Prior to the start of Game 2 of the Division Series between the Giants and the Atlanta Braves last night, San Francisco's saucy PA announcer Renel Brooks-Moon did her usual great job of welcoming the crowd and making introductions. In retrospect, it may have been more appropriate to have a grainy video of "Twilight Zone" icon Rod Serling do the honors from the scoreboard screen, because this game would be both weird and spooky-bad.
"Let your mind go back", Serling may have intoned, "to a time long past in the year 2003, when two teams representing our national past time met in ritual combat sport using ball and bat. One of those teams would go on to win America's ultimate prize-- the World Series. The other team? Well the other team would be doomed to relive the events from 2003 some seven years later, in a ball park tucked in the foggy recesses of a place known as... the Twilight Zone..."
In 2003 the San Francisco Giants won the National League West and started the Division Series playoffs facing the wild card winner, a team from the National League East. In Game 1 at AT&T Park, the Giants' ace pitcher threw a three hit shutout as the Giants won 2-0, and took a 1-0 lead in the series. In Game 2 the next day, the Giants took a solid lead, 4-1 in the 4th inning, but the Giant's manager went to his bullpen early, resulting in a blown save and a Game 2 loss.
After a day off, the action shifted to the Wild Card team's park. The National League East team took the next two games and went on to win the National League Pennant and the World Series.
That 2003 NL East wild card team was the Florida Marlins, the Giants' ace pitcher who won Game 1 was Jason Schmidt, and the reliever called in to Game 2 by Giants manager Felipe Alou was Joe Nathan. After beating the Giants, the Marlins took down the Chicago Cubs after being down 3 games to 1 in that series, then bested the Yankees in the World Series, after being down to the Yanks 2-1.
Playing first base for the 2003 Marlins? 2010 Atlanta Braves first baseman Derrek Lee. The Marlins pitchers in games one and two were Josh Beckett and former Giant Brad Penny.
But let's get really scarey and talk about what happened in LDS Game 2. I will briefly summarize the Giants performance issues in Game 2 of the 2010 NLDS by asking and answering three simple questions:
1. Should Manager Bruce Bochy have taken reliever Sergio Romo out of LDS Game 2 after Romo started the 8th inning giving up two consecutive singles?
Answer: No. Romo is the team's set-up man and not only deserved a chance to get out of that mess (and be allowed to give up at least one run), it's important to remember that Romo often comes into games with two on and less than two outs. That's his job, and he does that job well.
2. Was it unreasonable to bring closer Brian Wilson into the game to get a six out save?
Answer: No, it wasn't "unreasonable". But Wilson had not been tasked to get a six out save all year, and all this tired talk about what Goose Gossage did 35 years ago, and all those rough and tough closers who threw three innings in the Paleozoic Era, is really tedious. Hell, there was a time when catchers didn't wear masks, so what's wrong with that wimp Buster Posey?
The reason you don't bring Wilson in to get six outs is that you have Casilla, Affeldt and Mota sitting on the bench. As it happened, the Braves were allowed to turn San Francisco's bullpen upside down, with Romo bounced too early, Wilson brought in too early, and Ramirez having to follow Wilson.
3. Did Game 2 expose a bigger problem than a rare misstep by the Giants relief corps?
Answer: Yes. Pablo Sandoval. He appears to be increasingly prone to make bad plays at third base at the worst possible times. The first play after Wilson came into the game in the 8th was a Sandoval throwing error that cost a run and put another Braves runner on base. After the next batter sacrificed, Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez doubled both runs in. Add to the poor defense a 1 for 4 performance at the plate and your problem starts to get bigger.
The fact that Sandoval grounded into 26 double plays in the 2010 regular season, to lead all National League hitters, starts to make solving the Sandoval issue more than just putting on a panda cap and crossing your fingers.
A prediction for Games 3 and 4? Why sure... the Giants take two and head to Philadelphia!