SAN FRANCISCO -- Meet the new playoff series. Same as the old playoff series. At least so far. Which is not good.
The Giants began their pursuit of a National League championship here Sunday night in the same ill-advised fashion that they began their pursuit of a first-round playoff victory back on Oct. 6: They lost Game 1 of the series at AT&T Park, which is supposed to provide a home-field advantage for the Giants but has not received the memo.
"We hate to lose them at home," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy after the Cardinals' 6-4 victory. "But it happens."
And happens. And happens. And happens. In fact, the Giants might want to consider playing the entire postseason on the road, if that
Yes, they were fortunate to survive the first round National League Division Series after losing their first two games at home against the Reds, then winning three straight at Cincinnati. That won't cut it this time against St. Louis. This is a best-of-seven series, not best-of-five. To advance, the Giants must produce at least one win at their home address.
Tim Lincecum, the Giants' pitcher who has been aces as both a starter and reliever for the team and threw two more scoreless innings Sunday, didn't promise it would happen. But he did promise that the strange homefield-non-edge wasn't getting into anyone's head.
"You don't really think about
Translation: To win a game at home, you must first have a lead on the scoreboard at home. And in 27 innings of postseason baseball at AT&T Park this month, the Giants have not led once.
That included Sunday. The Cardinals went ahead 2-0 in the second inning on a home run by third baseman David Freese against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner. By the fourth inning, St. Louis was ahead 6-0 after a home run by outfielder Carlos Beltran. The Giants did some pounding of their own in the bottom of that inning to pull back within 6-4. But after that, nothing.
Clearly, the Giants weren't trying to lose Sunday. But were they feeling a little less urgency to win at AT&T, given their ability to come back and win on the road in the last series?
"We can't go by that," said Angel Pagan. "Whatever happened in Cincinnati, that's past. We come out every day and try to get a lead. Obviously, it didn't happen today. What can you do? We're trying to win them all, man. We're just running into bad luck."
Well, bad luck and crushing relief pitching by the St. Louis bullpen. If you're taking away any long-view troubling
To be fair, the Giants' bullpen didn't allow a run either. But the team's starting pitching -- in this case, Bumgarner -- once more was not up to snuff. More strangeness, considering the starters are the team's alleged strength.
Given the unpredictability, actually, this NLCS series is shaping up as quite an entertaining show. In fact, the only things missing Sunday were the space shuttle driving through center field and Tony Bennett singing "God Bless America."
Wait. Tony Bennett was indeed here. And he did sing that song. So, other than the space shuttle, there was a little bit of everything.
The Cardinals, for example, 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. Defensively, there was a highlight diving stop by St. Louis second baseman Daniel Descalso that smothered a Pagan grounder headed for center field and ended the Giants' fourth-inning rally.
The Giants did have a few big moments of their own during that rally, including a long-ball triple by outfielder Gregor Blanco. And the appearance by Lincecum on the mound created more crowd energy than just about any other sight. He's supposed to start a game in this series but said he'd be available to pitch in relief if necessary.
You had to wonder, though. Were the Cardinals still riding the momentum from their exciting finish against Washington just 48 hours earlier?
"I don't really believe in that stuff," Freese said. "We're all professionals here and you wake up the next day, no matter what happened previously, and you grind it out. And you take it obviously one pitch at a time, especially in the postseason. I think both teams just battle, and you just play it out."
As Pagan said, the law of averages will eventually lead to a home victory for the Giants.
"We wish we could give them a victory," Pagan said. "That's what they come here and were cheering for."
Monday, the cheering may finally be at the finish of a game rather than the start.