By Claire Reclosado-Baclay
The starting pitching performance by the San Francisco Giants in the postseason is not what got the team to the playoffs. When none of the starters were able to get into the 6th inning during the NLDS, it was easy to blissfully shake that statistic off once the team got past the Cincinnati Reds and into the NLCS.
When the same thing happens in Game 1 of the NLCS and results in a 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, something needs to change.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn only went 3.2 innings, but Giants starter Madison Bumgarner matched that inning total. Difference was, in Lynn’s short outing he gave up four earned runs, while Bumgarner gave up two more.
For the first time in LCS history, neither starting pitcher completed four innings.
Giants catcher Buster Posey mentioned the differences he’s seeing in Bumgarner’s performance now compared to when he was more effective, “[He’s] struggling with command, breaking balls not getting buried in—it doesn’t have quite the same finish on it, I’d say that’s the main thing.”
On Wednesday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy admitted that the players “are going to have a hiccup now and then” and had “all the confidence in the world in Madison to go out there and pitch like he’s been pitching all year and has thrown well, and hopefully just giving us a chance to win.”
The problem was, as with the most of the other starters’ performances in the postseason, they haven’t been able to shut the opposition down.
“We had our guy out there,” Bochy said. “He just didn’t have his good stuff and made a couple of mistakes.”
While Bochy emphasizes that Bumgarner remains “one of our guys,” he also says that the 23-year-old’s status as Game 5 (or even 4) starter “is something that we’ll discuss.”
Discussions about which pitcher starts what game has been the norm, it seems. With Tim Lincecum having strong innings in relief, it was expected (and hoped for by fans) that there would be a return of The Freak to the starting rotation. Today, he was called upon once more to help save a starter who couldn’t go the distance and, as he has been, he did well.
Bochy said he was probably not going to use him again tomorrow, but then followed it up by saying, “But if I had to use him, he is probably the most resilient arm we have on the club, as far as bouncing back.”
This strategy is unconventional, but one that the team is sticking to. Bochy is tight-lipped about who will start Game 4, not committing to starting Barry Zito or Lincecum, but just saying the team has “options.”
Following the game on Sunday, Lincecum said he felt fine and that he would be able to start “if they needed” him to and that at this point he is the most confident that he has been all season.
“Yeah, I feel confident right now, just because I think you have to be at this,” Lincecum said. “You can’t go out there with doubt in your mind just because every pitch is that much more crucial, that much more important.”
That confidence has been apparent every time he stepped on the mound in the playoffs. Whether it will be seen in a starting role has yet to be determined.
San Francisco hopes to begin a streak of quality starts from their starters tomorrow with Ryan Vogelsong.
In the second half of the regular season, Vogelsong’s ERA doubled, mainly because of his struggles down the stretch. In his NLDS Game 3 start, however, he was able to go 5.0 innings while allowing only one run on three hits.
“It was a lot of mechanical things. Just kind of got out of whack a little bit and just kind of snowballed on me, mechanically got off a little bit and then started to try a little bit too hard,” Vogelsong said as he explained his late season issues. “I said last time, I don’t like to put luck involved in the game most times, but I did have a little bad luck here and there in a couple of games. And everything just kind of happened at one time there, and just took me a little while to get back on track.”
Though the Giants showed the world that anything can happen in the postseason with their NLDS win, they would still like to even up the series one game apiece by the time they travel to St. Louis.
“Tomorrow’s big. I’m sure Vogey will be ready,” Posey said. “I’m excited about him being on the mound.”
Claire Reclosado-Baclay is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco Giants. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.