Having swapped relatively relaxing victories in the first two games of the 2014 World Series at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, the Giants and Royals open the new, best-of-five Fall Classic today at AT&T Park.
And before we set about examining a pressing issues that surfaced during and in the wake of those two games, let’s take care of a less pressing issue of atmospheric import: Orange Friday must live on.
With all due respect to KNBR’s Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffrey, better known as Murph and Mac and whom I consider good friends, good men and great Giants fans, their opposition to the garish jerseys in a postseason setting misses a very important mark.
Orange Friday has been a part of the Giants’ routine for years. Very successful years. And baseball players are slaves to their routine — as long as they’re successful. So lighten up, Francis. Go ahead and rock the pumpkin tops.
Now, about Games 3, 4 and 5 …
Today’s starting pitcher for the Giants, right-hander Tim Hudson, never suffered a losing season in his first 15 years in the big leagues. He never made it out of the first round of the playoffs, either. In this, his 16th season, he went 9-13 … and made it to the World Series. It’s a trade-off he would accept 100 times out of 100, and he’ll be geeked up beyond belief when he takes the mound today.
How might all those emotions affect his performance? You’ll know by the end of the first inning. He tends to overthrow when he’s hyped, and when sinkerball pitchers overthrow, they throw right through their sink. Keep an eye on that. If he gets a ground ball or two early, everything’s fine, Huddy’s locked in. But if he’s slinging arrows at the belt, look out. He simply doesn’t throw hard enough anymore to get away with that.
Ryan Vogelsong is scheduled to start Game 4, and that appears to be bothering some Giants fans, who would prefer to see Madison Bumgarner on short rest, or cult hero Yusmeiro Petit.
Come on, people! Didn’t we just get done talking about the importance of routine? And we don’t even need to talk about Bruce Bochy’s loyalty to his guys. We know all about it. And as such, we know that he would never, ever turn his back on Vogey.
As strong as Bumgarner obviously is, the Giants have been riding him awfully hard for an awfully long time. If anything, he needs more rest, not less. As for Petit, he’s thriving in what’s probably the most underrated role on this team. He HAS to be available in the event that Hudson does throw through his sink, or if Vogey puts up a stinker.
Look, the Giants’ rotation hasn’t exactly been lights-out this postseason. But it’s gotten them to within three victories of another world championship, and tweaking it at this point would be such an uncharacteristic move by Bochy that it would threaten to undermine the team’s celebrated cohesion and trust. Just not worth it.
Petit, I posit, is the bullpen’s most valuable reliever. Even more so than Santiago Casilla. That much was made clear when Bochy removed Casilla at the end of Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. But who is the Giants’ LEAST valuable reliever? Only two legitimate candidates there: Jean Machi or Hunter Strickland.
Strickland’s gopher-ball problems aside, the answer is clearly Machi. Sure, young Hunter came off as a punk Wednesday in Kansas City, misdirecting his fire and frustration toward the Royals.
But at least the fire was there. Machi hasn’t been very good for a couple of months now, and on Wednesday, he was an absolute zero. Zero appears to be how much confidence he’s working with these days, too, and his body language is just brutal.
Even Bochy’s trust and loyalty has its limits, and Machi has found it.
As for Sunday, which is now — thankfully — very much necessary, nothing to break down there. MadBum’s getting the ball, and depending on what happens today and Saturday, he’ll either be wrapping up the ’ship or sending everyone in orange and black back to Kansas City with a smile.
He’s that good right now. As close to a lock as you can get in this game. And guess what? He’d rather be pitching Friday.
Orange reminds him of hunting season.
Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of “Inside the Bigs,” which airs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ “The Game” (95.7 FM).