It's been too long, but the Giants have won their first NLDS since 2002, when they beat these very same Braves in five. The series was tight, emotional, ugly and brutal. Of course, the fourth and final game was a great reflection of the series in an almost poetic fashion.
All of the games were decided by one run, three of the four games were won in a comeback fashion. All of the games featured superb pitching, maybe with the exception of Sergio Romo. And all of the games featured questionable defense and officiating.
With three lead changes, a 3-2 ending and a crucial call made at second base, this game lived up to all the hype, and set an unofficial record for grey hairs induced. With all that, lets take a look at each component of this game.
Madison Bumgarner was not great, by Giants standards. However, nothing short of 7-plus innings and 0-1 earned runs is great for a Giants pitcher. But Bumgarner stood every bit of his 6' 4", 215 lbs out there on the mound.
He was facing his childhood team, in the park that he went to as a kid to cheer on this team. He was trying to end the season of a team, never easy to do. And that was coupled with ending the career of one of the greatest managers of all time.
He didn't have his best stuff, but he made do. He handed the ball to his bullpen in line for a win, which he achieved. He became the youngest starter to win a clinching game of a series since his pitching coach, Dave Righetti, in 1981.
Technically, this was the worst start for a Giants starter in this series, but it was still solid in every fashion, and when it is all said and done, it shut the door.
Hey Mad Bum, congrats.
The Giants did make two errors, one by Mike Fontenot and one by Edgar Renteria, but in the end they did not have any affect on the final score. Every Giants fan must have winced at the Renteria drop, thinking that it was the baseball gods pulling even. Otherwise, they made all the plays they needed to make.
The outfield, with Cody Ross, exhibited good range and good arm strength. Uribe showed off his cannon, almost a little too much on the final play. Not really a very exciting game on defense, which is almost always a good thing. They held their own, and ultimately gave us a plus one advantage, as the Giants scored on an Alex Gonzalez error.
Not great D, but good enough.
The only reason the picture here isn't of Santiago Casilla is because I couldn't find a good one. Ultimately, Casilla deserves about 70 percent of this grade, as he absorbed 1.2 innings and the heart of the Braves' order. He killed any momentum the Braves might have garnered, and emerged as the go-to guy for the Giants in middle and late relief. The only reason he wasn't a complete bridge to Brian Wilson was because of a Renteria error.
Javier Lopez was great, coming in and getting a big out to neutralize the Renteria error. And Wilson flashed his old, nail-biting self, but ultimately shut the door. The two walks were worrisome, but he didn't set it up for the big boys by walking "lesser hitters." This was the bullpen the Giants expected to show off for the majority of the playoffs, and if they can stay this consistent and dominant, the Phillies are gonna have a fight on their hands.
Nice job Pen, hope to see a lot more of that.
It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. And thank god for Cody Ross. Derek Lowe was throwing a no-hitter, and looked completely indomitable during the first 5.1 innings. Then Cody Ross took the first pitch he saw, which also happened to be the first hanger thrown by Lowe, and hit it on a frozen rope over the left field fence.
And when they were once again down, they took their pitches, managed to load the bases, blew a chance to score with a man on third and less than two outs, and then Cody Ross came up with the biggest swing of the series, singling in the go-ahead and winning run. It was something that the Giants fans are not accustomed to seeing. Not only did they come back, twice, but they got clutch hits, and made the pitcher work to accomplish his mission.
Good enough offense, well done.
Bruce Bochy made the managerial decision of the series when he decided to go with Cody Ross over Jose Guillen. Similarly, he made a solid decision going with Fontenot over the Panda. Although he made a throwing error, there is no guarantee that the Panda does a better job. Fontenot also had good at-bats, something that Pablo Sandoval does not understand.
His bullpen decisions were solid, using Casilla to swallow innings and his decision to wait to use Lopez until it would end the inning. Wilson was a no-brainer, and he stuck with his closer even when it looked a little bit dubious.
The only questionable decision was using Aaron Rowand instead of Edgar Renteria when the bases were loaded with one out. However, it was a better decision for the future, conserving his bench and allowing Ishikawa to hit later in the game. Maybe Nate Schierholtz should have pinch-run for Pat Burrell, but the Giants didn't have the lead yet, and might have needed Burrell's bat later in the game.
Good job Bruce, but we got a long way to go.
Congratulations, Giants, you have won the NLDS. There were several bumps in the road, but many great moments. You won in suitable fashion, a true Giants performance. One run game, just enough offense, excellent pitching from the starter and the pen. If the fans weren't pulling out their hair, it was turning grey.
There were minimal mistakes, from the players and the coaching. Everyone kept their cool, when it was going good and when it was going bad. They handled the pressure of trying to eliminate a team, away, when it was the last game of a legendary coach. First time playoffs performers looked like seasoned playoff veterans, from the 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner to the veteran Cody Ross. And when it comes down to it, they came through and are looking at a NLCS matchup against the Phillies.
Well done, Giants, well done. Enjoy the victory, then do some work, because no one wants it to end here.