Here is a link to my column about the Giants’ victory in Game 1 over the Cardinals. The full text runs below:
ST. LOUIS — Is there a better pitcher than Madison Bumgarner? Really, is there? He came into St. Louis, to Busch Stadium, to the Cardinals’ yard in this legendary baseball town with its heroic baseball tradition, with 47,000 manic, confident fans going nuts, and he took on the Cardinals’ best pitcher and he won. Not even close. He won the first game of this league championship series 3-0, and he shut down this town and these fans and that good team.
He pitched into the eighth inning and threw 112 pitches — a gargantuan amount in this era. He is a horse, a beast, a monster. He made the Cardinals look like some beer-league team just happy to be playing in a big-league park and to wear fancy uniforms.
Bumgarner made an enormous opening statement.
Other elite pitchers did not do well this postseason, did not live up to their reputations. You can name Adam Wainwright, who started Game 1 of this series for St. Louis. In this postseason, he has not been Wainwright. He’s been Wainwrong.
The Dodgers got over on him and, against the Giants, he was — how shall we put this? — unspeakably bad. He couldn’t find the plate and had nothing on his pitches. He was a victim and an easy mark.
Wainwrong was not the only elite pitcher to flop in the playoffs. The roll call please: Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, Stephen Strasburg, Edinson Volquez. They all went down. But not Bumgarner. He lived up to his reputation. And he did it efficiently and effortlessly. He could be baseball’s best pitcher. You could make that case.
But Bumgarner is only part of the story. The Giants showed again how they win these heart-pounding postseason games. They eke out some runs while wasting other chances to score. Look at the runners they left on base in the second and seventh innings. They could have blown open the game, but they didn’t blow open the game. They almost never blow open games. They are not a power team, not a team that will pound you. They worry you, and irritate you and make you cry uncle.
And they shut you down, routinely shut you down. Here is what the Cardinals’ big hitters did. Matt Holliday 0 for 4. Jhonny Peralta 0 for 3 with a walk. Matt Adams 0 for 4. Get outta here.
The Giants bring out the worst in the other team. It’s what they do. They made the Cardinals, the team that ran the Dodgers out of the postseason, look nervous and unprepared. In the top of the second, the Giants scored a run on an error by third baseman Matt Carpenter. Bad error. Later, the Cardinals had a chance for a double play. They recorded the out at second base but couldn’t complete the routine double play. A clear case of the jitters.
That is what the Giants do to clubs, even good clubs. They give them the heebie jeebies.
Afterward, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny came to the interview room. He defended how Wainwright pitched:
“As you break down how that played out, (Randal) Grichuk almost makes a great play (in the second inning),” Matheny said. “He holds on to that ball and we make plays we typically make, you’re looking at a 0-0 game.”
Wait a minute. Let’s get this straight. It wasn’t Wainwright’s fault the Giants scored in the second inning. It wasn’t Wainwright’s fault that he loaded the bases with no outs. It was Grichuk’s fault — the kid’s a rookie. It was especially Grichuk’s fault that Pablo Sandoval led off the inning with a rocket to right field. Grichuk ran back to the track, jumped, knocked his body against the wall — almost crucified himself — and as he came down, he dropped the ball. And Matheny was criticizing him?
Matheny should have criticized Wainwright for not being right. Matheny should have criticized himself for leaving in Wainwright too long. He knew Wainwright didn’t have it. Here is more Matheny on Wainwright:
“I thought he did a nice job of fighting without his best stuff again, and that’s very consistent with what we’ve seen from him for many years now. He goes out there and finds a way to get it done.”
Except Wainwright did not find a way to get it done. He did not get it done at all. He was the losing pitcher. How is that getting it done?
Matheny wasn’t done praising Wainwright to the heavens: “Adam has definitely set the tone for our club — he’s been amazing at how he goes out there with whatever stuff he has and figures out a way to keep us there.”
Keep you where? In the loser’s column? What game was Mike Matheny watching?
Compare Matheny’s contorted words to Bochy’s straightforward discussion of Bumgarner. “He executed all night against a tough lineup,” Bochy said. “He’s a guy you want out there to start things, and he gave us all we were asking.”
When you have an ace, when you have maybe the best pitcher in baseball, you don’t resort to excuses and assign blame to rookies and mangle logic. You state the plain truth.
Here’s another plain truth. The Giants took Game 1. Let’s talk plainly about that.
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 at lowell.cohn@press democrat.com.