Giants' starting staff pitching at historic level

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Giants' starting staff pitching at historic level

DETROIT -- There is no compelling reason to break this World Series down to tiny components. You have the answer before you already. The 2012 San Francisco Giants are the 1966 Baltimore Orioles.

And nobody connected with the team wants to talk about it. Well get to their reluctance in a moment.

If you need historical edification, those Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-2, 6-0, 1-0 and 1-0.

Yeah, you read that right. 5-2, 6-0, 1-0 and 1-0. It was one of the greatest orgies of pitching brilliance in the post-dead ball era, and if youre too young to remember it, blame your parents.

And these Giants have a piano-wire around this World Series after Saturdays 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers. They have won their games 8-3, 2-0 and 2-0, and have Matt Cain, putatively their best pitcher, starting in Game 4 Sunday night.

BAGGS' INSTANT REPLAY: Giants one win away from World Series title

In other words, the Giants are on the cusp of being the best starting staff to breeze through a series in nearly half a century. Plus Tim Lincecum. And if this reeks of counting ones hens before they have achieved full velocity escape, well, its all we have to go on.

And its there is to go on, because the Giants know that 3-0 needs to be made into 1-2. This is part of the series where the best players lie to themselves about how well off they are, and where history is ignored as it suits them.

1966? No, pitching coach Dave Righetti lied with a wide smile. I remember 1965, because it was the only time I ever got to stay home from school to watch Sandy Koufax. But 1966? Dont do that to me.

I remember 1966. I was 10, general manager Brian Sabean said. I remember Pat Dobson, who was one of my very best friends.

Well, okay, except that Dobson wasnt part of that Baltimore team.

But baseball people remember that staff, especially its historic World Series in which three starting pitchers and one reliever swept the Dodgers, the last three games with complete game shutouts. And these were their pitching lines:

Player IP H R ER BB K
Dave McNally 2.1 2 2 2 5 1
(Moe Drabowsky) 6.2 1 0 0 2 11

Jim Palmer 9 4 0 0 3 6
Wally Bunker 9 6 0 0 1 6
Dave McNally 9 4 0 0 2 4

STARTERS TOTAL 29.1 16 2 2 11 17
TEAM TOTAL 36 17 2 2 13 28

The starters had an ERA of 0.89. When you include Drabowskys relief work in Game 1, it lowers to 0.50.

Now compare it to the first three games of this series, against a Detroit team that hasnt really manufactured any runs in the postseason to make for their power struggles.

Player IP H R ER BB K
Barry Zito 5.2 6 1 1 1 3
Madison Bumgarner 7 2 0 0 2 8
Ryan Vogelsong 5.2 5 0 0 4 3

STARTERS TOTAL 18.1 13 1 1 7 14

Now add the bullpen totals from those three games 8.2IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, BB, 5K and you get a starters ERA of 0.49, and an overall ERA of 1.00.

Then, just for fun, add the last three starts of the NLCS:

20.1IP, 15H, R, ER, 3 BB, 19 K, 0.44 ERA

And you get this total:

38.2IP, 28H, 2R, 2ER, 10BB, 33 K, 0.47 ERA

A ball era has to be very dead indeed to produce numbers like that, even with a relatively small sample size like six games.

So yes, we are talking history, writ large. The Orioles pitched in a heavily pitcher-dominated era, where the mounds were 15 inches high as opposed to the current 10, and their two games in Dodger Stadium were on a mound that was probably closer to 20.

But these Giants? The mound is more normalized, but the results are suffocating.

Maybe were entering another heavy pitcher-dominated era, Sabean said. I dont know. I know pitching like this is like hitting. One feeds into the next one, and pretty soon it starts to seem like one long game.

But we have tomorrow, and it can all change like that. We dont make any pronouncements about anything, because this thing isnt done.

But it is close, and it is breathtaking. Tim Lincecums postseason relief work is an ongoing absurdity, and we didnt even take that romantic vision of a Cy Young winner revivified into account. We have Comrade Hayes for that.

The Giants are the front edge of a World Series sweep, one that will avenge Detroits last sweep over the 1984 San Diego team that included Bruce Bochy and Tim Flannery.

And no, they didnt want to talk about that yet, either. Not because of a jinx, but because of the effrontery of totaling the contents of the coop prematurely.

But they are also on the front edge of one of the great collective pitching performances ever. It will make the 2010 Series look like a titanic struggle if it ends the way it has begun.

For the moment, though, the Giants themselves are emphasizing the if.

Giants lineup: Belt in left, Posey at first in finale against Rockies

Giants lineup: Belt in left, Posey at first in finale against Rockies

PROGRAMMING ALERT: Giants-Rockies coverage begins at 11am with Giants Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on the NBC Sports App.

The banged-up Giants are shifting things around as Brandon Belt will patrol left field and Buster Posey will play first base Sunday.

San Francisco Giants:
1. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
2. Brandon Belt (L) LF
3. Hunter Pence (R) RF
4. Buster Posey (R) 1B
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Nick Hundley (R) C
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P

Colorado Rockies:
1. Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
2. DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
3. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
4. Carlos Gonzalez (L) RF
5. Mark Reynolds (R) 1B
6. Gerardo Parra (L) LF
7. Trevor Story (R) SS
8. Tony Wolters (L) C
9. Kyle Freeland (L) P

 

After another loss, Bochy challenges staff to 'tighten it up here'

After another loss, Bochy challenges staff to 'tighten it up here'

DENVER — For the second straight start, Matt Moore watched an outfielder chase down a rocket, slam into the wall, and immediately leave the game with a hurt shoulder. 

“You’ve got to feel a little responsible,” he said Saturday night, shaking his head. 

That’s not entirely fair. The Jarrett Parker and Denard Span injuries have been flukes, but there is a different kind of responsibility for the starting staff. Bobby Evans built this team on the starting five, and through three weeks, the group has been a letdown. 

Madison Bumgarner was hurt during an off-field incident. Johnny Cueto has an uncharacteristic 5.25 ERA and 1.38 WHIP through four starts. Moore gave up six runs in four innings Saturday, raising his own ERA to 5.87. On the other side, a rookie — Antonio Senzatela — held the Giants to four hits, leading the Rockies to a 12-3 win.

“He just made mistakes. You saw them,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Moore. “They caught too much of the plate and they were up and they took advantage of them. This can be a tough park but they pitched well tonight with a young kid. You’ve got to make your pitches. Keep concentrating and don’t give in. That’s the way it works and we’re not doing a very good job of that.

“Obviously our staff, we’re a much better staff than what’s happened. We’ve got to tighten it up here and wake up. We’re not a team that goes out and pounds it with you. We’ve got to pitch.”

The starting staff, even without Bumgarner, is more important than it first seemed. That's because the rest of the Giants are dropping, too. Span went out in the third when he slammed into the wall while making a catch, and while the initial read is positive, he was going for X-rays Saturday night. At the very least, a right shoulder sprain will keep him out a couple of days. 

That means Bochy, 18 games in, is dealing with one of his Bomb Squad situations. Buster Posey will play first on Sunday after a couple of long days in the squat, and it’s possible Brandon Belt will get a day in left. Gorkys Hernandez, hitting just .088, is the man in center while Span is out. Hunter Pence (knee bruise) is expected to return to right field Sunday, but the outfield is hanging by a string. The Giants have even talked about putting Eduardo Nuñez in left, and on Saturday he played several innings in right because of the Span injury. 

Bochy challenged his starters, but the regulars behind them will need to be better, too. The bats didn’t get going until the eighth inning at Coors Field, and even then, a rally was cut short and the Giants promptly gave up six more runs. Nuñez was late getting over on a pop-up that clanked off Joe Panik’s glove and extended the inning. 

“You’re going to deal with that,” Bochy said. “He’s going to feel discombobulated.”

Bochy had just one positive to point to, and he lit up when asked about Chris Stratton, who threw three hitless innings to keep the Giants within shouting distance. 

“Boy, that kid did a nice job," he said. 

Stratton isn’t far down the depth chart if there are further injuries in the rotation, and with a fastball that touched 95, he looked better than he has in years. The Giants hope they don’t need to test him. They’re banged-up, but at the moment, they still have four of their projected starting pitcher, along with Ty Blach. Without Bumgarner, the group will have to be better, and Bochy let them know it Saturday.