NLDS Notes: Fired-up bullpen comes up huge in Giants' Game 3 win

NLDS Notes: Fired-up bullpen comes up huge in Giants' Game 3 win

SAN FRANCISCO — Derek Law isn’t sure what got into him when he ended the sixth inning with a strikeout of Dexter Fowler. He bolted off the mound and pumped his fist and screamed his way back to the dugout, adrenaline carrying him through one of the biggest moments of his life. 

The feeling didn’t wear off after another scoreless inning of work, and when Law looked around a thundering stadium in the eighth, he wanted another piece of the action. 

“I was talking to Steven (Okert) and I was like, man, these people all have these rally towels up. I wish I had a towel,” Law said. “I turned and this kid holds one up. I was like, Ohhhh man …”

Law spent the rest of his night as the most visible holder of an orange towel handed out to 40,000 fans. A Pittsburgh native, he has a couple of yellow “terrible towels” in his room back home. He knew what to do once the young man threw him an orange version, waving and whipping and trying to will the Giants to victory.

“I was just trying to rally the troops together,” he said. “I just kind of used it as good juju.”

Law’s work on the mound was just as positive. He pitched two hitless innings in relief of Madison Bumgarner, who had his shortest postseason start since the 2012 NLCS. Hunter Strickland struck out two in the eighth. Will Smith breezed through an extra inning, extending his scoreless streak to 19 consecutive games. Ty Blach pitched two shutout frames, earning his first postseason win. 

Sergio Romo was in the middle of it all, and before Blach ran into trouble in the 13th, he was the only reliever to give up a hit. It was a big one, a two-run shot from Kris Bryant on a hanging slider. 

“I was surprised it went out,” Romo said. “I didn’t think at the time that he hit it as well as he did. You can’t take anything away from the guy. He’s really strong, apparently.”

Romo showed some strength of his own, getting through the rest of that inning and pitching a perfect 10th. 

“What a great job he did to bounce back and keep the score tied there,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We needed some length out of him. And then Blach, he just had a day off, I think, after going an inning and a third, and he goes out there and makes pitches when he had to. That’s what it usually comes down to at this stage. The bullpen has got to come through for you, and those guys did tonight.”

The contributions didn’t all come on the field. George Kontos stood on the bullpen mound from basically the second through the fifth, providing a safety blanket as Bumgarner tried to provide length following Jake Arrieta’s homer. Kontos estimated he threw 75-80 warm-up pitches on a cool night, but those were bullets saved by others like Law and Blach. Kontos warmed up again in the 13th as Blach ran into trouble.

“It’s good to show what we’re made of,” he said of a bullpen that was a target all season long. “After Bum gave up the homer, it seemed the air escaped out of the stadium. For him to go out there and get out of that, and get outs from the guys behind him, Will and Ty Blach, who has what, 30 days in the big leagues, it shows what this group is made of.”

Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik made sure it didn’t go to waste, teaming up on the winning run in the 13th. Law ran out for the dog pile and got right in the middle, holding his right hand up and waving the orange towel as the ballpark shook.

Law didn’t realize at the time what an impact the “rally towel” had made on the broadcast and social media. In fact, he didn’t even hold onto it. He signed it after the game and handed it back to the fan behind the dugout. 

“Hopefully he comes back tomorrow,” Law said smiling. 

--- Angel Pagan was scratched about 30 minutes before the game with back spasms. Pagan said his back flared up Saturday in Chicago and he came in at 1 p.m. Monday to get treatment. He never got to the point where he could play.

“He was not available,” Bochy said after the game. 

Pagan said he’s day to day, and he’s unsure if he can play in Game 4. If the Giants replace him on the roster, Pagan won’t be available for a potential NLCS. A free agent after the season, Pagan has possibly played his last game for the Giants. 

--- Crawford took a throw off the left elbow and Bochy said there’s a pretty good contusion there. Crawford’s arm was numb for a while, but he’s expected to be fine tomorrow. 

--- Conor Gillaspie went back and looked at the replay of the call that was not overturned. Like you, he doesn’t understand how he was ruled out at first. Replay has helped the game, but there’s a long way to go. It would help if Major League Baseball put out statements of some sort during postseason games. Fans should know what they saw or didn’t see back in New York. 

--- Here is my game story from the 6-5 win.

--- Players usually have a couple hundred text messages waiting after big walk-offs, but Panik only had about 25. “It was like 3 a.m. back home,” he said, smiling. “Mom, dad, brother, they all have work tomorrow.”

Could Giants trade Madison Bumgarner? Here's why Buster Olney believes so

Could Giants trade Madison Bumgarner? Here's why Buster Olney believes so

Madison Bumgarner forever will be a Giants legend for his 2014 playoff heroics. There was no way that former general manager Bobby Evans could emotionally separate Bumgarner from the Giants and trade the team's ace. 

Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' president head of baseball operations, doesn't hold the same history with Bumgarner, though, and that could be a good thing, writes ESPN's Buster Olney, who believes the left-hander's recent production shows the team should entertain a trade now sooner than later.

Bumgarner is 29 years old, and is scheduled to hit the open market after the 2019 season when his eight-year, $58.06 million contract comes to an end. Injuries from a dirt bike accident and a line drive off his hand in his last start of spring training have sidelined Bumgarner the last two years. When healthy and on the field, though, he hasn't been his former dominant self.

[RELATED: Giants Review: Bumgarner beset by injury for second consecutive year]

Over the last two years, Bumgarner has started 38 games, or four less than his dominant 2016 season. In that span, he has gone 10-16 with a 3.29 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 240.2 innings. It might all start with his slight dip in velocity. 

Since 2014, Bumgarner's average fastball, four-seam or two-seam, has slightly been slower, according to numbers from FanGraphs. He sat at 92.1 mph in 2014, was the same in 2015, fell to 90.9 in 2016, bumped up to 91 mph in 2017, and was back down to 90.9 mph this past season. 

Bumgarner also relied much more on his off-speed pitches than his fastball in 2018, according to FanGraphs. The lefty threw his fastball just 34.2 percent of the time last season, the lowest percentage of his MLB career. His fastball was heavily replaced by his curveball, which he threw a career-high 22.8 percent.

The rate of hard contact by opposing batters against Bumgarner also has increased every year since 2014, and reached a career high in 2018. According to FanGraphs, since 2014, Bumgarner's hard contact rate has gone from 26.9 percent, to 27.8 percent, to 31.6 percent, to 35 percent, and finally all the way to 41.6 percent last season. 

Here's the reality of the situation: The Giants have been awful the last two seasons, and while Bumgarner has been far from that, he's simply not his past self. He has to rely more on his off-speed as his fastball is slower and less effective, and batters are hitting him harder and harder. 

A contender will pony up for Bumgarner because of his playoff history, and he still can be at least a No. 2 on a playoff team. Is now the time to take advantage of the market? 

[RELATED: Farhan Zaidi says it's 'not absolutely necessary' for Giants to hire GM]

“Where we are, everything has to be on the table in terms of how we move this team and roster forward,” Zaidi said on a possible Bumgarner trade at his Giants introductory press conference. 

No matter if it's figuratively or literally, Bumgarner will go down as a Forever Giant. How much longer he toes the rubber at AT&T Park could be a different story, though. 

MLB rumors: Giants among nine Nathan Eovaldi suitors in free agency

MLB rumors: Giants among nine Nathan Eovaldi suitors in free agency

Nathan Eovaldi is a classic risk-versus-reward case. 

The right-hander is coming off a Madison Bumgarner-esque playoff run in which he had a 1.61 ERA over 22.1 innings in helping lead the Red Sox to a World Series title. He also already has gone through two Tommy John surgeries.

The postseason dominance is hard to ignore, though, and the Giants reportedly are eyeing the starting pitcher in free agency, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Sunday.

[RELATED: MLB free agency debate: Where will Nathan Eovaldi sign this offseason?]

Cafardo noted that Eovaldi's preference is to return to Boston, and the writer lists the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays and Padres as other teams showing interest. 

It's easy to forget Eovaldi still is just 28 years old -- he'll turn 29 in February. After making his MLB debut at 21 years old for the Dodgers in 2011, Eovaldi was traded one year later to the Marlins, and he already has pitched on five different teams.

He missed the entire 2017 season because of Tommy John surgery. 

Farhan Zaidi, Giants president of baseball operations, has a history of giving contracts to pitchers with injury issues in their past. And there's an occurring theme. 

As Dodgers general manager, Zaidi signed Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Rich Hill to contracts worth three years and $48 million. Eovaldi, however, is expected to demand more.