Couch-bound observations from Game 1


Couch-bound observations from Game 1

Programming note: Tune in to Giants October Quest, today at 4 p.m. leading up to first pitch of NLCS Game 2, and again following the final out, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

SAN FRANCISCO It was cruel enough to be sick for Game 1 ofthe NLCS Sunday night.

But my couch-bound experience got a little better once Istreamed KNBR on my MLB app, paused the DVR on my TV just long enough to syncup the audio, and hit the mute button on Joe Buck.

Ill be back at AT&T Park tonight for Game 2 (I do notrecommend coming down with a cold and food poisoning simultaneously, by the way),but here are a few observations I jotted on the back of an envelope betweengulps of Gatorade last night:

--Madison Bumgarner just doesnt have anything left. Heisnt out in front on any of his pitches. Theres no crispness or late life tohis stuff, and that was never more apparent than when he couldnt get a pitchpast pitcher Lance Lynn who was 3 for 50 in the regular season.

RELATED: Box score -- Cards 6, Giants 4

This is kind of what I expected from Bumgarner down thestretch two years ago, when his innings count soared from the previous year inthe minors. He didnt let down as a 21-year-old, of course, and won Game 4 of the 2010 WorldSeries on Halloween night. Perhaps now were finally seeing the result of allthose innings at such a young age.

Bruce Bochy said after the game that Bumgarners next startfor Game 5 is an open proposition. I think Barry Zito is pretty much assured astart now, whether its Game 4 or Game 5 with Tim Lincecum starting Game 4.

--Bochy has been a savant in the postseason, but he mighthave made his first major blunder by leaving Bumgarner in to face CarlosBeltran in the fourth. With Beltrans blinding bat speed, there was no way thatconfrontation would turn out well for the Giants unless he hit a rocket atsomeone. The two-run homer ended up being the difference in the game.

--Hey, the Cardinals bullpen is pretty good. I had no ideathe Oak Ridge Boys could throw like that.

--Actually, you might find it interesting that the Cardsbullpen, despite a series of truck-stop characters who throw 95-plus, had thehighest relief ERA of all five NL playoff teams. The Giants were fourth. Thattells you something about the Reds, Braves and Nats bullpens, doesnt it? Icant remember the last time there was so much terrific relief pitching in theNL at one time.

On a related note, hey, getting an early lead is a greatidea.

--Jeremy Affeldt is such a valuable relief pitcher becausehe can face righties as well as lefties, and he almost always keeps the ball inthe park. Everything breaks down. And my word, Santiago Casilla had thenastiest stuff Ive seen from him since the first half. A 95 mph two-seamer,breaking on the hands of right-handed hitters? And a power curve in his backpocket? Almost seems unfair.

--I thought Mike Krukow nailed it in his commentary on KNBR:Every single Cardinals pitcher was just pumping fastball after fastball. Itwas, Here it is, hit it.

That tells you what the scouting reports must say. And youknow what? Theyre dead on. Pablo Sandoval was late on everything, Hunter Penceis lunging and not balanced at all, and Brandon Belt just about got the batknocked out of his hands on his bloop single.

The only two fastballs turned around all night were onGregor Blancos triple and Brandon Crawfords double.

Blanco, Crawford, Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma its amazinghow much production both teams are getting out of the lower third of the order.

--Would it be insane to suggest moving Blanco to third andSandoval to seventh?

--Jose Feliciano can sing the National Anthem backwards withsynth-pop and experimental percussion for all I care. Ill get goosebumps. And Ilove that Tony Bennett checks his pitch before God Bless America. Even at 86,he is pitch perfect, every single time.

I feel badly for whomever the Giants arrange to sing forGame 2 and beyond. It really cant get any better.

Luckily, I'm much better today. Off to the ballpark in a little while.

Giants catching prospect Garcia relishing reps in Arizona Fall League


Giants catching prospect Garcia relishing reps in Arizona Fall League

After being selected in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants, catcher Aramis Garcia quickly opened eyes with his power. Garcia totaled 15 home runs between Rookie Ball and Short Season Single-A in only 28 games after the draft. 

The next year, Garcia equaled his 15 long balls and spent the majority of his first full pro season at High Single-A. He also improved overall as a hitter, raising his 2014 slash line of .225/.301/.343 to .264/.342/.431 in 2015. The next climb up the farm system ladder was set in place, until it was gone with an excruciating injury. 

Garcia's 2016 season was limited to 47 games played as he sustained a facial fracture in May while sliding into second base. In an attempt to break up a double play, Garcia took a knee to the face. The injury kept him out until the end of July.

When the chance to play in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions arose, Garcia jumped at the opportunity. 

"First thing I did was call my parents and let them know," Garcia told on Monday. "I was just really excited for getting the opportunity to play against guys who are extremely talented and obviously make up for reps, which are extremely important."

Garcia never did exactly find his rhythm after the injury and finished the season batting .257/.323/.340 with two homers in 41 games. In the first half, the 23-year-old hit .298/.359/.369 compared to a lowly .200/.273/.300 in the second half. 

The catcher known more for his offense than defense, is off to a slow start at the plate while facing some of the top prospects in baseball. Throuh six games, he has gone 3-for-17 at the plate, good for a .176 average. But, Garcia acknowledged he's focusing heavily on his defense in the AFL. 

"I feel like when somebody tries to steal on me, I tend to take it a little bit personally," he said. "It's definitely something I take pride in, something I work on hard every day. There's a little routine I do with receiving and footwork, things like that every day."

Behind the dish, Garcia caught 38 percent of base runners looking to swipe a bag on him last season. Through his three years in the minors, Garcia has erased 34 percent of base stealers and owns a .993 fielding percentage. 

Cubs, Indians name starting pitchers for Game 1 of World Series


Cubs, Indians name starting pitchers for Game 1 of World Series

World Series ace Jon Lester is all set to start Game 1 for the Chicago Cubs.

Lester will be fully rested when he pitches Tuesday night at Cleveland. Corey Kluber will start for the Indians.

The 32-year-old lefty is 2-0 in three starts during this postseason, with wins over the Giants and Dodgers in the NL playoffs. He was 19-5 during the regular season.

Lester is 3-0 in three starts in the World Series with a sparkling 0.43 ERA. He helped the Boston Red Sox win championships in 2007 and 2013.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon says Lester is "really, really in the moment" right now.


Indians ace Corey Kluber will start Game 1 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs.

Manager Terry Francona said Sunday that he will go with Kluber, an 18-ame winner during the regular season, in the opener on Tuesday night. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 0.98 ERA in his first postseason.

Francona has right-handers Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin penciled in for Games 2 and 3, respectively. The order could change depending on how Bauer's injured right pinkie heals over the next few days.

Bauer's start in the AL Championship Series lasted less than one inning after his pinkie began bleeding against Toronto. He injured his finger when he sliced it open while repairing a drone.

Also, injured starter Danny Salazar could be available against the Cubs. Salazar hasn't pitched since Sept. 9 because of forearm tightness but he's made major progress in the past week and could be on the World Series roster.