Wild Card teams rule Tuesday’s games

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Photo above: the throwing error by Cardinals pitcher Randy Choate that scored Brandon Crawford for the walk-off run.

With two teams so evenly matched in the NLCS, it was no surprise the game went into a 10th inning. But many people thought this might be an early win for the Giants when they got four runs off Cardinals starter John Lackey in the first inning. Hunter Pence doubled on a line drive to right field that scored Buster Posey and sent Pablo Sandoval to third. Then Travis Ishikawa doubled on a fly ball to center field sending Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt across the plate for the Giants.

The field after batting practice. The Giant Glove in the left-center bleachers is an iconic image at AT&T Park. (Claudia Gestro)
The field after batting practice. The Giant Glove in the left-center bleachers is an iconic image at AT&T Park.
(Claudia Gestro)

Giants starter Tim Hudson was able to keep the Cards scoreless for 3 and a half innings, until the Cardinals rookie second baseman Kelton Wong came to the plate in the 4th and belted a two-run triple to right field — against the wind. That played a part in allowing two runs to score as both Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence were unsure of how and where the ball would bounce off the right field wall that separates right field from China Basin.

Wong’s double started the Cards climb back into the game that saw them get another run in the 6th when Jhonny Peralta singled to left, getting Jon Jay across the plate.

Then in the 7th inning Randal Grichuk hit a solo homerun that tied the game. It stayed at 4-4 through the 9th so the game went into the 10th inning. The Cards were unable to score so the Giants came up in the bottom of the 10th. Brandon Crawford walked, Juan Perez singled to left and that pushed Crawford to second. Then Gregor Blanco sacrificed to third, which advanced the runners, but Cards pitcher Randy Choate committed a throwing error to first which allowed Crawford to score and win the game for the Giants. If it wasn’t for that error by Choate the game may have continued for more innings. It was one more example of how a game can turn on a mistake.

The other big factor in the game was the wind coming off the San Francisco Bay. It was gusting up to 22 miles per hor. Outfielders for both teams were getting confused as the wind pushed the ball in different directions. But it also made for some spectacular catches in the outfield by both teams, in particular Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco running over 100 feet to catch a short fly ball, while sliding on his butt, to rob Matt Adams of a hit.

View of the field from the press box. (Claudia Gestro)
View of the field from the press box.
(Claudia Gestro)

Now, being up two to one in the NLCS, the San Francisco Giants find themselves having home field advantage in this series against the St. Louis Cardinals. There are two more games to be played here in San Francisco; today and tomorrow and that should benefit the Giants, who should be familiar with sudden and confusing developments due to the wind.

The Giants, this wild card team, have lost only one post season game in AT&T Park so they should have the edge.

But as we saw with Game Two, the Cardinals have a way of staying close enough to win in every game and they will no doubt do so today. In Game Three the Cardinals came back to tie the game after being down 4-0, so whatever advantage the Giants may have, it is balanced by the Cardinals ability to overcome adversity. Neither team has given up in this series so we can expect to see another close, hotly contested game.

Shelby Miller will get the start for the Cardinals and Ryan Vogelsong starts on the mound for the Giants.

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Mike Moustakas makes a diving catch for the out in the 6th inning. (YouTube)
Mike Moustakas makes a diving catch for the out in the 6th inning. (YouTube)

What can we say about the other wild card team, the Kansas City Royals? Before the ALCS started, few people thought the Royals would be in such a commanding position in this series and most certainly not leading it 3-0 against the Baltimore Orioles. Winning two in Baltimore was an epic statement for KC, and then the Royals dug deep with defense for the win in Game Three. Mike Moustakas’s diving catch into the Dugout Seats in the top of the 6th inning exemplifies the determination to win I saw in each player in that Kansas City clubhouse when they opened the ALDS series in Anaheim against the Angels.

Baltimore fans won’t want to read this, but now it won’t be a surprise to me if the Royals sweep the O’s. KC has won seven in a row now, six in the post season and right now there’s little indication that streak will end today.

Claudia Gestro reporting from AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA. (Claudia Gestro)
Claudia Gestro reporting from AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA. (Claudia Gestro)

In the Orioles’ defense, they kept the game close Tuesday. Starter Wei-Yin Chen allowed only two runs over five and two-thirds innings, but Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed only one run in five innings. They O’s have what it takes to win a game, a few games in a row even, with Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and others who can hit the ball; plus they have a pitching staff that can keep a team on its heels. But right now the Orioles just seem to be in the way of the Royals’ march to the World Series.

Maybe Baltimore will score a road win in Kansas City and live to play another day and then maybe another to bring the series back to Charm City. But as we saw in the first two games of this series, the Royals can win there too — and they only need to win one more.

The starting pitchers for today’s games: Miguel Gonzalez is up for the Orioles and lefty Jason Vargas will start for the Royals.

The ALCS Game Four will start at 3:07 p.m. Central Time and the NLCS Game Four begins at 5:07 p.m. Pacific Time.