Couch-bound observations from Game 1

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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 put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.