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Monday, October 15, 2012

Cards hitters create Giants crisis

Tipsheet: Cards hitters create Giants crisis

2 hours ago  • 
When Carlos Beltran hits, the Cardinals are a different team. And since Beltran absolutely loves hitting in postseason play, the San Francisco Giants have their hands full.
Beltran and 2011 postseason hero David Freese did the heavy lifting Sunday night as the Cardinals proved they are worthy defenders of their World Championship.
They are comfortable performing on the big stage. That fact, combined with fraying of the Giants rotation, puts them in excellent shape in this National League Championship Series.
Here is what some of our favorite sports pundits wrote about Game 1:
Jayson Stark, “There's no secret handshake that gets you into the Mr. October Club. No annual fee. No exclusive invitation dropped at your door by the UPS man. Nope, there's only one way to get yourself into the Mr. October Club: You do what Carlos Beltran and David Freese did Sunday on a picturesque autumn evening at AT&T Park -- and then you never stop doing it. Whatever it is that makes men rise to meet these huge October moments, Carlos Beltran and David Freese seem to have discovered it, fed on it, practically patented it. And in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, they did it again.”
Ken Rosenthal, “Beltran, 35, occasionally is misunderstood, drawing criticism for playing too passively; the called third strike he took from now-teammate Adam Wainwright for the final out of the 2006 NLCS is, for many New York Mets fans at least, the defining moment of his career. Athletes with Beltran’s style and grace often are accused of giving less than their best effort, making the game look too easy. But while some may view Beltran’s even-keeled personality as something of a weakness, others see it as a strength. Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay, who is eight years younger than Beltran and plays his former position, says his teammate’s level nature, on both good days and bad, is his most admirable quality.”
Scott Miller, “St. Louis strings together glowing at-bats one after another, the way Christmas lights line up across the strand over neighborhood garages. It is some of the prettiest work you ever saw . . .  as long as you're not the schmoe on the mound, the way (Madison) Bumgarner was . . .  or Drew Storen . . . or Kris Medlen . They wait. They watch. They evaluate. And when the right pitch comes . . . man, do they pounce.”
Anthony Castrovince, “The merry-go-round, as Mark McGwire likes to call it, was spinning in the fourth inning Sunday night. It made Madison Bumgarner dizzy. This is what the Cardinals do to opposing clubs. This is why you ought not be fooled by their somewhat pedestrian regular-season record or their second Wild Card status. What the Cards do, when they are at their best, is squeeze opposing pitchers into submission. They patiently wait for their pitch, they smack the ball the other way, they mash mistakes, they watch that pitch count tally rise until the bullpen phone rings.”
Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News: “The Cardinals . . . affirmed that they are not going to be an easy out. If anyone was wondering whether they might be emotionally drained by their wild comeback victory on Friday night -- three time zones away in Washington, D.C. -- that question was answered early with those six relatively quick runs.”
David Leon Moore, USA Today: “This didn't come as much of a surprise, and all the giddy fans and festive vibe and panda hats and beautiful bay views the San Francisco Giants could muster couldn't keep their struggling Game 1 starting pitcher from getting shelled. Again. In only 3 2/3 innings, Madison Bumgarner was rocked for six runs on eight hits, two of them bullet-like home runs, putting the Giants in a 6-0 hole from which they could not recover – despite a rather valiant effort.”
Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle: “Something's not right with Bumgarner, and the Giants can only hope it's basic fatigue, the residue of a long season, and not any damage to his arm. He's had only one impressive start since the third week of August, and that includes his loss to Cincinnati in Game 2 of the Division Series. Normally a commanding presence out there, a strapping country lad with a bit of a mean streak, Bumgarner looked vulnerable, as if stripped of a key weapon.”
Ben Reiter, “San Francisco is a club that is constructed to rely on its rotation, as it did in the playoffs two seasons ago, when its starters combined for a 2.23 ERA, and a .194 batting average against, and accounted for 72 percent of the club's innings pitched, 96.2 of a possible 135. Through this postseason's first six games, Giants starters have an ERA of 6.49, with a .303 batting average against, and they have worked just 26.1 of 55.0 innings, or 48 percent of them. In fact, with Bumgarner a shell of his recent self, (Tim) Lincecum a shell of his former self and Barry Zito a shell of his long-ago self -- and with Game 2 starter Ryan Vogelsong the owner of a late-season seven game stretch in which he posted an ERA of 10.31 (though Vogelsong finished the regular season with three strong outings, and allowed one run in five innings in his NLDS start against the Reds) -- Bochy seems to have precisely one entirely reliable starter at his disposal, Matt Cain, who will start Game 3. Against a team like the Cardinals, that is several reliable starters too few.”
David Schoenfield, “Consider this: From 2002 to 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals appeared in more World Series than the New York Yankees. They won more championships than the Yankees. Over those 10 seasons, the Cardinals appeared in more league championship series than the Yankees. So, maybe the Cardinals should be considered baseball's Evil Empire? OK, OK ... the Yankees spent about $1.87 billion on payroll over that decade -- more than twice the Cardinals’ $900 million. But it is interesting to note that the team taking advantage of the addition of a second wild-card team is one of the National League’s powerhouse franchises.”
After Beltran’s Sunday night blast, Giants fans were again reminded that their team failed to re-sign him as a free agent after that last season. Beltran went to the Cardinals instead and the Giants traded for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan.
They were OK with that until Cabrera tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and served a 50-game MLB suspension. The Giants could have brought him back for the playoffs but opted not to.
Beltran insists the Giants didn’t want him back.
“I didn't hear from the Giants,” he told reporters after the game. “In my case, being a free agent, I had to make my move. I had to find a place I could be. I made it clear I wanted to come back. It didn't happen. I understand this is a business. I understand teams have priorities. They feel I might not be the right fit for the organization, whatever.
“But you know what. I really enjoyed my time here. I believe the Giants always compete. As a player, at the stage I'm at in my career, I wanted to be with a team like that.”
The Giants insist the team did want Beltran back, but overtures to his agent, Dan Lozano, proved fruitless. Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans told the San Francisco Chronicle that he spoke to Lozano about Beltran roughly a dozen times, including once in a face-to-face discussion at the winter meetings.
“I don't know if Lozano never conveyed that we had a dozen or so conversations,” Evans said. “It's a great mystery. I'm very pleased we were able to acquire Cabrera and Pagan for the same money (that Beltran makes in 2012), but to say we didn't have conversations (with Beltran's agent) is a falsehood. It's just not true.
“There's a lack of communication. It's not a lack of communication between the San Francisco Giants and Beltran or between us and his agent. All I can speculate is that Lozano didn't convey the conversations to the player.”
Tipsheet is shocked – shocked! – to hear of alleged negotiating high jinks involving Lozano.
“People are going to look at the Cardinals and they're going to say, ‘Well, they only won 88 games, and they were just the second wild card.’ But really, if we'd had this team for the entire season, we'd have won 100 games easy, and I think we would have won the division no problem.”
Injured Cardinals slugger Lance Berkman, to

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