NLDS Game Four Review: San Francisco

The San Francisco Giants didn’t exactly take Game 4 in convincing fashion, but was able to capitalize on timely hitting on rare opportunities. When it looked like Derek Lowe was on a roll after five no-hit innings, unheralded Cody Ross (+28.9% WPA) swung at a first-pitch hanging slider, hitting a line drive to left field for a solo homerun. Lowe had been all over the Giants all day, inducing 14 swinging strikes over the first five no-hit innings, 10 of them being sliders by my count.

When Lowe struggled locating his sinker in the 7th inning after pitching two out of the last three starts on short rest, the Giants’ lineup exhibited rare patience. An Aubrey Huff (+4.9% WPA) walk followed by a Buster Posey single called for what turned out to be Bobby Cox‘s last mound visit. Lowe insisted that he could finish the inning, but still could not locate the sinker against Pat Burrell (+8.2% WPA), who kept his bat on his shoulders for five pitches, drawing a walk to load the bases. A possible double play groundball from Juan Uribe (+15.3% WPA) wasn’t converted by Alex Gonzalez, allowing Huff to score the tying run.

Cox then elected to bring in Jonny Venters, striking out Aaron Rowand for the second out. But Cody Ross had adjusted his approach to a more aggressive one, hitting a sharp grounder on the second pitch to score Posey. As a recap of the top of the 7th inning, the Giants waited for pitches to hit when Lowe was off-target for the first time all day, and responded to another Braves’ infield error by driving in the winning run, a sequence of classic playoff baseball.

The Braves’ offense was not ready to give up, however. Brian Wilson came to close out the bottom of the 9th with a 3-2 lead, but struggled to find the strike zone throwing multiple fastballs. Two good at-bats by Rick Ankiel and Eric Hinske led to back-to-back walks. But Wilson adjusted his approach against Omar Infante, throwing several outside sliders to get Infante to strike out swinging. And it was the slider that Melky Cabrera grounded out off of for the final out, thrusting the Giants into the NLCS against the Phillies.

For the series, the Giants’ starting pitching has been phenomenal. Madison Bumgarner‘s Game 4 start is not to be overlooked, as he struck out five and allowed two earned runs in an efficient six innings on 85 pitches. In hindsight, Bruce Bochy made a wise decision electing to go with Bumgarner instead of Tim Lincecum on short rest, setting the stage for the ultimate pitching matchup against Roy Halladay in Game 1 of the NLCS.

The Giants’ offense, for the most of the series, succeeded by taking advantage of rare opportunities. In Game 1, it was Ross who drove in a run after an intentional walk to Pablo Sandoval. In Game 3, it was several Brooks Conrad errors. In Game 4, it was Ross yet again with timely hits against Lowe and Venters. The Giants did not exhibit much power in the series, and credit goes to the Braves’ pitching staff for much of that. The lack of power will be a major problem against the Phillies in the NLCS this weekend, but for now, Giants’ fans will celebrate and take their first playoff win in eight years.




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Albert Lyu (@thinkbluecrew, LinkedIn) is a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, but will always root for his beloved Northwestern Wildcats. Feel free to email him with any comments or suggestions.


32 Responses to “NLDS Game Four Review: San Francisco”

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  1. Mark says:

    Albert, were we watching the same game?

    “A routine double play groundball from Juan Uribe (+15.3% WPA) was fumbled not by Brooks Conrad (who was benched for the game), but by Alex Gonzalez, allowing Huff to score the go-ahead run.”

    The ball was not a routine double play groundball, it was a sharp grounder in the hole between shortstop and third. It was not fumbled, but handled cleanly by Gonzalez, who threw high to second. Infante had to jump to catch the ball, and his foot came off the bag, and everyone was safe.

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    • Albert Lyu says:

      Mark, I watched the game, and it’s sloppy of me not to rewatch the video before posting. Thanks for correcting me, I will correct the description.

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    • Tommy says:

      If you’re going to fact check then you should be accurate yourself. The throw did not pull Infante off the bag until the out had been made. Close play, but television replays showed that the 2nd base umpire made the incorrect call. Without that, neither run likely scores as Venters struck out the next batter, Rowand.

      TV screen cap via Yahoo: http://a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/ept_sports_mlb_experts__67/ept_sports_mlb_experts-789533873-1286861637.jpg?ymFdY6DD7Sm97P9A

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      • blackout says:

        I agree with you on the call being incorrect, Tommy, but Mark is correct in stating the nature of the play prior to the throw and it’s not incumbent upon him to debate the umpire’s call as that wasn’t the portion of Albert’s post to which he was responding. It’s perfectly okay to echo the call as it stands, even if you disagree with it, as that’s how it’s going into the books.

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      • jtwood426 says:

        Right, the ump blew that call, which was particularly surprising given their long streak of giving force outs at second if the second baseman within 10 feet of the bag.

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      • Mark says:

        Neither run?

        One run scored on that very play. The bases were loaded (Huff, Posey, Burrell), and there was not going to be a double play, so Huff’s run was scoring regardless.

        Posey’s run would not have scored since Ross would not have batted in the inning.

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      • Tommy says:

        I stand corrected, Mark.

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      • tom says:

        A few things…
        – the call was close, it looked like a bad call, but it was not egregiously bad
        – the neighborhood call that someone referred to is only typically given on a double play (to protect the infielders from getting mangled). On a play which will only get one out it is generally called like a play at first (you need to be on the bag)
        – folks can’t assume the inning plays out the same after. It would have been 2-2 with 2 out and 1st and 3rd. While on fangraphs there is no context or change in approach… the next batter hitting bases loaded 1 out vs 1st and 3rd 2 out approaches the AB differently and you can’t assume future outcomes are the same. (The pitcher also pitches differently)

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      • Nate says:

        That replay is inconclusive. From that angle the only thing you can see is that his foot is inbetween the bag and the camera. The very first replay they showed from the side (they only showed once, I believe) gave the impression that his foot was off the bag.

        Of course, this particular play is a huge argument against replay as it would take several viewings very slowly to be “pretty sure” that the on-field call was wrong.

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      • Viliphied says:

        @Nate: How, in any way, is that an argument against replay?

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    • The Duder says:

      Part of me wishes us commentors (commenters?) didn’t jump down authors throats with corrections like this, and were more polite… but I understand where it comes from.

      There is a thick air of egotism about the advanced metrics community, and sometimes it’s hard to escape.

      Albert, good work thus far. I’ve really enjoyed it all. May all your mistakes be corrected politely going forward.

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      • Mark says:

        One thing I hate about posting to the internet, especially pseudo-anonymously (unless you have an elephant’s memory and memorize the personalities of fangraphs posters) is that comments like mine seem super-snarky and mean, even though I meant it to just be matter-of-fact.

        The “were we watching the same game?” was meant to be joking, but I fear it was lost in the interwebs.

        I don’t wish to take anything away from the author or the fangraphs writers in general, who do terrific work and are at the forefront of all baseball writing.

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      • Albert Lyu says:

        For what it’s worth, Mark, I wasn’t offended by your comment, it was helpful, and I always welcome corrections, I’ll let other people decide whether or not they’re polite or whatever.

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      • The Duder says:

        Oh… when you said it was sloppy of you not to rewatch the game before posting… I assumed you were being snarky…

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  2. blackout says:

    I wasn’t completely impressed with Bumgarner, and it seems like a lot of folks are glossing over his flaws (FB was almost exclusively up in the zone, slider command was erratic) because his game line looks solid. If he has to pitch against PHI and doesn’t pitch down in the zone more, he likely won’t find the going as easy as it was last night, and that’s considering he was in trouble a couple of times.

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    • Andrew says:

      I think you should be impressed with the fact that he was pitching against his childhood team, at age 21, in his first postseason start – on the road.

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      • Graham says:

        Also — Bumgarner can pitch up in the zone effectively. He has good velocity on the fastball (92-95), but perhaps more importantly, he has a deceptive crossover step and incredibly easy arm action, making his fastball appear that much quicker to hitters.

        This wasn’t the sharpest he’s been this year, but given the contextual factors @Andrew cites above, I feel fine about him facing the Phils. That doesn’t mean he’ll win, or that I expect him to; but it does mean he showed nothing in last night’s game that would make me especially opposed to him starting again.

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    • brendan says:

      Bumgarner pitches in the zone a lot, as evidenced by his low BB/9. He does pound the zone and has lots of BIP against him. I too was concerned about his flyball tendencies last night, but limiting walks is a good way to keep the damage down on the inevitable homeruns. I think he looks like an above-average pitcher right now, but not an ace.

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  3. peter ramus says:

    “allowing Huff to score the go-ahead run”

    s/b “allowing Huff to score the tying run.”

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  4. Mike says:

    You could see Derek Lowe say “F*** I’m sorry” to Cox after he got pulled since he convinced Cox to leave him in for one more batter.

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    • Creek Johnson says:

      I saw the “F***” part, missed the “I’m sorry” part. I can see why Bobby left him in, wrong or not. Derek Lowe has been in that spot a thousand times and pitched in big games (clenching for the ’04 Red Sox in the ALCS). He pitches his ass off this series. What really gets me is this:

      “Personally I’ve two losses next to my name and it’s pretty hard to swallow thinking that out of three losses, I got two of them.”

      I hope he doesn’t beat himself up too much.

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      • Steve says:

        I had no idea that Lowe pitched for the Red Sox in 2004. You’d think the announcers would have mentioned that more than 100 times in passing.

        To be fair, it’s not like he pitched in any postseason games while playing for the Dodgers.

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      • Jason B says:

        “Personally I’ve two losses next to my name and it’s pretty hard to swallow thinking that out of three losses, I got two of them.”

        He’s got two of the three, Conrad took the other…

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      • Creek Johnson says:

        This is me trying to discriminate sarcasm from sincerity on the internet.

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      • Fergie 348 says:

        Nonsense – you win as a team, you lose as a team. The pitcher is the most important person on the field, but far from the only one out there. In most cases, judging the effectiveness of a pitcher by his win/loss record is pure folly – don’t give in to it, Derek.

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  5. B N says:

    On a tangential note, did anyone catch the Cox press conference? In addition to being the end of an era, there was also one (unintentionally) amusing line from him:

    “These fans have been great. They’ve packed this place just about the last five ballgames.”

    Kind of a backhanded compliment, no? I just found that to be pretty funny, since I’m from Boston and have been living in Philly for the last 5 years. In those towns, saying to the fans that you only packed the house the last 5 days would be an insult.

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    • ABravesFan says:

      Somewhat sadly, that was a genuine compliment from Cox to the Atlanta fans. Compared to the NLDS during the last half of the Streak, the Ted was packed.

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    • Mike says:

      They didn’t even sell out the last game..

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  6. Phantom Stranger says:

    Do we really have to go through the razzing on Atlanta fans again? Because of several factors, including a stadium located far away by traffic congestion from their paying fanbase, a transient metro population not from the area, and so on, attendance has been relatively poor for a franchise that was so successful for nearly two decades. These factors are not going to change, so people should just accept the poor attendance and move on.

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    • B N says:

      I actually didn’t mean to rag on them, as I know they’re in a tricky situation, but I was just amused to hear that particular comment.

      With that said, the factors could still be changed. Working with the city to improve public transit to the stadium would help a lot for filling seats. Alternatively, one could work with the tourism bureau to pull in fans from road teams. It might be counter-intuitive to pack your park with away-team fans, but they pay the bills too.

      Barring all of that, they should just open up a “GA College Football Hall of Fame” next to the stadium. That should get them a couple hundred extra bodies on gamedays.

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  7. cs3 says:

    i havent heard this talked about, and the article didnt mention this ratehr significant point at all, but on the ross single that scored posey, burrell was thrown out at the plate.
    the very next inning burrell was replaced for defensive purposes by nate schierholtz, who happened to be a much much faster runner.
    I feel like Bochy really dropped the ball on this one, because if he was planning to remove burrell the next inning anyway (as he had in each previous game) then why in the world did he leave pat in, probably the teams slowest player, to run the bases??? a faster runner would have scored standing, and provided a much safer 2 run cushion.
    as it turned out wilson was able to navigate his way out of trouble and preserve the victory in the 9th, so Boch was saved from having to explain himself.
    however with runs at such a huge premium for the Giants, Bochy can not continue to make mistakes like this one and expect to score enough runs to beat philly.

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