Here is a link to my Wednesday column from the Giants’ clinching win over Washington. The full text runs below:
SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants will beat you. Put them in a postseason series and they will beat you. They beat Pittsburgh in the wild-card game, and on Tuesday night they beat the Washington Nationals — currently the washed-up Nationals.
The Nationals had the best record in the National League. The Giants didn’t even have the best record in their division. The Dodgers did. And now the Dodgers are washed up, too.
The Giants will beat you.
They beat the Nationals 3-2 in Game 4 of their Division Series, didn’t even need a Game 5. The Giants move on to St. Louis for the League Championship Series. Let’s be old school about this. They will compete for the pennant.
What an honor. What a surprise.
After the game, manager Bruce Bochy stood in the middle of the clubhouse, his head wet from champagne. “These guys are relentless,” he said during the celebration.
There was something like love in his voice. Or was it deep admiration? “They’re warriors,” he shouted above the noise. “They’re warriors on the road. We won in Pittsburgh. We got two wins in Washington. It’s the old adage — never say die and these guys didn’t.”
We’ll get back to Bochy in a moment. He deserves more time. First, let’s talk about Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants’ starting pitcher, the guy who gave the Giants 5-2/3 brilliant innings, the guy who gave up two hits and only one run. The guy who seemed done for, the guy you never expected to close out the Nationals.
He came into the game with crummy numbers, but he dominated. I bumped into pitching coach Dave Righetti in the chaos of the clubhouse. He was trying to stay dry. I asked him to speak about Vogelsong. For that he stopped. For that he risked the champagne shower.
“Forget stats,” Righetti said. “He was much better this year than last, no question. He was stronger all year long. When he got any kind of rest, he always threw well. We had a rough time getting him runs at home. He never got frustrated because he knew some other guys have been through the same thing here, and he kept the course.
“We knew he was going to be the fourth guy. Plenty of rest. Plenty of time to think. And he came out — what was he throwing, 93 to 95? He got through that first inning, which is always emotional, and he gave us a chance to win like he’s done since the day he walked in.
“Very proud of him. It was really gutsy. In the past, he’s had a lot of games where there’s somebody on (base), pitch count runs, and he’s got no chance to get deep. Tonight was a playoff game, do or die. He probably could have kept pitching, but we’ve got to start going with our guys (relievers). He did a fabulous job. Pitched a winning ballgame.”
Call that a poem dedicated to Vogelsong. Righetti is the poet of pitching.
Now, we come back to Bochy. One reason Vogelsong pitched well is Bochy. When Bochy chose Vogelsong to pitch Game 4, Vogelsong realized Bochy had faith in him. That gave Vogelsong faith in himself. I can’t prove this. I believe it. Bochy has that effect on his players.
He is a better manager than Matt Williams, who mismanaged the Nationals throughout this series. Williams is a rookie manager who made rookie mistakes. Before I tell you his mistakes, I want to make something clear. Everyone said this series was about something between the players’ legs which we’re calling guts, a euphemism. The guts concept is wrong.
The Giants have guts, but they didn’t eliminate the Nationals with guts. They won with brains. The real prevailing metaphor for this series was smarts. Stuff Bochy has and Williams does not.
Williams blew Game 2, a game the Nationals could have won, by taking out starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann with the Giants down to their last out. The Giants came back and scored.
Williams had allowed chaos to enter the game. The game lasted 18 innings. The Giants won. But, OK, forget that mistake. It happened long ago.
In Tuesday’s game, Williams made several appalling mistakes. The biggest, the all-time whopper he made in the seventh inning. The score was tied 2-2. Anyone could win.
The Giants put runners on first and second with one out. Williams brought in Aaron Barrett. The Nationals media notes describe Barrett as a “true rookie.” He immediately walked Hunter Pence, loading the bases. Having fun yet, rookie?
With Pablo Sandoval at the plate, Barrett threw a wild pitch. Joe Panik scored. This was the winning run and it scored on a wild pitch. Barrett threw another wild pitch right after that — on an intentional walk, no less. But a run did not score. Clearly, the kid was freaked.
Williams had no business putting in this rookie with the game on the line. Barrett was a late-season call up. He never faced this kind of pressure — the Nationals won their division by 17 games. Williams had veteran relievers he could have used. What was he thinking?
Bochy is a more serious, more steady manager than Williams. Bochy is the most serious, most steady manager in the business. Vogelsong knows that. Righetti knows that. You know that.
His team will beat you.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn email@example.com.