A victory for the Giants tonight seemed almost too obvious. The most dominant pitcher in all the land versus, vs. the once prolific wounded ace. The solid southpaw who set the record with 24 consecutive scoreless postseason innings, against the guy who two times this year couldn’t work his way out of four. Tonight’s game was a classic battle between a proven commodity and a righty who wanted to stay relevant.
In the first inning, Bumgarner, not looking very sharp, gave up consecutive hard singles to Jay, who has owned him with a .500 BA, and Holliday. Peralta then lashed a line drive to Sandoval, who Air Jordaned the catch for a double play. Blanco led off the bottom of the inning with a sharp shot to RF, and was left in scoring position after Panda grounded out. The second inning consisted of consecutive 1,2,3’s and it appeared like Wainwright’s elbow injury was not an issue.
Bumgarner ran into some control problems walking two, then Jay made him pay with a double to the, new to this position left fielding Ishikawa, who misplayed the ball, resulting in a 1-0 Cardinals lead. In the bottom of the inning, Blanco got his second hit off of Wainwright, and then Joltin’ Joe Panik crushed one over the right field wall which gave the Giants a 2-1 lead.
Top of the fourth, Matt Adams got some redemption for last night’s disastrous defense, clocking one to tie the game. Randal Grichuk flied out, Kolten Wong struck out swinging, and replacement catcher, Tony Cruz, left the park with a line drive to left, making Molina proud, and giving St Louis a 3-2 lead. In the Giants half, Sandoval smoked a double to left field. Pence walked. Belt, belted a line drive to Wong, who doubled off Sandoval on second base. The identical play Sandoval made to erase Peralta and Jay in the first inning. Ah, payback’s a bitch.
The fifth and six innings went 1,2,3, the only difference being in the latter, Wainwright struck out the side. As he walked off the mound, with a roar and a fist pump, you felt like this was his night, and we’re looking at game six in St. Louis.
In a rare occasion this postseason, in the seventh inning, the starting pitchers were actually, still pitching. Bumgarner retired the side in order, as did Wainwright, but while covering first base he caught a soft toss from Adams, stretching like Gumby for the final out.
Bumgarner, who early on looked like he needed relief, tossed a perfect 8th. In their half of the inning, the Cardinals made a pitching change, and seeing Wainwright in the dugout, you can almost taste him tasting a victory. But then the new righty in town, Pat Neshek, who had been brilliant against the Giants the entire postseason, with a 0.00 ERA, was given the keys to the mound, and gave up a solo pinch hit tying home run to Michael Morse.
The top of the ninth, Santiago Casilla, on no days rest, replaced Bumgarner, and with one out, gave up a walk and a single. A cooled off Kolten Wong came so close to being a hero when he roped one past a diving Sandoval, which caught the tip of his glove, ricocheting to Crawford, who quickly rifled to Panik for the force at second. With two out and runners at the corners, Kolten stole second. Cruz walked. St Louis loaded the bases, and you’re thinking, the Cards are going to pull it off and it’s going to be Make A Wish night for Wainwright. But in came Jeremy A-FFELDT! who fielded a Taveras grounder for the final out.
Bottom of the ninth. Pitcher Michael Wacha, last year’s rookie NLCS MVP, took the hill. Pablo, I can’t stay off base, Sandoval, singled to right and was replaced by a pinch runner. Pence flied out. Belt walked on four pitches. And with runners on first and second with one out, Travis Ishikawa came to the plate. Yes, the same Ishikawa who misplayed Jay’s ball back in the first inning, that resulted in a run. On a 2-0 fastball, he left St. Louis’ heart broken in San Francisco by launching a walk off three run blast to clinch the series. Too obvious?