The Cardinals-Nationals game doesn't start until later tonight, so it gives us a couple more hours of celebration and a chance to look back on some of the key points of Game 5.
This is what I wrote before yesterday's game..
Latos became an extreme fastball pitcher this year and it was pretty obvious he would stay true to form after the first two innings. I mean, hey its worked the last 3 months, so why not continue it, right? Latos ended up throwing 60 of his 78 pitches for fastballs yesterday, which was almost 20% higher than his regular season total. It worked for the first four innings until the strike zone apparently started to shrink. Below is the pitch plot for Latos yesterday. Were some pitches borderline? Yes, but the strike zone was pretty inconsistent for both teams yesterday.
A lot of Latos' frustration with the strike zone began when he started Brandon Crawford off with two corner pitches, each of which were called balls. Latos had to then come inside and Crawford turned on the fastball for an RBI triple. This was just the start of a very ugly avalanche for Latos.
Crawford has been given a lot of slack for his struggles at the plate but the guy had the game of his life on Thursday. A lot of people wanted Arias in the lineup yesterday, which wasn't absurd given he was 3-6 for the series, but Bochy did right from the get go. Arias was too valuable as a right handed bat off the bench in the late innings against Marshall and Chapman. Also, Crawford is the better all around hitter against righties (.287 wOBA 81 wRC+) than Arias (.273 wOBA 72 wRC+). Sticking with Crawford worked out pretty well on offense but he didn't stop there. He flashed so much leather that he already received Gold Glove votes for NEXT year. In fact, the entire Giants team was on a Gold Glove mission yesterday. Blanco had a diving catch to end the 3rd, Pagan had the sliding catch to end the 8th, and Posey completed a strike 'em out, throw 'em out at third base in the 6th. Not sure if Hanigan missed a sign but I'm pretty sure Baker expected him to make some contact right there. Still, a double steal is a pretty curious call at that point in the game. Unfortunately for Giants, Cubs and Reds fans, head scratching decisions is something that is part of Dusty's playoff MO.
I wrote this before yesterdays game about Posey's ownage against Latos and how he might break out..
Buster struggled in the first four games of the series but you knew the guy was due at some point. You don't hit .336 over the span of an entire season and all of a sudden forget how to hit. Posey was still just 1-4 for the game but came through when the team needed it most. Latos was battling in the inning, and got Posey into a 2-2 count, but then inexcusably came inside with a fastball right over the plate. Personally, I would have removed Latos from the game and handed it over to the bullpen as Posey got to the batters box. The Reds pen lead the league with a 80% LOB% this year, so it wouldn't have been outrageous to pull Latos. Also, I don't remember off the top of my head but I'm pretty sure the Reds didn't send their pitching coach out before the Posey at bat. Another curious decision given the bases were loaded and Latos was facing a guy who has major ownage on him. I'm not sure how much talking to a pitching coach helps in this situation but he might have came up with a different game plan than Hanigan's and Latos'. Still, I'm trying to fathom why Hanigan called an inside fastball to Posey. It was an extremely risky pitch given Latos was scuffling and one locational mistake could be disastrous. Luckily, they went with the pitch, it missed, and Posey took the gift deep. Below is Posey's heat map for home runs in his career. He has hit 14 of his career home runs from the same spot as Latos' pitch.
And then this happens when you serve fastball platters to Buster.....
This ball was hit so far that it hit the "Latos" name sign in left field. Just salt that wound, Buster.
- How about the battle from Jay Bruce and Sergio Romo? Dear God.
I kept having flashbacks to Brian Wilson's tightrope acts in 2010, which were far from enjoyable. The craziest part about this at bat was Romo insistence on using primarily fastballs. In 2012, Romo used threw his fastball just 33.5% of the time, yet we saw him throw it on 7 of the 12 pitches to Bruce. Luckily Romo and Posey knew what they were doing in pitching to Bruce, who is a very good power hitter. Bruce does most of his damage high and outside, so they pitched him low and inside. Buster and Romo then decided to try and exploit him by coming in high and inside, which is an area where Bruce delivers a good amount of pop ups. BRILLIANT to say the least given Bruce's history of pop ups induced from that location.
I'll try to do a NLCS write up but I'm going to be pressed for time due to travel from Colorado and San Francisco. I'll have a better idea if I can do one after the Cardinals and Nationals series is decided tonight, and I'm going for Washington BTW. The Nats have better pitching but their hitters can be easily exploited and I really miss FP Santangelo's voice. Oh, and we still hate you Mat Latos. Go Giants!