Game one of this series was a doozy. A great pitching duel with crisp defense and good baseball all around. National League Ball. Again here’s the diagnosis I came up with last year of the Giants’ basic strategy:
1. Starting Pitching Hangs in There, ‘Pen Holds
2. Score Just Enough Runs
3. Play Crisp Defense
4. Take Advantage of Opponents Mistakes
and yesterday, it worked.
Tim Lincecum found himself starting the Braves Series in Atlanta facing the strong lefty Mike Minor, who was making his season debut after enduring several weeks off from baseball due to a urinary tract procedure.
Minor was cleared to play and given a minor league start to ensure he was all right. But in that start he gave up four home runs. Though Braves staff felt he looked good in general, it was a concern. Angel Pagan made sure they stayed concerned, by smashing a homer off him in the lead off at-bat of Game one, Giants up 1-0.
Minor was quick to settle down and rarely gave the Giants opportunities, though when they got them, the G-men continued to fail to plate runners in scoring position. This game would be decided by homers once again – a recurring theme in Giants’ wins this season (credit due to Morse, Belt, Pagan and Posey).
Tim Lincecum hung in there and showed command. He kept the ball down and looked like he was putting it where he wanted it. In the third he threw a pitch down and out and it was popped up into center field. Immediately after the ball hit the bat, Timmy pointed up and looked down, confident the ball wasn’t leaving the park. It showed an increasing confidence in his command.
Tim pitched his way out of jams twice and went six innings, giving up just one run off six hits. He had only four strikeouts, instead relying on his command to generate ground outs and popups. This was what we have been looking for from Lincecum: to turn to other options than a strikeout fastball, to work out the hitter and force him into a 3rd strike mistake like a weakly hit ball.
After Pagan’s homer, Michael Morse added a solo shot to give the Giants the 2-1 lead they would never relinquish, but it was a tense affair.
The Braves stranded 12 runners and were 1 for 9 with RISP. Timmy’s pitching at key moments wasn’t the only reason why. Brandon Crawford provided the crisp defense in this one. He made several good plays and one monstrous one that saved an inning. Crawford slapped down a hard driven liner and picked it up and fired it to first to end an inning and in another made a leaping throw to get the runner. Then there was this gem in the 9th:
Way to go BCraw!
Jeremy Affeldt entered in the 7th and was good again, getting two quick outs, but giving up a hit. Santiago Casilla came in and slowly, his way, picked up the third out and manhandled the 8th inning.
Sergio Romo struggled at the very end of this one again, giving up a walk and a steal. But as Marty said, “He was working.” With two-out and one on in scoring position, and the score 2-1, Giants, Sergio Romo battled with the Braves best hitter Justin Upton.
On a 3-2 count and after several foul balls, Romo froze Upton with a fastball to win it. Dave Flemming made an awesome call, “strike three called on a fastball in-there! and … shades of Miguel Cabrera in the World Series …”
It was a great pitching duel, with only the two home runs given up by the just-returned Mike Minor being the difference.
Brian Sabean looks like a genius right now for picking up Hudson and Morse in the off season. This week they looked AWESOME.
Game Two later today will be considerably tougher for the Giants as they face the Braves’ ace, Julio Teheran (2-1) – a big, hard-throwing right hander who has 26 strikeouts in the young season and boasts a 1.47 ERA.
Pitching for the Giants today, it’s the up-and-down Ryan Vogelsong. It’s very difficult to tell which Vogey we’re going to get nowadays. When he feels steady and gets support he can go six innings, but when he implodes he does so badly. Hopefully Yusmeiro Petit will be available if necessary, but I hate thinking like that.
These games are my favorite kind of baseball – National League pitching duels requiring alculated management, situational hitting and crisp defense. Looking forward to another good one. #RallyEnchiladas #RallyVogey #BeatATL