again 6-4, have not only sworn off the big fly, but seem to have little regard for scoring runs by getting base hits. The Giants still haven’t hit a homer in the NLCS, and they’ve made an art form of bringing a run home without the batter getting a hit. The Bonds era was terrific when He came to the plate, but you’ve got to keep an eye on all 25 of these characters on the 2014 version of the club because you never know where the next game-changing moment is going to come from.

The Cardinals jumped all over an ineffective Ryan Vogelsong, finishing off the Giants usually rugged post-season starter with an old-fashioned homer by Kolten Wong for a 4-1 lead in the fourth. This is the kind of blow that usually takes noisy home crowds out of the game. Not so this time for three reasons: (1) They’ve seen their team enough in the post season to know that something weird and positive is likely to happen; (2) Secret weapon Yusmeiro Petit was warming up in the bullpen and had the track record of being able blank the opposition, and for proof of that you can contact the Washington Nationals; and (3) People come to AT&T for the party as well as the game and as long as the garlic fries, beer and Irish coffees are being served, no one is really going to let their daubers down until the seagulls start circling late in the game when all hope is lost.

AT&T is equipped with pretty much everything you’ll need except a phone booth, but somehow the Giants part-time starter/long reliever had found a place to change into his Superman costume, and when Petit arrived on the mound the whole place was ready to sing “When the Lights Go Down on the Cardinals.” Petit didn’t disappoint, striking the side out in the fourth and hurling three shutout innings. The Giants, meanwhile, scored runs the more traditional way on RBI singles by Buster Posey and Hunter Pence to cut the lead to 4-3 in the third.

Then came the zany sixth. Some have been saying that the Giants are just downright lucky in the way they score runs, and would point to the sixth as another example. But on further review these pull-a-run-out-of-the-hat innings have more to do with sound baseball than luck.

First, the Giants are putting the ball in play, striking out only 19 times in four games. Second, they haven’t committed any errors and I can’t recall any mental misplays either. Third, their bullpen has given up just three runs in four games, and all of those came in the Game Three defeat. So the Giants are doing very little to hurt their chances, while forcing the other team to play almost perfect ball. So after a Juan Perez pinch-hit walk and Brandon Crawford single puts two on and none out, Matt Duffy executes a textbook sacrifice bunt to move the runners up to second and third. Then the Giants picked on poor Cardinals’ first baseman Matt Adams. Gregor Blanco rolled a 75-footer that Adams couldn’t get to quick enough to get the speedy Perez at home. Joe Panik continued the abuse with a grounder right at the bag that Adams snared. If he immediately threw to second, he could have started the inning-ended double play. But by touching first, he took away the force at second, and his off-the-mark throw to try to get Blanco was too late. Adams also could have kept a better eye on Crawford at third, who eventually scored on the play. Posey then made in 6-4 with an actual base hit to score Blanco. Was all this bad luck for the Cardinals? Consider this: Would their pinch hitter have placed down such a perfect bunt? And if those two balls were hit to the slick-fielding Brandon Belt, would the Giants first baseman had made better plays to prevent both runs from scoring? I’m voting yes?

Yet, it must be said that there is nothing wrong with the two-run double or three-run homer. The Giants have left 34 runners on base, a huge number for four games. When opportunity knocks, sooner or later you’ve got to the answer the door, and the Giants might be well advised to cash in with a Big Fly or Big Double when the big chance comes calling in Game Five.

Just after the final out in Game Four, most fans rushed to the exits to join in the sea of red lights to negotiate their way home. But a small faction stayed back, soaking in the drama they had just witnessed as Tony Bennett’s “I left My Heart in San Francisco” drifted through the mostly empty stands. We’ve seen it all at AT&T since 2000, from the highs of the Barry Bonds Show to heartbreaking defeats and lost seasons to the euphoria of two championships. As the final chords of “San Francisco” were sounded, the remaining fans let out one more cheer, filled with confidence because they know that their team is more plucky than lucky, and that it might be enough to kick off a wild party the next night when they returned for Game Five.

NLCS #3: Giants Stick It To Cards

nlcsg3Willie McCovey was in the building, and that made the Giants’ 5-4 victory in Game Three even sweeter as they took a 2-1 lead in the National League Championship Series at Candlestick Park. Oh, wait. It was actually AT&T Park, although McCovey might have wondered if he was driven to the wrong building as Candlestick-like winds blasted through the ballpark. The revered Giants legend had been fighting a serious leg infection for weeks in the hospital, and his return became not only a feel-good story, but as it turned out, also triggered memories of one of the craziest weather-related baseball moments in San Francisco Giants history. On July 15, 1960, in a game at Candlestick against the Dodgers, McCovey launched a towering drive to deep right field. Thick fog had been rolling in, and when Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider looked up, the ball had disappeared. Instead of a long out, McCovey ended up at third with a triple. The umpires deemed the fog at that point to be unplayable, resulting in a 24-minute-delay.

McCovey’s triple in the fog may have been topped in Game Three.

This time, it was a towering blast to deep right center by the Giants Travis Ishikawa with the bases loaded that created the chaos. The ball at first looked like it was headed for the seats in the arcade, until the violent crosswind blowing from right to left field took over. Cardinals right fielder Randal Grichuk appeared to be in a fog as the wind confounded his coordinates to put him about 25 feet out of position as the ball now appeared ready to strike near the top of the 24-foot-high brick wall. Yet, he still might have had a shot at a catch if he read that the ball was being carried back into play. Finally, the ball landed somewhat innocently at the base of the wall where many an outfielder had tracked down many a long blasts in this unforgiving area of the ballpark. If the Cardinals lose the series, the iconic moment might be pitcher John Lackey’s frustrating reaction aimed at Grichuk’s misplay. You can talk all night about 25 guys pulling for each other, but when a vet like Lackey shows up a younger player like Grichuk with that type of reaction on the big stage, that is a damaging shot at team chemistry. Lackey should be reminded that Ishikawa’s bolt not only would have been a grand slam in many parks, but would have landed in the stands or smacked high against the wall at AT&T if not for the mini-hurricane.

It was appropriate based on the quirky ways the Giants are scoring runs that even a bases-loaded triple that gave them a 4-0 lead would be tainted.

The pledge: I’m ready to take the Bochy pledge. “I, Joe Konte, will refrain from first or second guessing Giants manager Bruce Bochy as long as wears the black and orange.” Do you care to join me? In Game Three, Bochy makes one minor, minor, minor change in the order, moving Ishikawa to seventh and Brandon Crawford down to eighth. Now, everyone else was looking for a major, major, major move that would have dropped the non-producing Gregor Blanco from the leadoff spot and possibly putting Hunter Pence up there. So of course, Ishikawa delivers the hit of the game from the seventh spot, just as Bochy planned. In the 10th inning of a tied game, weak-hitting Juan Perez twice fails to bunt over Brandon Crawford, but many would argue to have him keep trying. So Bochy takes the bunt sign off and Perez singles to left. Of course. Then up comes Blanco in his leadoff spot, and he puts down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Except Cardinals pitcher Randy Choate, in his hurry to get Blanco at first, throws the ball away, and the Giants win. Just like Bochy planned. So after all that, how am I to going make a case that Bochy erred in leaving tiring starter Tim Hudson in too long so that Grichuk could tie it 4-4 with a shot off the left-field foul pole in the seventh? I can’t. I took the pledge.

Cash grab: Most of the talk about how many millions Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval will pull in when he signs his next contract with somebody focuses on his offense. But The Panda might have snared some extra dollars as well as the ball when he gloved Matt Holliday’s smash down the third-base line in the 10th with a runner on first and two outs. That shot almost certainly would have put the Cardinals in front, and could have affected how the Giants played their bottom half of the inning. Sandoval’s defense has been spectacular much of the second half of the year. Some might envision him signing with an American League team where he could DH, but he’s looking like an everyday third baseman who not only can win a game with his bat, but can save some with the glove.

Memories: Former Giants Jeffrey Leonard, Dave Dravecky and Kevin Mitchell, stars of the 1987 squad, shared the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Game Three. While it was great to see them out there to hear the grateful applause, I’m not sure if Giants fans needed a reminder of that 1987 league championship series against the Cardinals. The Giants led the best-of-seven matchup 3-2, but were shut out in games six and seven. The Giants, in fact, finished the series by going scoreless in the last 23 innings. It was, however, an incredibly close series, as both clubs finished with 23 runs and Cards had just two more hits at 56 to 54.

World Series: Here is a sneak preview of the storylines, assuming the Kansas City Royals advance. If the Giants win, it will be the matchup of the wild-card survivors. If the Cardinals win, the question will be how will they possibly stop the Royals running game with catcher Yadier Molina sidelined or limited because of his injury?

NLCS #2: It’s Time for Timmy

Ball-glove-base-groupThe Giants should have Tim Lincecum throw out the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday afternoon before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. It looks like the only chance for Lincecum to stand on the mound in the post season. The disappearance of Timmy, who would still be a Giants fan favorite even if he gave up all four Game Two Cardinal home runs by himself, is starting to get darned-right strange. What are manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti seeing in his practice bullpen sessions. Is every pitch five feet over the catcher’s glove? Is every serving landing with a thud five feet in front of home plate? Has Buster Posey, who is catching every inning, declared he is not going to catch Lincecum? Doubt that’s it, though we all remember those stories about Hector Sanchez being his favorite catcher, and nobody ever nailed down whether there was anything to any of that.

Lincecum’s whereabouts have become an issue as reliever Hunter Strickland continues to put fans in the bleachers in grave danger by allowing opposing batters to smack missiles right at them. Strickland surrendered two bombs by Bryce Harper that the tape measure wasn’t long enough to measure, and a third, more moderate clout in the NLDS. The UFOs launched by the left-handed Harper off high-heat fastballs convinced the Giants Faithful, as expressed in “What’s Bochy Thinking!” phone calls to sports talk shows, that having Strickland go against power lefties was unacceptable. Bochy, who apparently hasn’t been listening, sent his flame-thrower out there again in the eighth in Game Two to face left-handed Matt Adams with the score tied 3-3. This is the same Adams whose three-run rocket off Clayton Kershaw is the reason the Dodgers got the rest of October off.

Strickland messed around with a few breaking balls which Adams shrugged at while keeping a straight face, knowing that the novice big leaguer couldn’t resist coming in with 97 mph gas. The ball left the yard before Giants fans could say, “Where’s Timmy?” No one was surprised at the result except maybe Bochy and Righetti. Some Giants relievers like Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo have had a special musical selection to greet them when they entered a game. Perhaps Strickland’s should by “Bye Bye Baby.” Now that might be categorized as a cheap shot at the young man who is doing the best he can. Good point. Two years from now, when the Giants return to the post season after sitting out another odd-numbered year, Strickland could well be the club’s overpowering shut-down closer who’ll enter the game to the tune of “Classical Gas.”

But for now, how about giving us a taste of Timmy? One of those street entrepreneurs who sets up shop outside AT&T Park could make enough money to buy a luxury suite for the World Series by making a “Let Timmy Pitch”  T-shirt. Couldn’t make enough of them. C’mon Boch, give No. 55 the ball.

No need to panic: No, this is not the 2,157th Joe Panik pun. The Cards won Game Two with four home runs. Sloppy pitching by the Giants is to blame. The Cardinals certainly might win the series, but they are not going to bash their way to the title. It would have been scarier for the Giants had the Cardinals knocked Giants pitching around for 12 or 14 hits, with three or four doubles or triples. Plus, AT&T, where the next three games will be played, will be a tough place to go deep. Speaking of runs, the Giants will need a double or triple or two in the right situation if they are to win. This reliance on wild pitches, and weak RBI ground outs for most of their offensive output is not likely to be enough over a seven-game series.

Pipe down, Peavy: Am I the only one not finding anything fun or cute from Giants starter Jake Peavy’s constant yelling and talking to himself. I’m finding the act tiresome. He’s not Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, theTigers pitcher from 1976-80 who talked to the baseball. Fidrych’s antics displayed an innocence, and it was hard to not to laugh while watching him carry out his end of the conversation. Fidrych was warm and fuzzy. Peavy is like a Tea Party member at an Obama health-care debate.

Sad injury: The loss of catcher Yadier Molina is a deafening blow to the Cardinals. Giants fans shouldn’t take any satisfaction if Molina can’t play. He is the heart of the Cardinal team, and baseball fans at AT&T could miss out on seeing one of the game’s finest perform. My favorite Molina moment came during the NLDS against the Dodgers. Molina got into it with the Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez, which resulted in the benches emptying for a non-violent waltz on the infield. A little later, Yasiel Puig made a gesture at Molina after striking out, in an attempt to reignite the bad will. The veteran Molina dismissed the young upstart with a wave of his hand, and the humbled Puig walked off obediently to the dugout.

Not fair: He didn’t seem to get much publicity on the post-game coverage, but the highlight of the game might have been Cardinal reliever Pat Neshek’s bullying of Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence in the eighth. Neshek has what might be the most jerky, quick, odd motion of any pitcher, looking like a submarine thrower and ending up as a sidearmer. The Giants sluggers were lost. Neshek went 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA this year. He made the All Star team but was the losing pitcher, so it’s his fault the Cards or Giants won’t have home-field advantage in the World Series. Watching Neshek facing Pence was a weird scene. Neshek’s jumpy delivery and Pence’s perpetual motion batting stance made it look like two guys going one-on-one after downing 10 cups of coffee.

NLCS #1: The Mastery of MadBum

Madison BumgarnerWatching Madison Bumgarner carve up the Cardinals in Game One of the NLCS made me wonder whether major league baseball needs to rethink the process for choosing the MVPs and Cy Young Award winners. Instead of basing the selections on the regular season, has the time come to base the winners on the regular season and the post season. Too radical? Hey, we’re talking about a sport in which the two leagues play by two sets of rules in the World Series (DH in AL park, no DH in NL park). Ten teams now make the post season, and it’s possible for a club to play as many as 20 additional games. The post season is a superb test of the physical and mental talents of the contestants, and serves as a true test of who is the best. And think about this: We award players for the regular season, but there is no reward for the team with the best regular season record. The teams have to prove themselves in the post season to win any honors.

Clayton Kershaw is arguably the MVP, and a cinch Cy Young award winner based on the regular season. But if he’s that valuable, why is he watching the post season from his couch (that is, if he’s watching at all)? I’m wondering whether Bumgarner might have pulled away a few Cy Young votes from Kershaw with his 7-2/3 innings of shutout ball tonight if the post season was figured into the balloting. Baseball’s new commissioner should put this MVP-Cy Young award issue on his agenda.

Shutdown: Bumgarner followed in the tradition of the Giants post-season success in 2010, 2012 and this year of manhandling the heart of the order as the key to winning. The Cardinals two-through-five batters were 0-for-15. The post-season Giants pitching has been so dominant that they have held the opposition to nine runs in 63 innings. Bumgarner’s mastery earned him a major league record of 26-2/3 consecutive shutout innings in road post-season games, erasing the record of 23 innings by former New York Giants pitcher Art Nehf.

Art of pitching: The left-handed Art Nehf, at 5-foot-7, was quite a contrast to the hulking MadBum, but he knew how to get outs. Nehf established his 23-inning mark from 1921 to 1924 in the World Series, since that was the only post-season at the time. Nehf started the streak with a 1-0 shutout against the Yankees in 1921. To preserve the shutout, Nehf retired an ailing Babe Ruth in the 9th, who was pinch-hitting for Wally Pipp. Nehf blanked the Yankees 1-0 again in 1923 to run the streak to 18, with the only run of the game coming on a Casey Stengel home run. Nehf stretched the scoreless effort to 23 by blanking the Washington Senators for the first five innings in the 1924 World Series. The streak ended on a run-scoring groundout, but Nehf held on to defeat Walter Johnson 4-3. Bumgarner might not be through with Nehf yet. Bumgarner has six career home runs. Nehf  had eight, including two in one game. Top that, MadBum!

Candlestick balk: Bumgarner stumbled off the back of the pitching rubber in the seventh with runners at second and third in what appeared to be a balk, but the umpires called nothing. It might have been the biggest stumble off the mound since Giants 5-11, 165-pound reliever Stu Miller was “blown” off the mound in the 1961 All-Star Game at the Stick. Miller came in to face the dangerous slugger Rocky Colavito with one out in the ninth and two on when a powerful gust blasted the field. Miller slightly hesitated, enough for the umpires to call a balk, though urban legend has the wind burst plastering Miller up against the center field fence like a hot dog wrapper.

De-Fence: Drive for show, putt for dough. Defense wins championships. The Giants can’t get enough of the success clichés, except that in their case, the clichés are part of the business plan. Cards’ right fielder Randall Grichuk tried a Hunter Pence-like grab on a scorcher hit by Pablo Sandoval in the second, but the ball squirted out of his glove when he smashed against the wall. Pence held on in similar circumstances. Travis Ishikawa, a first baseman playing left field because the Giants still haven’t found a replacement for Barry Bonds, made an impressive diving grab of a sinking liner off the bat of Yadier Molina in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Cardinals muffed two fielding plays that led to Giants runs.

Personal foul? The Cardinals Kolten Wong bounced one to Brandon Belt who tossed the ball to Bumgarner racing to cover first in the 7th inning. Ball, Bumgarner and Wong all arrived at the bag around the same time and Bumgarner plowed into Wong just after making the tag. In today’s sensitive NFL, Bumgarner probably would have been flagged for unnecessary roughness and fined, but thankfully, physical contact is still permitted on such a play in the grand old game of baseball.

Wrapup: Fox Sports in-game interview with the Giants pitcher Jake Peavy dragged on way too long with no new insight, and was a distraction as the cameras bounced from Peavy to the game. Why do TV baseball producers think we want to watch these say-nothing interviews or kids eating cotton candy instead of the actual game? … Pre-game analysts pondered whether there was a big Giants-Cardinals rivalry. There might be, but interleague play has diluted potential rivalries against any team not in your division. The Giants play the Dodgers 19 times; the Cardinals just seven times, so little chance is left for passions and animosity to build. …The Giants activated Michael Morse for the NLCS in hopes he could get a few swings as a tryout to be the designated hitter in the four games at the American League park. .. The Cardinals added backup catcher A.J. Pierzynski to their NLCS roster. Boos will likely greet him among veteran Giants fans over Pierzynski’s volatile one-year stay with the Giants in 2004. His league-leading 27 double play ground outs earned him the nickname D.P. Pierzynski.

Relentless: A Place for Giants

I was so focused on the games in the National League Division Series that I didn’t even realize the Giants had moved. The day after the Giants dispatched the Nats, I kept reading stories about the series that referred to the Relentless Giants. I’m a California native, but I had no idea where the town of Relentless was located. I finally tracked it down using my GPS and Google maps and discovered that Relentless was in Dogged County, south of Unflinching, and just east of Determined.

The Giants scored nine runs in 45 innings, and won the series in four games. A Nobel Prize mathematics genius couldn’t make those numbers work out to three victories in four games. Pitcher Jake Peavy, who arrives on the mound in a bad mood, set the tone with a gritty five-plus innings start in a Game One Giants victory. Game Two lasted so long that the Nats’ Jayson Werth could have started out clean shaven and still looked like a caveman when it ended. Most teams would have lost it 1-0 in regulation, but the Giants rose from the dead with a ninth-inning score, and then won it nine innings later with a solo homer. Two mistakes on one play — Madison Bumgarner’s unwise and off-target throw to third on a bunt — doomed the Giants in Game Three, and had the whole town of Relentless wondering how their punchless-at-the plate boys were going to stop the Nationals now.

Some call it small ball, the art of manufacturing runs without the big blast. But what happened in Game Four might be better described as mall ball. The Giants just sort of hung around most of the day, browsing the storefronts for some bargain runs. Two runs scored on wild pitches and another on a weak ground ball for a NLDS 3-2 clincher. Chicks dig the long ball, but in Relentless, the gals can’t get enough of those wild pitches.

Still, the Giants might have their backs against the wall today had not Hunter Pence slammed his  against the wall with a spectacular Game Four catch to rob Werth of a possible triple. The catch Willie Mays made in the 1954 World Series is often referred to as the greatest ever, although even Mays has said he made better ones. I don’t know if I’ve seen a better one than Pence’s, not only because of the high stakes but because of his disregard for his own safety with the inevitable crash against the fence.

As in 2010 and 2012, one of the keys to the Giants success in the post season was shutting down or containing big opposing bats. In the 2010 NLDS, the Giants held Atlanta slugger Jason Heyward to 2-for-16 with eight strikeouts. The Phillies’ powerful Ryan Howard struck out 12 times in the NLCS. Texas cleanup man Josh Hamilton went 2-for-20 in the World Series. In the 2012 NLCS, the Giants limited game-changer Matt Holiday of the Cardinals to 5-for-25. It was even worse for World Series foes Detroit, as Prince Fielder went 1-for-14 and Miguel Cabrera was limited to 3-for-14. Against the Nationals, the three-four spots in the order were silenced. Werth hit .059 with a 1-for-17, and Adam Laroche hit .056 with a 1-for-18.

The shutdown of sluggers didn’t apply to Bryce Harper. The Nationals’ 21-year-old left fielder put on a show on the field and at the plate. Two of his three homers came against Hunter Strickland, who gets up to 100 mph. One shot was last seen heading to McCovey Cove, and I assume it has landed by now. After the Game Four wallop, Harper gave the dagger eyes treatment to Strickland as he rounded the bases and then screamed at him from the dugout. A wiser veteran, perhaps manager Matt Williams, apparently straightened him out later, and Harper pretty much offered an apology to the Giants and the entire community of Relentless.

So for the second consecutive year, the Giants meet the Cards in St. Louie-Louie. History says the NLCS will be an even competition. Since the Giants moved West in 1958, they have played the Cardinals 666 times. St. Louis leads the head-to-head series 337-329. The Giants hold the lead in runs scored by just 2,805 to 2,803. Giants fans should brace themselves with the certain-to-come references to the overused phrase The Cardinal Way, used to describe how the organization develops players through its farm system and teaches them winning ways and winning attitudes. Google The Cardinal Way, and you are still getting references to it 20 pages later. Google The Giant Way, and the first three listings are the Giant Causeway, a Northern Ireland tourist attraction of basalt columns formed by an ancient volcano; Andre the Giant; and the New York football Giants.

Well, whatever Way the clubs are using, it is working. For the fifth year in a row, the National League contestant in the World Series will be either the Cardinals or the Giants.

Which raises the obvious question: What happened to the Dodger Way?

The Dodgers’ bubble machine used for dugout celebrations has been put into storage for the long winter after the Cardinals burst their bubble in the NLDS. This was not the plan when the new ownership promised an instant world championship. Injuries to the pitching staff were a challenge to the Dodgers this year, but under Millionaire-Ball, it was always thought that the club would use its cash to fill any need that developed. That didn’t really happen. I wrote back in July that the key to the Giants vs. Dodgers success this season would come down to a faceoff between Buster Posey and Yasiel Puig. Both had the talent to dominate play and carry their clubs. Posey, with a hot September offensive stretch and now with his post-season performance, has been a key in propelling the Giants. The slumping Puig was benched by manager Don Mattingly in Game Four, the most important game in the 2014 Dodgers season.

I would vote for Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw as MVP, but can we cool it with the Sandy Koufax comparisons? In the 1963 World Series, Koufax threw two complete game victories in five days while striking out 23. In the 1965 World Series, Koufax threw two shutouts on two-day rest and struck out 20. I realize Kershaw is not making these comparisons and that he shows great respect for Koufax, but the rest of us need to see Kershaw star on the big stage before we get too carried away with the regular season performance.

Giants fans danced on the Dodgers graves when they heard their rivals were eliminated in the NLDS, but still, a Giants-Dodgers matchup with a World Series berth at stake would have been riveting. Game Six of the NLCS was scheduled for Oct. 18, the 125th anniversary of the first-ever official game between the franchises. The series would not only have been a fierce competition, but also would have served as a glorious celebration of one of the greatest rivalries in sports history.

The Giants would have probably been the underdog to the Dodgers, just as they are to the Cardinals. But the Giants and their fans are not likely to be fazed by that role. That’s just the way the good folks roll in Relentless, Ca., where they can’t wait for a victory parade right down Never Say Die Boulevard.

Grand time in Pittsburgh

To sum up tonight’s NL wild-card game: Giants drink champagne while Pirates swallow a bottle of Bum. Madison Bumgarner’s masterful performance in the Giants 8-0 thrashing of Pittsburgh was not only Kershaw-like, but it was Mathewson-like, a reference to the Giants legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson, who threw three shutouts in the 1905 World Series. Bumgarner was a bummer to Pirates fans, who finished the game having to use the black rally towels to dry the tears. Still, I doubt many good Giants fans took any special glee at seeing the long faces in the stands at PNC Park. Giants fans have many of those disappointing moments over the years. The Giants win might have been a wakeup call to their NLDS foe, the Washington Nationals, and not just because of Bumgarner. The wild-card game Giants look like the post-season 2010 and 2012 champion Giants — lights-out pitching, key hitting and solid defense, and you know the Nats were paying attention. Yet, the Nats aren’t the Pirates. This Giants team faces a tough test in the pitching-rich and offense-rich Nationals. If they get a split in Washington against the Nationals talented one-two starters, it becomes a three-game series with the Giants home for two of the games. And the crucial game three would be placed in the hands of Bumgarner.

Historic slam: I was as dumbstruck as everyone else when it was announced that the Giants’ Brandon Crawford’s grand slam in tonight’s wild card win over the Pirates was the first by a shortstop in post-season history. Here is my story about that pivotal moment in the game. I was watching at work when a colleague with deep knowledge of the Giants stopped by my desk just as Crawford came to the plate with the bases full. I said this would be a good time for a Chuck Hiller moment, and my colleague nodded in agreement. You see, Hiller was a second baseman for the Giants in the 1960s who hit a grand slam against Yankees in the seventh inning of the 1962 World Series to even the series at 2-2. In a lineup with the likes of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, Hiller was the last guy you would figure would hit the base-clearing shot. Crawford has more pop than Hiller, but you still are not asking any more than a single from him in that situation. So when Crawford went deep, my stunned colleague looked at me as if I had just magically channeled Hiller and walked away in wonder after a fist pump.

I was even more surprised when I reviewed the history of Hiller’s slam after the game. Hiller was the first National League player to hit a grand slam in the World Series. Seven others from the American League previously hit slams, starting with right-fielder Elmer Smith of the Cleveland Indians with a blast against Brooklyn in 1920. The next six World Series grand slams were hit by Yankees. Three of the first eight grand slams in World Series play were hit by second basemen, with the others being Tony Lazzeri and Bobby Richardson. Footnote: The winning pitcher in that Game 4 World Series was Don Larsen, just six years to the day when he threw a perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 Series.

Bad vibe: I had an uneasy feeling about this wild-card matchup because of a previous game I attended when Edinson Volquez pitched against the Giants. It was a beautiful Sunday on April 27, 2008, when I went to a Giants-Reds game pitting Volquez against newly acquired Barry Zito. We were barely settled in our seats and the Reds had jumped on Zito for a 6-0 lead after one inning. Volquez threw darts during a seven-inning, 10-strikeout performance in what might have been the most boring baseball game I ever attended. The Giants lineup that day included such no-names as John Bowker, Steve Holm, Brian Bocock and Jose Castillo. Memo to new Giants fans: Your team did not always go to the post-season every other year.

Tenth man: Crowd noise is relevant in football, where opposing fans can drown out a quarterback who is trying to shout out a signal to a wide receiver. It is almost irrelevant in baseball, which is why I laughed at all the attention given to the decibel level the Pirate fans would reach to disturb the Giants. I didn’t see what effect the noise would have unless Jake Peavy tried to get a few winks in the dugout so he could be rested for the opener of the NLDS against the Nationals. Now, I enjoy as a fan the towel-waving and yelling in that situation in a big game, but the baseball knowledge side of me knows it is not going to make a difference. I remember how the 50,000-plus Giants fans screamed and shouted at Dodger outfielder Rick Monday as he came to the plate with the bases loaded in a final weekend key game in 1982. The unfazed Monday shut us all up with a blast into the right-field stands. So enjoy the Yes! Yes! Yes! chants, but don’t think you are really going to influence the game.

Managers: If Giants manager Bruce Bochy is so smart, why did he bring 10 pitchers to the wild-card game? All he needed was Madison Bumgarner and 24 position players. The managerial match is an intriguing part of the Giants-Nationals NLDS. Former Giants favorite Matt Williams is in his first year against the future Hall of Fame manager Bochy. It will be interesting to watch closely to see how this mismatch develops as the series progresses.

Hudson best choice? It appears Bochy is going with Tim Hudson in game two against the Nationals instead of Ryan Vogelsong or Yusmeiro Petit. Hudson has been the least effective of the three in the second half of the season, but Bochy is apparently counting on his veteran presence to rise to the occasion against the formidable Nationals’ offense. Expect a quick hook if Hudson falters

Day Baseball: How good is this? The first two Giants-Nationals games are being played at noon and 2:30 on Friday and Saturday. Day post-season baseball was so special at one time. All the World Series games in the 1960s, for example, were played during the day. Fans had to call in sick, children were kept home from school by parents and workers did their jobs with transistors glued to their ears. Sure, more people could have seen the games at night, but the ingenuity of the public to keep up on the games brought people together and made the national pastime even more special.

Overdue: This could be bad news for Giants. The Nationals franchise, established in 1969 as the Montreal Expos, is the only current National League franchise not to play in the World Series.

Pay the Panda: Pablo Sandoval’s spectacular acrobatic catch and flip over the rail in the seventh was evidence of his athleticism despite ongoing concern about weight. If the Giants don’t sign him, where are they going to find a replacement with his defense, offensive potential and willingness do to whatever it takes to win on the field? That plunge into the stands was Jeter-like in his commitment to win, and what else do you need if you are Giants management than that? .

About the book

book jacket

From New York to California

A celebration

Author Joe Konte celebrates the historic, 100-plus years of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry with a new book, “THE RIVALRY HEARD ’ROUND THE WORLD: The Giants-Dodgers Feud from Coast to Coast.” The book, which is scheduled for release Sept. 3, 2013, focuses heavily on the West Coast rivalry, starting with the arrival of the clubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1958, and ending with an expanded look at the pivotal 2012 season. The book also reports on the East Coast rivalry, starting with the first official game played between the teams in 1889. The book will be available at and at Barnes Noble stores and online sites.

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