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NLCS Game 6 Diary: The Wrath of Khan

In Baseball, Long form on October 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Like modern-day Yorks and Lancasters, Crim Del Harris writers Ian Brickey and Sam Sutton love their baseball teams and (for the next week or so) hate each other.

—Pregame—

There is no joy in Mudville, Mo. after a drubbing by the San Francisco Giants in Game 5. Meanwhile, San Franciscans haven’t been this happy since Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery saved the city from a nuke-wielding Ed Harris.

The Game

Ryan Vogelsong shuts the Cardinals down again, blazing his fastball (of all things) past St. Louis hitters. The Cardinals, meanwhile, do their best Washington Generals impression, giving up a four-run second inning.

SCUTARO: I’ve done far worse than kill you, Carpenter. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her; marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead infield… buried alive! Buried alive…!

CARPENTER: KOZMAAAAAAAAAA!

Final Score: Giants 6, Cardinals 1—

SS:Three quick points:

1. HOLY SH*T THE GIANTS FORCED A GAME 7.

2. I was wrong about Ryan Vogelsong.

When he was going through his August funk, I spent a week dissecting pitch charts, refreshing FanGraphs velocity tables and watching him get shelled (repeatedly) to weak teams (Nationals excluded). My conclusion? He’s 35 years old, he still throws hard, but the league has figured him out. Unless his off-speed stuff is clicking, batters will have no problems picking apart his fastball.

That fastball looked pretty good last night. He consistently hit 93-94 mph on Fox’s radar gun, which is only 3 mph over what he’s averaged all season.

Also, not sure if you noticed this between the booted grounders and three unearned runs (!!!!) the Cards gave up, but Vogey notched a career-high nine strikeouts. He mixed his pitches phenomenally, throwing two- and four-seam fastballs inside and outside, up and down the Cardinals lineup.

I’m not sure what a 94 mph fastball looks like when it’s shooting up toward your hands at the top of the strike zone, but if the Cardinals performance is any indication, it doesn’t look good.

3. Marco Scutaro is the one who knocks.

The 37 year-old Venezuelan journeyman is 11 for 24 in the NLCS. His BA/OBP/SLG split is an astounding .458/.480/.583.

He’s played great second base, and apparently he’s one of the most respected players in the clubhouse. If it weren’t for the fact that he’s 37 years old, I would demand Brian Sabean to give this man all the money. I hope he’s back with a one or two year contract next year, because he’s been a better version of 2010 Freddy Sanchez.

Okay, I’m done. Here’s my question to you: What the hell is up with Chris Carpenter?

No one would expect him to dominant after coming back from the rib-removal surgery, but he pitched very effectively for St. Louis down the stretch. The Giants seem to have his number. Obviously, they’ve benefited from some terrible defense (Kozma has a shot as the Giants’ NLCS MVP if Matt Cain shuts it down tonight), but San Francisco figured him out.

I’d look up stats to back this up, but that sounds like Charlie-work to me.

IB: I am not, nor have I ever been, a Chicago Cubs fan. But as I watched last night’s game, I couldn’t help but feel like one — filled with that overwhelming sense of dread that something is going to go wrong, something TERRIBLE is going to happen.

I was right.

It took less than three hours for the San Francisco Giants to utterly manhandle my St. Louis Cardinals. Ryan Vogelsong managed to fit a quick stop at the Fountain of Youth into his pregame schedule, while Chris Carpenter walked under every ladder, picked up every bad penny, broke every mirror and found every black cat in the Bay area.

Carpenter got himself into trouble early, surrendering a walk and a double in the first inning that gave the Giants a 1-0 lead, but last night was definitely a team loss. Shortstop and tiki idol from the Brady Bunch Pete Kozma misplayed a grounder in the second that opened up a four-run inning for the Giants.

And that’s what really gets me — stupid mistakes that end up costing the game. Since their victory in Game 4, the Cardinals haven’t pitched, haven’t fielded and certainly haven’t hit. When they want to, St. Louis makes losing look really, really bad.

So here we are at Game 7. I’ve always felt that fans don’t really get their money’s worth unless a playoff series goes the distance. With that said, I would much rather have seen a Cardinals victory in Game 5. And what do we have to look forward to? A gimpy Matt Holiday missing his second straight game, Allen Craig (he of the pet tortoise) hitting .150, and the fate of the season resting on the shoulders of Kyle Lohse. Thankfully, I know a bar that runs a happy hour through midnight. I’m sure I’ll be there, regardless of the outcome.

SS: That e-mail has all the makings of a reverse jinx – to steal a cliché.

Nothing scares me more than the fact that you’ve supposedly given up hope in the Cardinals. If I remember correctly, the last time you gave up hope on the Cardinals, this happened.

St. Louis knows how to bounce back — they haven’t lost in consecutive games since September — and if their triumphant 2011 campaign taught us anything, it’s that they should never be counted out.

I like the Giants’ chances tonight, but there is no way in hell you’re going to catch me gloating. I wouldn’t want to tempt the Gods, much less the manic voodoo shamans Matheny consults prior to elimination games.

Also, was that “Fountain of Youth” comment a dig at San Francisco’s troubled history with known abusers of steroids? If so, it wasn’t appreciated.

IB: Please, do you think a Cardinals fan who STILL puts a Big Mac ornament from 1998 on the Christmas tree could make a steroids swipe? I meant Ryan Vogelsong is old — like Gandalf the Grey old.

But I’ll see your cliché and raise it: if you keep your expectations low, you’ll never be disappointed. Plus, I feel like a bit of humility goes a long way with the baseball gods.

You’re right, the Cardinals could rally tonight and win their 19th pennant. But it’s just as likely that the Giants take Game 7 and claim their 22nd pennant — and typing that sentence made me realize just how good these teams have been throughout their histories. Both teams are deserving, voodoo or no.

I agree with you that San Francisco should probably be favored tonight. They’re riding some serious momentum, they’re at home, and they have one of the best pitchers in the National League in Matt Cain going for them tonight, while the Cardinals send Kyle Lohse to the mound. Lohse has been pretty good this year, but Cain is clearly the better pitcher.

With that said, the Giants should be concerned with a few things. First, Cain hasn’t exactly lit up the postseason so far. In 17.1 innings, he’s allowed nine earned runs and four home runs. And in his last start, he only struck out two batters. That’s not necessarily reason to panic, but, if I’m Bruce Bochy, I would keep Cain on a short leash tonight.

On the other side of the diamond, the Cardinals have caught a few breaks for Game 7. After being scratched for back spasms, Matt Holliday is back in the lineup for St. Louis tonight. Holliday has been held to a .190 average with just four hits this NLCS, but it’s a huge emotional boost for the Cardinals to see their best hitter on the lineup card. Combine that with a fully rested Kyle Lohse and a bullpen trio of Trevor Rosenthal, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte, and Game 7 could turn out to be a pitcher’s duel.

Now, prediction time. Before the series started, I picked San Francisco to win in 6. I was off by a game, but I’m still going with the Giants. However, I have also LITERALLY never been right in my sports predictions (seriously, look at some of the stuff I’ve said on this website). So, I will pick the Giants to win, and then put on my lucky jersey and cross my fingers for three hours.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll probably just lock myself in my room for a few days with Pinkerton on repeat.

SS: I’m picking the Giants as well. But I’m not happy about it.

In Game 3, Lohse got lucky. At that point, the Giants couldn’t have found runs if they’d eaten Chipotle before the game — something that’s totally in the realm of possibility with Pablo Sandoval (he’s having a great NLCS by the way: .320/.346/.600).

Their bats are hot now. Buster Posey is poised for a breakout game and Matt Cain isn’t the type of pitcher to take multiple beatings sitting down. Sportsbook.com has the Cardinals favored by 1.5, ESPN puts the Giants win probability at 52 percent, I’m saying Giants win it 4-2 on the back of a big hit from the erstwhile MVP candidate.

I hope I’m right, but I’m not banking on it.

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