By the time the baseball’s postseason arrives, intriguing story lines aren’t hard to find, but the Giants and Atlanta Braves’ National League Division Series matchup seems particularly ripe with juicy plots.
Consider the following:
– After spending 29 years as one of the most successful managers in baseball history, the Braves’ Bobby Cox will step down after this season, but not until after trying to add another World Series title to his lengthy list of accomplishments.
– At 23 and 21 years old, respectively, the Giants’ Buster Posey and the Braves’ Jason Heyward have become pivotal players for postseason teams, and the two are considered the leading candidates for the NL Rookie of the Year award.
– Despite investing nearly one-third of the team’s payroll on Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand, there is a very realistic chance that both players will be left off the Giants’ playoff roster.
Add into the mix two of the best pitching staffs in the majors, and it’s easy to see why the Giants’ first playoff appearance in six seasons will be worth watching.
By virtue of winning their dramatic regular-season finale against the San Diego Padres, the Giants not only secured home-field advantage for the NL Division Series, the team also lined up its pitching rotation to have its ace, Tim Lincecum, start Game 1 at AT&T Park today.
“Timmy’s been real good of late,” Posey said. “You gotta feel good going into Game 1 with him.”
The Braves will counter with veteran right-hander Derek Lowe, who was impressive in his two starts against the Giants this season, going 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA.
Despite having relatively little postseason experience, members of the Giants said the last month has been filled with plenty of playoff-like moments, particularly the final series against the Padres.
“I can’t imagine a playoff game being more intense than what we played on Sunday,” said Giants veteran Aubrey Huff, who will be making his first postseason appearance today after 11 years in the majors. “This is a battle-tested team.”
Huff and his Giants teammates better stock up on that experience, because they’ll be facing an opposing manager who is as much an October fixture as Halloween. This year’s appearance will be Cox’s 16th in the postseason, an impressive run that includes four NL pennants and one World Series title.
“You’re not going to surprise Bobby over there,” said Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy, who will be making his fifth postseason appearance, but first with San Francisco. “He’s such a great manager, you’ve got to be on your toes.”
Although each player slowed down in September, Posey and Heyward will be counted on to deliver for their respective teams, both of which struggled to generate offense this season.
While the comparisons between the two will be inevitable, Posey said the series will not be about individual matchups.
“It’s definitely not about me, and it hasn’t been since I got here,” Posey said. “It’s about winning the game, and the guys here have bought into that.”
That selfless attitude will be counted on to carry the team in the playoffs.
“You look at this locker room, every single guy has won two to three games for us,” said Huff. “It’s never been one guy, and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful this year.”