One-swing-tells-all baseball isn't made for any of us

One-swing-tells-all baseball isn't made for any of us

Wrap your brain around this fact:
The San Francisco Giants have played two postseason games and 18 innings in which only two swings mattered. Total. Two.
And I’ll just say this for you in the audience. You can’t hang like this much longer.
Your stomach isn’t strong enough. Your spine will telescope. You will sneeze your kidneys out. You will not last, not watching baseball that allows one moment a game.
Javier Baez delivered the one moment Friday night, an eighth-inning home run off the otherwise nonpareil Johnny Cueto, to “power” the Chicago Cubs to a 1-0 victory in Game 1 of The National League Series That Will Be The Deaths Of You All. One swing, defying the Wrigley wind and barely gaining favor with the Wrigley basket – a ball that sounded like a bases-emopty three-run homer when it hit Baez’ bat, and yet barely reached safety.

[PAVLOVIC: Instant Replay: Giants drop Game 1 of NLDS on Baez's eighth-inning blast]
So, yeah. You can’t do any more of these.
Fortunately for you, there aren’t very many of these in the course of a season, and Saturday’s second game is likely to be a 2-1 blowout, or maybe even a 3-2 rout. Why, there might be several hits in an actual inning, which is basically like blowing off an afternoon resting in a hammock tied to two kegs.
Friday’s game was as everyone has proclaimed it – a two-headed masterpiece in which both Cueto and Chicago starter Jon Lester turned the Cubs and Giants into equally large ice sculptures. True, home plate umpire Todd Tichenor was called to task by both teams and the nation as a whole for his protozoan strike zone, but that would be the act of a chronic complainer and sniveler.
You know. My kind of person.
The fact is, the Giants may have perfected this kind of game just in time to discover that the Cubs are just as good at it, and maybe even better. This was Chicago’s 16th shutout (one in every 10 games, give or take a stray post-decimal), and would have been San Francisco’s 12th. For the record, the Los Angeles Dodgers (15) and Washington Nationals (12) are also high on this list, so the point we are left with is that this may be a necessary skill this postseason.
But Friday’s had the additional charge of being the first matchup between the most successful team of the current decade and the least successful team of the past century. There was a lot to look forward to, frankly, and both teams delivered in high style.
That is, if your tastes to run to improbably fast playoff games. The two teams sailed through nine innings in barely two and one-half hours, an extraordinarily sprightly pace, especially when you consider that Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard needed 3:11 to savage the Giants’ and Mets’ offenses. That is a normal time for a postseason game – 2:30 reeks of rain-shortening.
But if this is how the Giants intend to go through the postseason, win or lose, they will have again foiled expectation and logic. For one, it could be that they will have defeated the assumption that their bullpen will undo them by not using it at all. Indeed, this was their 12th complete game of the year (they are 9-3 in those games, and the three losses were 1-0), so this is not a new strategy or Bochy-esque desire.
The law of big number must certainly come into play at some point, though, and the Giants and Cubs will play a normal-looking game. You’d better hope they do, anyway, because you haven’t got a prayer of seeing Halloween otherwise. This one-swing-tells-all baseball isn't made for you.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”