2016 SF Giants – Baseball Is A Game Of Centimeters

2016 SF Giants

If football is a game of inches, baseball must be a game of centimeters.

If you were paying attention closely to the regular season and the way these the Giants and Cubs played each other (the last six games between the two teams have been decided by one run), tonight’s game wasn’t a surprise. It was a pitcher’s duel of epic proportions. Johnny Cueto and Jon Lester dueled evenly for 7 1/3 inning. It was a game of top this between the pitchers. Lester and Cueto were throwing strike after strike with very little solid contact coming off the bats of the opposing hitters.

Both offenses finally got a runner to second base in the fourth, only for Lester and Cueto to buckle down and get ground outs to end the threats. It wasn’t until the bottom of the eighth that there was another threat. But that threat was a huge one named Javy Baez. Baez, who was wearing some sweet Jordan 1 cleats, already had one of the two hits against Cueto with a base hit in the fifth. Kris Bryant was the other with a double in the fourth. After the game, Baez told beat writers that he was thinking about bunting in the eighth. But the Giants thought so too and played him so. Instead, he hit one out of the park, pimped it, and had to be relieved that it barely made it in the basket, right above Angel Pagan’s perched glove.

If football is a game of inches, what is baseball?

In the top of the ninth, with the Cubs leading 1-0, Aroldis Chapman replaced Lester. Chapman is about as automatic as it gets these days (apologies to Zach Britton who is still waiting to pitch in the AL wild card game). The only real chance the Giants had against him was to hope that the adrenaline was pumped to the max and he’d be wild.

Gorkys Hernandez led off the top of the ninth and worked a 3-2 count against Chapman. Chapman threw a fastball that was clocked over 100 MPH, but was wide left. Hernandez, clearly in protect mode, started to swing, but checked it, without the bat head crossing the plate. Unfortunately for Hernandez (and fortunately for Chapman), the first base umpire Alan Porter missed the call and he said that Hernandez did in fact offer at the pitch.

(By the way, Bochy was tempting fate by starting Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson in such a big game. Neither guy did anything offensively, but both played stellar defense.)

You can look for yourself. Baseball must be a game of centimeters.

Next, Eduardo Nunez pinch hit for Brandon Belt who had no chance all night against Lester and probably would’ve had just as terrible of a time against Chapman. He worked a good at bat as well, but when he punched one to the right side, he couldn’t run hard stemming from his hamstring injury and was thrown out.

That brought up Buster Posey who was 5-10 off Chapman before the at bat. He immediately doubled into the ivy for a double. That made Giants fans harken back to Hernandez’s at bat, feeling that if he was on first, he’d have scored on Posey’s double. However, if Hernandez is on first, Nunez moves him to second and rather than pitch to Posey, Joe Maddon has Chapman walk him to get to Hunter Pence. So, I don’t think it would’ve quite happened that way.

With Posey on second as the tying run, Pence took two fastballs on the outside part of the plate for strikes. I’m not exactly sure what he was looking for. He couldn’t have been thinking Chapman was coming in on him. Everyone throws him away. Eventually, Pence swung and hit one softly to second, like he’d done twice already though one of them was for an infield hit, and the game was over. The Cubs out-Giantsed the Giants in the first game of the NLDS and now, the Giants have to win at least three out of the next four to continue even year status.

Posey was the center of attention (and the topic of Bay Area sports radio Friday night) in the 4th inning. Posey singled with one out. With two outs, Pagan hit a ball to left that fell in front of Ben Zobrist. Zobrist tried to make a sliding catch, but missed it and didn’t even trap it. It rolled underneath him and slowly got away from him. Many thought Posey should’ve scored on the play since with two outs, he’s running on the play. However, Posey and third base coach Roberto Kelly judged correctly.

Firstly, Posey has to stay on second if in fact Zobrist traps it. He has to hesitate to make sure and once he was sure, he went on to third. And let’s just be honest, let’s just be real. Posey’s too slow to even come close to scoring on that play, even if he didn’t hesitate around second.

While I don’t fault Posey for that one at all, the base running was a major issue for the Giants early on. In the first inning, Hernandez pushed a bunt toward second base. Anthony Rizzo fielded it and threw to Baez, even though it was clear that Hernandez was going to be safe. Rather than concede the play, Baez did a weird slide in which he trapped Hernandez’s ankle between his leg whip and the bag. Hernandez shook it off, but soon thereafter tried to steal second base and was thrown out by catcher David Ross by a country mile.

Ross, one of the heroes of the game for the Cubs, also picked Conor Gillaspie off first base after he singled to lead off the third inning. Joe Maddon put on a weird shift since Johnny Cueto was up and was going to bunt. He had Rizzo halfway between home and first and Baez technically became the first baseman. They didn’t have a player where the second baseman normally would be. Cueto squared to bunt, but took the pitch. Gillaspie took an extra step in his lead toward second and couldn’t get back to the bag in time by the time Ross whipped it toward first. Baez made the quick tag and he was out.

Lester and Cueto were marvelous. Javy Baez got into one. Gorkys Hernandez couldn’t check his swing, according to first base umpire Alan Porter. And the Cubs are two wins away from the NLCS.

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