In Game 1 of the NLCS, the blossoming St. Louis Cardinals offense chased starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner after 3.2 innings of work, allowing six earned runs on eight hits. Down 6-0, the Giants were left with a lofty uphill battle that they couldn’t overcome, dropping a 6-4 contest.
“You don’t necessarily want to have your back against the wall all that much,” first baseman Brandon Belt said.
Through six postseason games, the Giants starting staff –Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito — uncharacteristically alloted a combined ERA of 6.55.
“They just can’t put it together,” catcher Buster Posey said. “I think it’s a little surprising, but I don’t think it’s anything they can’t turn around.”
The Giants do have a possible extra two games to play with in a seven (not five) game series against the Cardinals. But they better do it quickly because St. Louis is riding some hot bats in the postseason. Third baseman David Freese has been surprisingly magnificent thus far in the playoffs, tallying a .360/.414/.600 slash line with four RBIs and four runs scored. Meanwhile, the power in the lineup lies with outfielder Carlos Beltran. In seven games, the 35-year-old slugger has accumulated three homers, six RBIs and 7 runs, which included a two-run blast off Bumgarner to be the difference in game 1.
Contested with such a hot-hitting squad, the Giants should make adjustments to their lineup to put as much slugging potential on the field as possible.
First, San Francisco should replace Brandon Crawford at shortstop with Joaquin Arias. The 28-year-old utility infielder has some power behind his bat, as seen in Game 4 when he slammed two doubles to lead the Giants to an offensive outburst and an 8-3 route of Cincinnati. Though Crawford did end up with an RBI double on Sunday, slicing a ball into the right field corner, his postseason stats are still below par. He’s currently averaging .200 with only three hits in six games.
Meanwhile, Arias is batting .500 in the lineup during the postseason through three games and has managed a respectable .270 season average. He’s not only the right choice, but the most obvious one.
The Giants should also remove Belt from the lineup at all costs, just like they did in the decisive game 4 win over the Reds. While he was 1-for-4 on Sunday night with an RBI, he didn’t look comfortable at the plate. He slapped two measly little ground balls to the infield and hasn’t put consistent wood on the ball in the postseason yet (.118 average).
Slotting Hector Sanchez in as the catcher and moving Posey to first base is the easy answer. Sanchez hasn’t had many opportunities in the postseason, but during the regular season he was a bright spot in certain match-up situations. During the regular season, he’s tallied a .280 average. For a catcher who’s only used in every third game, its more than respectable.
While the Giants starting rotation continues to get hammered, it’s wise to make mid-series adjustments to keep up with the Cardinals frightful offense. Riding the hot bats of players like Arias and Sanchez will be the difference between knotting the series up at one game apiece and falling to a 2-0 deficit.
Monday’s game is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. EST at AT&T Park.