NLDS Game Four Recap: Giants 8, Reds 3

And just like that, the Giants have evened the series at two apiece. Tomorrow’s game — Matt Cain v. Mat Latos — will decide whether the Giants go home or advance to the NLCS. Now, about today’s game…

– The Giants finally broke out on offense today, which was a relief to see. After scoring four runs over the previous three games, the Giants tallied eight runs today. Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, and Pablo Sandoval each homered; Joaquin Arias knocked a couple doubles; Hector Sanchez reached base three times. Giants pitching limited the Reds to three runs on the afternoon, but the eight runs the lineup produced weren’t superfluous — in building a big lead, they enabled Bochy to rest Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo.

– Onto Hector Sanchez. I’d like to clarify a few things: I don’t think the Giants’ best lineup has Hector Sanchez at catcher, and that doesn’t mean that I hate Hector Sanchez. As a matter of fact, I actually really like Hector. And I think he’s a pretty talented player — a catcher capable of posting a 95 OPS+ in the majors at age 22 isn’t exactly easy to come by.

But again, I don’t think the Giants’ best lineup — currently — has Hector in it. Brandon Belt is quite clearly a better defender at first base than Buster Posey, and Buster Posey is quite clearly a better defender at catcher than Sanchez (Sanchez had some pretty cringe-worthy glovework at various times in today’s game, even); and Brandon Belt (118 wRC+) is quite clearly a better hitter than Hector Sanchez (86 wRC+) at this moment in time. In the postseason, I think the modus operandi should be to field the best lineup at all costs. Naturally, I want Posey at catcher and Belt at first base for every one of these games. It doesn’t make or break the Giants — and I’ve never suggested that this is the case; but every little thing makes a difference, and I think the team should capitalize on every possible advantage.

Hector hit a single and drew a couple walks today. That’s awesome. It should go without saying, but I want to see him perform well whenever he’s put in the lineup. I was pleased with his work at the plate today, and the Giants’ performance as a whole. Do today’s four plate appearances (along with shoddy defense, no less) change my opinion on the matter? Nope.

– The best part about today’s game: Tim Lincecum. 4.1 IP, 1 ER, 6 K, 0 BB, 2 H. I know the Giants’ offense is better than what they’d done over the first few games in this series. As great as it was to see them finally produce, I’d expected it. Timmy, on the other hand? I don’t really know what to expect out of him at this point. For the first time since Aaron Rowand was still a thing, Lincecum went three-plus innings without walking anybody. His only other walk-less appearance since that game back in June of 2011? His previous relief appearance in this NLDS, when he went two innings with two strikeouts. Put the two outings together, and Lincecum’s overall pitching line for the NLDS: 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 8 K, 0 BB, 3 H. In light of today’s poor showing from Barry Zito (who, in all fairness, didn’t get a whole lot of help from Hector or the home plate umpire), I think there’s no question that Lincecum has to take Zito’s spot in the playoff rotation if the Giants do happen to advance to the next round.

Oh yeah, and Bochy — once again — did an excellent job managing the bullpen today.

– Don’t forget: if Johnny Cueto doesn’t incur that injury in Game One, the Giants are stuck facing Cueto/Latos/Arroyo/Bailey this series, and there’s no Mike Leake. These things aren’t to be taken for granted. Never take Mike Leake for granted.

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6 thoughts on “NLDS Game Four Recap: Giants 8, Reds 3

  1. I see it differently.

    I expected to lose game 2 to Mat Latos. I thought we’d beat Cueto in Game 1 and then lose to Latos in Game 2 and then take 3 and then fight it out.

    Instead the insane Cueto injury – which you describe as some weird accident that helps us – ended up putting Latos in when we weren’t ready for him and then suddenly game two (which again I think we figured we’d lose … to Latos) ended in a horror because we were out-of-sorts.

    They upended us. And we got confused.

    Game 3 was the most important and Bruce Bochy was the MAN. I hate people who call him a genius, but I love that he has come around to LaRussa-like levels of chess-playing moves.

    Relief by committee works because of one man – Bruce Bochy. So I totally get using Sanchez tonight and Posey at first. I think Bochy has been masterful. Not genius, but a master.

    Using Sanchez behind the plate on a night when he guessed Zito might need to be bailed out by Lincecum and then playing Lincecum was …. wow. maestro.

    and Sanchez HAD to be behind the plate for this one. Both Z and Timmy have been most comfortably and well caught by him.

    I like our chances tomorrow and I want REVENGE against Mat Latos – who will forever be to my son and I – the sourest grape.

    Go Giants. Go Cainer. Go baby Go!

    mtk

  2. I agree with mtk that intangibles of Zito and Lincecum’s comfort levels with Hector are an important factor that stats oriented guys tend to scoff at way too much.

    Bochy is not a genius which is a term that gets thrown around way too much but he is and always has been a very good manager and intangibles like how he manages the clubhouse are a big factor in that too.

    I agree that if you just look at Hector’s and Belt’s raw stats, Belt is the better hitter. There are contextual factors that tend to even it out that go beyond intangibles though.

    The lower half of the lineup, where Belt and Sanchez both hit, tends to devalue walks because the 8′th and 9′th hitters tend to just leave them on base. That factor is magnified in the NL where pitchers hit. For an equal BA, hackers get more hits which are more likely to drive in runs. The RBI’s become more valuable since run scoring after getting on base is suppressed by the last 2 hitters in the lineup.

    Add up Hector’s and Belt’s RBI’s and Runs and divide by PA’s. Hector is at least as productive a hitter as Belt when both are hitting in the lower half of the lineup.

    Also, the overall team results over the course of the season is that the Giants win and score runs at least as well with the Hector/Posey lineup as the Belt/Posey lineup.

    Julian has not made a huge deal of this, but the Hector Hate has reached hysterical proportions on MCC and other sites.

  3. Given that the Giants’ organization likes Hector Sanchez, I really hope that Brandon Belt learns to play the outfield. It’s too late for that in this post season, but it would add some flexibility.

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