For San Francisco Giants fans, Game 1 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals probably gave them flashbacks of 2010.
That is to say, a stress-inducing late-inning stretch that could have lost the game on one bad pitch, followed by the sheer excitement (and utter relief) of an unlikely victory.
In any case, San Francisco took down the heavily-favored Nats in Game 1 of their National League Division Series, 3-2. Giants starter Jake Peavy put together a stellar 5.2-inning performance, proving to be the better of the two starters on Friday. Timely hitting by the Giants offense knocked around Nationals wunderkind Stephen Strasburg for 5.0 innings, tallying 8 hits in the right-hander’s first postseason start.
Peavy, who had struggled in the postseason in the past (0-3, 9.27 ERA in five career postseason starts), was entrusted to start in lieu of Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who had pitched a complete-game gem on Wednesday to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card game. It was a big responsibility, especially considering his past struggles in the playoffs, and the quality talent of a pitcher like Strasburg on the other side.
Apparently, none of that mattered – Peavy hurled a no-hitter going into the fifth inning, painting the strike zone at will. Three runs by the Giants offense – including the continued hot streak of rookie 2B Joe Panik (2-5, R, RBI) – also helped his cause.
But with a 2-0 lead in the sixth, Peavy was pulled with runners on 1st and 2nd, and a 104-pitch count under his belt. He was not happy.
And with the bases loaded with two out, manager Bruce Bochy turned to rookie reliever Hunter Strickland – a 28-year-old with only seven innings of experience to his name, but a fireballer arm. It was a gamble that worked out for the Giants, as Strickland used four fastballs that topped at least 98 mph to sit SS Ian Desmond, who had a knack of coming through in bases-loaded situations (8-for-12, 17 RBIs, GS in 2014).
The pressure mounted for San Francisco despite an insurance RBI by Buster Posey, however, when Strickland gave up towering home runs to LF Bryce Harper (445 feet, the longest of his career) and 2B Asdrubal Cabrera (369 feet) in the seventh. It was a feeling Giants fans have been all-too-familiar with in the postseason.
From there, the Giants turned to two pitchers who had struggled at relief spots for most of the regular season – Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla – to close out the rest of the way. It was a gut-wrenching spot for Giants fans to see those two out there in the later innings, but both were on their game – Romo used his patented slider to record a 1-inning shutout (despite giving up two hits), and Casilla recorded a perfect ninth to get the save, and preserve the Giants’ record ninth straight postseason win, a mark dating back to the 2012 NLCS.
The Giants now possess an all-important home-field advantage heading into Game 2, where they will start a struggling Tim Hudson against Nationals ace Jordan Zimmerman, who had pitched a no-hitter in his last start.
Notes/Thoughts on the game:
- The postseason magic continues for the Giants, as many pitching gambles – including the Peavy start and the use of Strickland in the sixth – paid off. Bringing out Strickland, especially, was a perplexing move by Bochy, considering it was a big stage on the road. But it was simply another chess move by a master roster manipulator.
- The offense’s 12 hits played a big role in helping the pitching staff through the course of the game. If they can continue to put bat to ball against an ace like Zimmerman in Game 2, they will always give themselves a chance. However, they still left 12 men on base, which is a Cardinal Sin in close games – and one they survived in Game 1.
- If you’re a Giants fan, you have to love Peavy’s intensity. It especially showed when a key double-play ball was turned in the fifth inning, and San Francisco up 2-0. On the previous play, he had given up his first hit to the equally-intense Harper, on a potential game-turning single with nobody out. When Wilson Ramos hit into an ugly (but effective) 4-6-3 double play, Peavy had decidedly gotten the last laugh on Harper, as you can see here:
Yeah. He’s pretty intense.