The Giants knew the St. Louis Cardinals had rallied from a 6-0 deficit in the deciding game of their NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals. They were watching on the plane in Ohio while waiting to see which city they would head to for the NL Championship Series.
“It could be 20-0 and we still have to go out there and get it done,” outfielder Angel Pagan said following Monday’s Game 7 victory.
Fortunately for them, the Giants have boasted a lights-out bullpen over the past several seasons, one that still has the majority of its key pieces from the 2010 World Series champions.
And though Pagan is new to San Francisco this year, he knows a good thing when he sees it.
“It’s been impressive,” he said. “Every time we got the lead, I have a saying, they protect the lead like an upside down cat. Every time you’ve got a point, they’re going to protect it.”
Protect it they did, as Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo combined to throw 9²⁄³ scoreless innings in the four Giants wins over St. Louis after coming in to back up dominating outings by the starters and long rallies by their offense.
Affeldt was quick to defer some of the credit to the rotation, however.
“I think what’s been good for us a lot of times is when you have a good start from the starter, he kind of sets the tone,” he said. “He kind of has gotten them off balance a little bit and Buster’s kind of in a good rhythm and he knows what we have.”
What they have is a variety of styles coming at opposing hitters in the late innings. From Lopez’s low-arm angle to Affeldt’s devastating curve ball from the left side to Casilla pounding hitters with his fastball to Romo making them look silly with his slider from the right side.
Not to mention the years of “torture” have made pitching with the pressure of the postseason just another day at work for these veterans.
The new look for the ’pen this year has been Romo in the ninth inning, a spot that has seen many different faces over the course of a season without three-time All-Star Brian Wilson. Romo scattered 14 saves over the last four months of the season, but said his mindset hasn’t changed.
“For me to get asked to pitch a little bit later in a game, one inning later, my job doesn’t change,” he said. “I’m in it to get outs.”
The late innings will be key in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. The American League champions have posted a 3.92 ERA from their relievers during the playoffs, compared to just 1.02 from their starters. The Giants relievers have compiled a 2.57 ERA compared to 3.88 from their starters.