NLDS Game Two Review: San Francisco

Heard this: Rick Ankiel prolly made himself another $5-$7 million dollars last night. This jibes with what anonymous scouts are saying — the energy and competitiveness of this series has to be largely credited to Ankiel and the other former Royals prominently involved.

That probably makes about as much sense as anything else after last night’s 5-4, extra-inning victory by the Braves over the Giants. Going into the game, Matt Cain and Tommy Hanson seemed to be quite evenly matched when looking at their current season stats and their recent CHONE projections (3.88 projected nERA for Cain, 3.86 for Hanson). The game didn’t play out that way. Pat Burrell opened the scoring with a three-run shot off of Hanson in the first that was good for about a 25 percent jump in win expectancy. Given the way Cain was dealing, it looked like that homer was going to be more than enough even without the additional run driven in by Cain himself in the second. Other than the home run, Hanson wasn’t horrible, although he wasn’t impressive either, and understandably got pulled for a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth. Cain finally gave up a run in the sixth inning, but for the most part had the Braves easily in hand when he was pulled with two outs in the seventh. Up to that point, the Braves looked mostly helpless at the plate, and the Giants’ Win Expectancy was up at around 95% despite being shut down by an impressive stream of Atlanta relievers for the second straight game.

The game began to unravel for the Giants in the eighth. It is difficult to blame it on their tactics, however. Sergio Romo came in to pitch in the top of the eighth and promptly gave up singles to Derek Lee and McCann. Romo was still a good choice, as he is a dominating strikeout pitcher, avoids walks well, and his flyball tendencies are offset by the nature of the park. Bruce Bochy also made the right call to bring in closer Brian Wilson for a two-inning save at this point. The leverage index (LI) was as higher than it had been all game to that point — Wilson’s pLI for the game ended up being 2.59 — and that is the best way to maximize a relief ace’s outings. It didn’t work out, but it was the right decision. The Giants’ infield didn’t do Wilson any favors, as a throwing error by third baseman Pablo Sandoval allowed Melky Cabrera, one-third (along with Nate McLouth and Rick Ankiel [more on him in a minute…]) of the Braves’ Disaster Trio to reach first, scoring Lee. After a sacrifice bunt, the Braves tied the game on an Alex Gonzalez double that drove in two more runs. Wilson finished the inning and retired the side in the ninth, as well.

The extra innings were bizarrely dramatic. Former Royal and personal favorite Ramon Ramirez dispatched the Braves in the top of the 10th, and in the bottom half, San Francisco again looked poised to put the game away. It was potentially (and still may turn out to be) a disastrous inning for the Braves, as Billy Wagner injured his oblique after successfully fielding Andres Torres‘ sacrifice bunt that moved Edgar Renteria to second base, forcing the Braves to bring in everyone’s favorite high leverage reliever: Kyle Farnsworth. Good news, everyone! Professor Farnsworth did not disappoint, drilling Freddy Sanchez and then walking Aubrey Huff to load the bases with one out and Buster Posey coming to the plate. What happened next upped the SI (Surrealism Index) considerably, with Posey hitting a grounder to nominal third baseman Troy Glaus (yes, he’s still alive), who, rather than getting the runner at home, made the daring decision to start the double play… and it worked to the tune of a 33 percent shift in win expectancy.

It would be hard to top that, but Rick Ankiel’s game-winning shot off of Ramon Ramirez managed to do so. One could make criticisms of Bochy’s leaving Ramirez in the game, at least for that plate appearance, but none of them are devastating. Ankiel does have a pretty large platoon split, so maybe bringing in, say, Jeremy Affeldt in to face Ankiel might have been the right move, but Ramirez himself doesn’t have a huge platoon split for his career. Moreover, Affeldt hasn’t been that great this season, and even with the platoon advantage Rick Ankiel is still Rick Ankiel. Perhaps more worrisome would be that Ramirez gives up a lot of fly balls, and power is probably Ankiel’s only skill (albeit one mostly hidden the last two seasons) at the plate, but there was a much greater chance of Ankiel making an out than hitting it out, and the park deflates home run/fly ball rates. Still, the bullpen was rested from not having to work the previous night, and had the next game off — so there was no reason to be stingy with reliever usage. In any case, things obviously didn’t work out for the Giants, and Ankiel sent one into the water. Even The Professor adding a bit of drama by allowing a baserunner in the bottom of the 11th couldn’t top that drama. The only thing keeping this game from aesthetic perfection was that Jose Guillen wasn’t available to ground into a game-ending double play.

The Giants have good reason to think they should be up two games after one great and one good performance from their starting pitchers against a decimated Braves lineup. Thanks in large part to a contingent of former Kansas City Royals on both sides, they’ll be heading to Atlanta with the series tied.

Print This Post

Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

19 Responses to “NLDS Game Two Review: San Francisco”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Patrick says:


    The first part, in italics, about Ankiel… Is that a quote or what?

    Who heard it? :) Where?

    Sorry, just isn’t clear. It’s CRAZY… but not super clear.

    An excellent summary. Very fun to read.

    – Patrick

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. evan says:

    just wanted to say, awesome summary. it was certainly a surreal experience, and, as a braves fan, exactly the kind of improbably scrappiness that has gotten us to the postseason. somehow.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Mike B. says:

    My prediction for this postseason:

    A record number of errors, along with the highest Surrealism Index since 1973.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Bronnt says:

    I’m curious about the Disaster Trio-did you make that up because they could combine for the ugliest playoff outfield ever? Because in terms of crappy hitting performances, Alex Gonzalez was in his own league over the past three weeks before that big double in the 8th.

    If anything can make Melky Cabrera’s .255/.317/.354 line look good, it’s the .240/.291/.386 put up by Alex Gonzalez as a Brave. Maybe your Disaster Trio needs to be upgraded to a Loathsome Foursome.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Dave says:

    “Troy Glaus (yes, he’s still alive), who, rather than getting the runner at home, made the daring decision to start the double play”

    The funny part is that Glaus would have had an easier double play if he went 5-2-3. What was he thinking??? Probably “Wow, my back really hurts after trying to bend over for that Renteria bunt”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • WY says:

      I don’t know about that. Those are two tough throwing angles if you try to go from third to home and then home to first. I think he played it just right based on it being a ground ball to his left. It was a great play.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. James says:

    Consider also Brooks Conrad, career .231/.296/.445 slash line. As a 26-year old lifelong Braves fan, this is the most putrid lineup I’ve ever seen us trot out on the field. I imagine this team’s aggregate triple slash line has to be one of the worst for a playoff lineup in the last decade.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Atom says:

    I think the most amazing thing about that game was Rick NOT throwing the bat ten feet over the catchers head every time he attempted a swing. Maybe he’s over it and can be put back on the mound (we can dream…can’t we?)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Tomas says:

    Ricks only skill is not power……His defense is outstanding, his arm is the best there is, great range also

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Lanenator says:

      “and power is probably Ankiel’s only skill (albeit one mostly hidden the last two seasons) at the plate”

      Notice the “at the plate” at the end. I’m all for pointing out mistakes, but be absolutely certain you are correct when doing so.

      Plus, I would hardly call Ankiel’s defense outstanding. Although his arm is fantastic, his reads in CF leave something to be desired, hence his career -9.1 UZR/150 there. In this series alone he has already made one awful play on the Posey triple in game 1.

      Excellent write-up, and Ankiels’s HR was the proverbial cherry on top this surreal Sunday.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Paul says:

        Agreed, Ankiel’s defense is pretty sketchy as well, and we should include Conrad’s defense at second base as well. As a Giants fan who attended the game last night, standing in the right field arcade for 11 neck-craning innings, I still cannot believe or understand how the Giants lost the game. I still believe we’re up 2-0 and only need to win one in Atl to move on to the Championship series. 95% win expectancy…to Farnsworth shutting down the Giants (although he did his best to try and lose it) and Ankiel hitting a bomb splash hit to win it. So stupid. And if we hadn’t been playing in Pac Bell, McCann had a homerun in the 10th inning, a 410 foot flyout to Nate in Right/Center. Brutal.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Anon21 says:

      Is he an ok baserunner? Bobby often uses him as a pinch runner late in close games, but that doesn’t count for much.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. DrBGiantsfan says:

    This game just adds to an already extensive folklore of inexplicably disastrous Giants performances going all the way back to Willie McCovey’s liner that was caught by Bobby Richardson in 1962 WS Game 7.

    1965: Giants appear to have the NL Pennant well in hand late in September when Juan Marichal decides to club John Roseboro over the head and gets suspended for the rest of the season. The Dodgers run the table over the last 13 games, edge out the Giants and go on to beat the Twin in the WS in 7 games.

    1967: Mike McCormick has a career year winning the Cy Young award, but Marichal contracts a virus during a preseason trip to Japan and has, by far, the worst year out of a run of 8 seasons. The Giants trade Orlando Cepeda to the Cardinals and all he does is win the MVP leading them to a pennant and WS championship. The Giants finish second for the 3’rd consecutive season.

    1993: The Giants win 103 games, but run out of starting pitchers and send out Solomon Torres to face the Dodgers who blow him out 10-0. The Braves win 104 games to take the NL West.

    2000: Giants first season in The Park of Many Names(Pac Bell then). Benny Agbayani hits an improbable HR and the Mets advance rather than the Giants.

    2002: Dusty invites the wrath of the Baseball Gods by giving Russ Ortiz the game ball. Felix Rodriguez throws 8 straight fastballs to Scott Speizio and thinks he might not be looking for a 9’th. We all know the rest……

    2003: Jose Cruz Jr, who had played Gold Glove caliber D in RF all season drops a can of corn to give the Marlins new life. Later, JT Snow tries to score from 2B on a single. I can still see JT ‘s legs churning, but his body not moving, in my mind, over and over again. It’s a visual image that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

    2004: In game 161, the Dodgers end the Giants season with a 9’th inning comeback capped by Steve Finley’s grand slam(a Sac Fly would have won it too).

    Then last night……

    The Red Sox had the Curse of the Bambino and the Cubs still have the Curse of the Billy Goat. I am quite sure the Giants are cursed too, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Lanenator says:

      Perhaps it’s the “Curse of Juan Marichal beating the crap out of another person with a baseball bat”. That seems to be about where it all began on your timeline.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Nah, it started before that with Willie Mac’s ill-fated liner in the WS. Besides, Roseboro and Marichal eventually settled their differences wtih Roseboro publicly forgiving Juan. I really don’t think it’s that. Nice try though.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        I do think the Giants players are aware of the history here, I can tell you the fans certainly are, and it may be creating an extra element of anxiety in key situations that lead to inexplicable gaffes.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Fan of the Panda says:

      Atlee Hammaker (great guy, though), Candy Maldonado, Ozzie Smith, and the Loma Prieta earthquake come to mind as well…1987 and 1989?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Oh yeah, there have been many others. Too numerous to remember all of them in one recall session, but the SF Giants history definitely rivals any in baseball for crazy, inexplicable failures at critical moments.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Fan of the Panda says:

    Then again, we do have Jeffrey “Hac Man” Leonard, who is one of only two League Championship Series MVP’s from a losing club…

    And Buster and the Panda, who are about to redeem themselves (Posey for the DP last night and Panda for his season)…

    Vote -1 Vote +1