((HT: BASTA/Ben Leonard))
One day after a magical win to take Game One of the NLCS, the Cardinals’ come-from-behind victory left the Giants thinking about what could have been. The fiery Jake Peavy struggled early, but largely averted disaster and kept San Francisco in the game. Mistakes plagued the Giants’ bullpen, allowing three solo homers in the last three innings. The Giants’ bullpen has allowed six runs this postseason, and all six have come on solo shots. Sunday’s game was entertaining, although disappointing for the Giants; three lead changes made Sunday a night to remember for baseball fans.
Jake Peavy did not have his “A” game on Sunday, letting too many fastballs fall right down the middle; yet the Cardinals largely did not make him pay for his egregious mistakes. The Cardinals made lots of loud contact in the first two innings, but hit balls right at Giants’ defenders and got nothing to show for it. Postseason hero Matt Carpenter turned the tide in the third, launching an inside fastball from Peavy into the right field stands for a solo homer, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. After seeing his three home runs in the NLDS, Peavy was wary of throwing inside early in the count to Carpenter, with his first two offerings hitting the outside corner; his third pitch was not on target. Carpenter’s dinger made him the first leadoff man to have four or more home runs in postseason history.
Peavy’s struggles continued in the fourth, surrendering a leadoff walk to Matt Adams, and Jhonny Peralta followed with a hard single to center. In a head-scratching move by Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny that somehow paid off, All-Star catcher Yadier Molina sacrifice bunted, moving Adams and Peralta to second and third (Molina left in the sixth with an oblique strain, leaving his status in doubt for the rest of the playoffs).Molina’s injury looms large for St. Louis, as the All-Star has been an invaluable piece of their recent postseason runs. Deep in the Cardinals’ order, Peavy intentionally walked Kolten Wong to load the bases, but defensive star Randal Grichuck lined a single up the middle, giving St. Louis the 2-0 lead. Peavy got the next two outs, but rightfully gave way to Jeremy Affeldt to start the fifth. He needed 76 pitches to make it through four shaky innings, but in typical Peavy fashion, fought and gave it his all to keep his team in the game.
The Giants’ offense responded in the fifth, with Brandon Belt leading off with a single and Travis Ishikawa lacing a double, setting up second and third with no outs for Joaquin Arias, pinch-hitting for Peavy. His broken bat groundout to second off of Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn cut St. Louis’ lead to 2-1. Some typical Giants’ October magic contributed to a two-out rally in the sixth, on a poorly-hit double from Pablo Sandoval that fell just out of reach of a sliding Matt Holiday in left and into the stands for a ground-rule double. Hunter Pence worked Lynn for seven pitches, then lined a single to right center to score Sandoval, chasing Lynn and his dominant fastball from the game. Lynn threw 79% fastballs in the regular season, second in the majors behind Bartolo Colon (82.6%).
Gregor Blanco finally produced out of the leadoff spot, driving in a run on an RBI single just past the diving second baseman Wong with the infield in, giving San Francisco the 3-2 lead in the seventh. However, Bruce Bochy decided that it would be a good idea to let Jean Machi pitch to the dangerous lefty hitter Oscar Taveras instead of Javier Lopez, and Taveras made Bochy pay with a deep solo shot to right, tying the game at 3 apiece. The homer was the second Machi has given up this postseason, on a hanging forkball from the portly right hander. Javier Lopez was ready and waiting in the bullpen, but Bochy, for some reason, put the righty in instead, who had never faced Taveras. Taveras was 1 for 1 in his career against Lopez (A single), not exactly a large sample size.
Bochy continued the string of preposterous decision making, inserting Hunter Strickland into the game in the bottom of the seventh and the game tied at three. After giving up three homers in the NLDS, one would think that Bochy would not put him in in such a high-leverage situation against another great fastball hitter in Matt Adams. Strickland served up a high fastball to Adams on a 2-1 count, and Adams did not miss, depositing it into the right field stands, giving St. Louis the 4-3 lead.
With their backs to the wall, the Giants conjured up a rally in the ninth, scoring a run on a scudded wild pitch from Trevor Rosenthal, who was overhyped and blatantly overthrowing, missing high several times. Matt Duffy scored all the way from second, tying the game at four apiece on a play that constituted great individual hustle on the part of the scrawny rookie. However, the comeback was to no avail, as Sergio Romo hung a changeup in the bottom half of the frame and Wong did not miss, hitting a walkoff homer, the fourth solo shot for St. Louis in the game.
Here's the home run barrage
Wong’s shot knotted the series at one apiece heading to San Francisco. Tim Hudson will go for San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon, in his first start since Game Two of the NLDS, when he went 7 and 1/3 innings of one run ball. He will face John Lackey, the active leader in postseason innings pitched.