Here is a link to my preview column for tonight’s Game 1 between the Giants and Cardinals. The full text runs below:
ST. LOUIS — The Giants can beat these guys. The St. Louis Cardinals.
That means the National League Championship Series is an even match and a good match. But I want to come at the Cardinals and Giants another way.
On Friday, the Cards and Giants held a media day to prep for tonight’s Game 1. I asked Bruce Bochy — Bochy wearing a cap and the dead-serious Bochy puss — I asked him to name the Cardinals’ right fielder.
Simple question, right? The Giants are playing the Cardinals starting tonight, so name the St. Louis right fielder, Skip.
“Yeah,” Bochy said. He meant he could name the right fielder. But he didn’t name him. He sat there playing with his cap.
Again, I asked him to name the name.
Bochy blushed. The man who out-managed Matt Williams, the man who’s won two World Series blushed.
“I’ll mispronounce it,” he said.
“Give it a shot,” I said.
“I don’t know,” Bochy said.
“OK, you have stage fright,” I said. “Who is their second baseman?”
And then, after some hesitation, Bochy timidly added, “Grichuk, I don’t know.”
Score two points for Bochy. The St. Louis right fielder is Randal Grichuk and the second baseman is Wong. I’ll bet Bochy doesn’t know Wong’s first name — Kolten.
There’s a method to my madness. I swear there is. Before I explain, please listen to Travis Ishikawa and me.
Me: Do you know on the Cardinals who has played right field in the postseason?
A startled expression took possession of Ishikawa’s face. He looked at Matt Duffy, dressing next door, for help.
“Uh, I don’t know his name,” Ishikawa said. “The righty who hit the home run off Kershaw. Greenchuck?”
Well, yes, Grichuk (not Greenchuck), hit a home run in the first inning of the first playoff game against Clayton Kershaw. No one knew it at the time, but that set the tone for that series.
Duffy heard Ishikawa say Greenchuck. Duffy smiled. “Grichuk,” he said by way of correction.
“Clearly you know their left fielder,” I said to Ishikawa.
“Who’s that?” he said.
“They just bring him up?”
“Yeah, just brought him up.
Laughter all around. Ishikawa has a good sense of humor.
So, what’s the point of all this silliness about the Cardinals right fielder?
Just this. Grichuk is hardly a household name. He is no Hunter Pence. And Wong is hardly a household name, either. When you get down to it, these Cardinals are somewhat vague and mysterious — to me, at least. I am not all that familiar with their outfielder Jon Jay. And I could go on.
That makes them similar to the Giants. These Giants depend on Joe Panik, depend on him big time. A rookie. And they depend on rookie Hunter Strickland. And although leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco has been around, he is not the Giants’ preferred leadoff hitter. Angel Pagan is — but he’s gone. It’s like Blanco is an afterthought.
Both teams have unknowns. “Unknowns” means players who aren’t well known, and also players who don’t have an established body of work in the playoffs. And that means anything goes in this series.
FYI: Bochy wasn’t confident about Grichuk’s name, but sure knows his work. That’s the knowledge that matters.
“He’s a talented player,” Bochy said. “Right-handed guy, hit a home run off of Kershaw. He’s a very gifted outfielder. He’s a center fielder that’s playing right field, and our reports are this kid is a talented kid that can do some things with the bat.
“They’re similar to us (the Cardinals). They have a lot of young players that have come up through their system and they were developed through their way, and that’s how this works. I think when you look at the two teams, they’re very similar, how they play and the fact that they have a lot of ‘homegrown’ products, which both clubs do.”
Let’s give Pence his say, one right fielder talking about the other right fielder. Plus Pence is a gas. I asked if he could name the opposing right fielder.
Pence gave the startled looked. But he liked the question. The quiz aspect.
It was an interrogative, pronounced with hesitation. And then Pence launched into baseball stuff — forget Grichuk’s name — just like Bochy.
“He’s a great talent. I’ve seen him play. He’s strong and he’s fast and he’s got a good arm. I don’t know if I pronounced it right. I’m not afraid to mispronounce words. (The other day, Pence did a number on ‘ephemeral.’ But who cares?) I’ll mess them up from time to time, names. I remember seeing a Cardinals game somewhere somehow, and watching his swing and how fast he was.”
There is one other unknown. This refers to the Cardinals. The unknown is tonight’s starting pitcher Adam Wainwright. You could argue Wainwright — 20 wins — is the best pitcher in the National League. Still, he’s an unknown.
Well, that’s not correct. His right elbow is the unknown. The elbow and he got bombed in the first game against the Dodgers in the Division Series. He gave up six runs on 11 hits in 4⅓ innings. He was distressingly vulnerable. Tendinitis. A continuing issue.
“The problem that I have is being way overblown,” he said Friday. “I’ll be fine to pitch. It’s funny to watch the shows and watch guys who have never met me saying they’re concerned about me and my arm troubles here and arm troubles there. But what can I do about it other than go out and pitch?”
Then he got specific.
“Yeah, it was a factor in Game 1 (against the Dodgers). I can be very honest about this because I’ve been through it. When I took a game off after my Tampa start earlier this season, I aggravated my elbow, and it’s the backside of my elbow. So, the elbow-fearing world can know it’s not my ligament. On the backside of my elbow, I aggravated something that when I did that, it got to its worst. And after that, it goes on the mend and gets better and better progressively.
“The other day, I re-aggravated that same spot on the backside of my elbow and now I’m on the mend, and I can feel something. I’m very confident about it because I felt that before, the exact same thing. I was able to recover very well from it. I have no doubts going into (Saturday).”
Wainwright is an unknown just like Grichuk. If he isn’t right, the Giants will murder him.
The Giants can beat these guys.
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