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Cardinals at Giants, NLCS Game 3 recap: Cards fall behind, come back, lose in tenth on errant throw

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A wild game filled with the usual 2014-postseason excitement ends on a gahh I can't finish this sentence.

Ugh.
Ugh.
Ezra Shaw

Take a moment to appreciate the stunning largesse of the 2014 postseason. Like almost every other game the Cardinals have played this October, today's was as thrilling as anyone could hope for. I sweated through two shirts.

Now take a moment to consider what a farcical, ludicrous, infuriating, banana-pants, dadaist, ridiculous and disappointing way to lose a game that was.

Oscar Taveras, Carlos Martinez, and Trevor Rosenthal never got in the game. Yadier Molina warmed up but never entered. Randal Grichuk looked like a goat and a G.O.A.T. by turns, and the game ended with the LOOOGIEST of LOOGYs on the mound with the tying run at second base.

Faahhh. The Giants lead the NLCS two games to one. Here's how it happened:

First Inning

The Cardinals went down in order. Matt Carpenter struck out looking. An uneasy feeling descended on one VEB recapper.

And then. With two outs in the bottom of the inning:

  1. Buster Posey singles to right;
  2. Pablo Sandoval singles to right;
  3. Hunter Pence doubles to right, scoring Posey, 1-0 Giants;
  4. Brandon Belt, 3-0 count, then intentionally walked for bases loaded, two outs;
  5. Travis Ishikawa doubles to right-center on first pitch, 4-0 Giants.
  6. Brandon Crawford flies out to left, three outs.

Four two-out hits and an eventually intentional walk. It's safe to say that John Lackey was missing his spots. I suppose you can also say that the Giants deserve a bunch of credit, because they--and specifically Sandoval and Pence--hit pitches that were up and out of the zone. When you don't have your best command, wisdom says that you should try to miss out of the zone, right? That's what Lackey did in the first inning. And yet, after six batters there were two outs, one run in, and the bases loaded for Travis Ishikawa.

And here we have the central event of the game.

Travis Ishikawa has a fantastic name but an average bat. With the bases loaded he can afford to be patient and wait for his pitch--but what if your pitch comes on the very first offering? Well then you swing away:

91mph sinker. I'll go out on a limb and say that Ishikawa was looking for a fastball here, and boy did he get one. Middle-in, middle-down, he hit a grand fly ball to right-center that was definitely going to be a grand slam until it wasn't. The strong right-to-left winds knocked down the ball and played havoc on the Cardinals' rightfielder, Randal Grichuk.

Grichuk--who you might recall started in right because of his combination of above-average defense (better than Taveras's, is the subtext) and above-average offense (over Peter Bourjos), even, it was claimed, without the platoon advantage--young Randal looked up and tracked back, and saw what was a fly ball that would probably leave the field or would at the very least hit high up on the right-center wall. He took his eye off the ball, turned his back to home plate, and hoped for a carom.

But the ball played us all for fools: it died like a dying quail, hitting the outfield wall just a couple of feet off the ground.

Could Randal Grichuk--who is of regular human height--have caught that fly ball for the third out of the inning if he had tracked back all the way, thus limiting the Giants to one run? Yes. Should we expect him or any outfielder to have done that? Of course not.

To do so, I think he first would have had to make the bad decision of trying to catch a very high and wall-bound fly ball in the air instead of sensibly playing the carom. Of course I wish this had happened, and maybe it was worth the risk, since there were two outs and Jay was running toward the ball and could throw it in if Grichuk missed it.

But really, given what a maelstrom those outfield winds were today, I think it would have been like Luke turning off his targeting computer in Star Wars: i.e., a very bad idea, even if it would've worked out.

Fourth Inning

After the disastrous first inning, John Lackey did that hard-to-quantify but seemingly real thing: he "settled in." The Giants notched just one hit between the first and tenth innings (non-inclusive). Well done, sour-faced one. His final line:

6 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 IBB, 1 HBP, 3 K. 5 GB, 8 FB (2 IFFB), 7 LD.

But how did the Cards come back from a four-run deficit?

Jon Jay (3-5, all singles) led off the fourth with an all-too-easy line-drive single to left, and Matt Holliday singled him to second. Two on, none out, and Matt Adams lined a ball right to the centerfielder for the first out. Jhonny Peralta followed with a strikeout. Two outs, and Tim Hudson on the verge of completely avoiding scathe in the fourth.

Kolten Wong stepped to the plate. Hudson threw him a sinker on the outside corner for a strike. He then tried to sneak a 77mph curveball by young Kolten, but Hudson left it up just enough, and Wong hit what would probably have been a home run at Busch. Hunter Pence tracked the ball back, whirling like a dervish, and played the ball off the carom. Triple for Wong. Grichuk vindicated. 4-2 Giants.

Seventh Inning Devil Magic

After the Cardinals scratched in another run in the sixth on a Jhonny Peralta two-out seeing-eye single over Sandoval's glove--like, right over it, as if directed by some dark god's claw--the game was 4-3 Giants.

Tim Hudson was still in the game. Grichuk up. He was 0-2 with a strikeout so far. Posey set up on the outside corner and called for a cutter. Hudson threw. Hudson missed his spot. The fastball cut down and inside to meet Grichuk's rapidly, and I mean really rapidly accelerating bat head. He connects. Before the camera switches to the flight of the ball and even before Grichuk has finished his swing, I get a flashback of him going yard off Kershaw's slider. I say the word KAPOW out loud.

4-3 Giants.

4-3 Giants.

4-4 ballgame on the huge home run by the St. Louis Cardinals' 2025 starting centerfielder/ future hall-of-famer Randal Grichuk.

Daniel Descalso (not Oscar Taveras) then entered the game to pinch hit for John Lackey; he tapped out to the pitcher. Carpenter singled in an at-bat that Harold Reynolds gave the Nobel Peace Prize to, but Jon Jay grounded out to end the half-inning. Marco Gonzales pitched the bottom of the frame, flashing a pretty good slider to strike out Gregor Blanco for the third out.

Both offenses took the eighth inning off, as Jeremy Affeldt and Pat Neshek pitched perfect frames.

Ninth Inning

Really guys, what a game this was.

Bruce Bochy elected to pitch his lights-out closer Santiago Casilla to start the ninth, and despite a hard line-drive out by Wong, Casilla throws a perfect inning.

Seth Maness enters and throws a perfect inning of his own, retiring the side--including Michael Morse pinch hitting for Casilla with two outs--on six pitches. One thing to notice is the fantastic play he made on a high chopper from Pence, having to grab the ball and throw to first while his momentum took him toward third.

And hey, you all know what happened, so this isn't foreshadowing as much as throwing salt on a wound, but recall that this pitcher was still available to Mike Matheny to start the tenth:

But anyway, Morse grounds out on the first pitch from Maness, and here we have FREE BASEBALL.

Tenth Inning

Lefty Javier Lopez takes over pitching for the Giants; Peter Bourjos pinch hits but is not double-switched in for Jay or Grichuk; he grounds out and is done for the game.

Matt Carpenter strikes out swinging at a sweeping slider.

Jon Jay singles up the middle.

Game-two goat Sergio Romo enters to pitch to Matt Holliday. Matt Holliday hits a scorching worm-burner to third but Pablo Sandoval makes a stellar play to save a run. Three outs. Bottom of the tenth...faahhh.

Faaahhh.

Okay, here's basically what happened:

  • Randy Choate entered to pitch to lefthanded batter Brandon Crawford, which was a good decision by Matheny;
  • Choate walked Crawford on a full count;
  • Juan Perez, a right-handed batter, came to bat;
  • Matheny, suspecting that Bochy would bunt and aware that left-handed batter Gregor Blanco was up next, chose to keep Choate in the game;
  • Perez did indeed attempt to bunt;
  • he failed twice, and with two strikes he swung away, fouling off multiple pitches;
  • Matheny, perhaps like every other manager alive, kept Choate in the game even though Perez was no longer bunting;
  • Perez lined a single to left, putting two on with no outs;
  • Matheny kept Choate in the game, since Blanco is a lefty;

*deep breath*

  • Blanco bunted;
  • Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal watched from the bullpen;
  • Randy Choate grabbed the bunted ball, spun clockwise with his weight moving toward third;

*heartache forthcoming*

  • Kolten Wong ran to first to cover for Big Mayo, who was charging with the bunt;
  • Choate threw wide of first;
  • Wong couldn't catch it;

*reaches for remote*

  • Brandon Crawford scored;

*turns off TV*

  • 5-4 Giants.


Source: FanGraphs

Game 4 takes place Wednesday at 7pm central, Shelby Miller versus Ryan Vogelsong.