The voice of the Eagles Dave Quinn has your Liberty Friday Night Football Follow-Up:
Once again the Eagles defeated the Houston Tigers 55-6 in Game 9 of the season. Next week you will find the Eagles…..
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tim Lincecum walked silently through the bustling clubhouse before Saturday’s workout and stuck his left arm straight out as he passed Jean Machi’s locker, offering a friendly fist bump to the reliever.
No words necessary.
Lincecum, so far an unused reliever this postseason, is doing everything he can to stay involved in the San Francisco Giants’ latest World Series run after he was such an important part of the previous two.
Ask anybody, and it’s a little bit freaky not seeing The Freak on that familiar October stage. A two-time NL Cy Young Award winner relegated to the back of the bullpen.
Lincecum hasn’t pitched since Sept. 28, though he has thrown warmup tosses and kept his routine to ensure he’s ready for his next chance – and manager Bruce Bochy hinted he very much expects to use the right-hander against the Royals.
“I’m just trying to keep that flow in my emotional state, as well,” Lincecum said. “Just kind of stay positive and just take every day for what it is. Every day in the playoffs is pretty special.”
Even if he’s left watching and waiting for his turn.
Lincecum pitched the 2010 Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas. In 2012, he moved to the bullpen for the playoffs and emerged as a reliable reliever when San Francisco won another title.
After landing a new $35 million, two-year deal last October, Lincecum tossed his second no-hitter in less than a year June 25 against San Diego. He went 12-9 with a 4.74 ERA in 26 starts, ending a run of three straight years with a losing record.
His teammates understand this can’t be easy for the guy once nicknamed “Franchise.”
“I do everything I can do to encourage him on a daily basis because at some point in time (his) number could be called and it’s going to be in a big spot. It’s the World Series now,” said Jake Peavy, the Game 2 World Series starter. “We believe in Timmy Lincecum. He’s done amazing things, he’s as big-time as anybody and has had tremendous playoff starts as a starter, tremendous playoff experience out of the bullpen.”
The Giants’ 10th overall draft pick in 2006 who was in the big leagues by the following May, an inconsistent Lincecum lost his rotation spot in late August and was replaced by Yusmeiro Petit. Lincecum won his last two outings pitching out of the bullpen, including his 100th career victory Sept. 25 against the Padres.
Even Bochy considers Lincecum, knowing how much he wants to contribute – and how much Bochy wants him to get that opportunity, when the moment is right.
In the NL Division Series and NLCS, Lincecum was the only player on the 25-man roster not used.
“He’s just an unbelievable teammate, he’s so selfless that it inspires each and every one of us,” right fielder Hunter Pence said. “He’s also a big-game pitcher. He has that flair for the spectacular. You’ve seen it with two no-hitters where he lifts us up through some of our tough times and you’ve seen it in the postseason. ”
Lincecum didn’t even enter the 18-inning Game 2 division series win at Washington. Bochy said he would have used him but plans changed once the Giants took the lead.
“Timmy’s done a lot for us, I’ll start with that,” Bochy said. “When you get in the postseason, there is probably going to be a guy, maybe two who doesn’t get a lot of work, but that doesn’t mean he might not play a key role. … I think about Timmy, trust me, the fact he hasn’t been in there because I haven’t forgotten what he’s done or what he could do for us. So far it’s worked out well. But still, I’d like to get him to be part of it.”
Lincecum is still among the fan favorites, and that was evident when a long line of people waiting to see him weaved around a corner and down the hallway for FanFest at AT&T Park last Feb. 1.
When the 2013 season ended, Linecum wasn’t sure he would even be back in orange and black. Instead of testing free agency, he stuck with the only team he has known and the comfort of remaining in a place he belongs and knows so well.
“I feel great,” Lincecum said. “It’s just about staying that way. … I don’t think there’s any way to kind of lose it at this time of the year. Everybody’s kind of, whatever’s left in the tank you’re going to pour it on that field whenever you get a chance. I just try to be myself, keep a light mood. Along with that grind, we celebrate our small accomplishments.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Buck Showalter knew he was in trouble when the seventh inning rolled around and his Orioles were trailing the Kansas City Royals in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series.
Three innings later, Baltimore’s season was over.
In each game of the series, the three-headed monster of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and All-Star closer Greg Holland had slammed the door on the Orioles. They did it again in the clincher, a 2-1 victory that propelled Kansas City into the World Series after a 29-year absence.
Game 1 is Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants.
“That’s one of the biggest reasons they’re playing here,” Showalter said of the “Big Three.”
The Royals had one of the stingiest bullpens in baseball this season, but the back end was especially dominant. Herrera, who usually handles the seventh inning, had a 1.41 ERA in 70 games. Davis, the eighth-inning guy, had a 1.00 ERA in 71 appearances. And Holland had a 1.44 ERA while saving 46 games, one shy of his franchise record set just last season.
They were at their best in sending the Royals to the World Series, too.
Herrera pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings against Baltimore, allowing just two hits. Davis went five scoreless innings, also giving up two hits. Holland was the only one to give up a run, but he still managed to save all four games, joining Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley as the only pitchers to accomplish the feat since the ALCS went to a best-of-seven format.
“At the end of the game,” Royals starter Jason Vargas said, “we like our chances.”
All three relievers have four-seam fastballs that approach 100 mph, and all three have a devastating secondary pitch. Herrera has a lightning-quick two-seamer, Davis’s new cutter has been dynamic, and the vicious slider that Holland can unleash leaves hitters waving at air.
But that’s where the similarities end. The three of them took very different paths to reach this point, key cogs in a perfectly tuned strikeout machine.
Herrera exploded onto the scene two years ago, a fireballer who never seemed to quite know where his fire balls were headed. What little command he had finally failed him last season, and he was banished to the minor leagues, where he was able to rein everything in.
Since returning to the Royals, the 24-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic has been solid. At one point this season, he had a streak of 30 consecutive scoreless appearances.
“He’s meant so much to this team over the last few years,” Holland said. “He’s tough.”
Just about as tough is Davis, who at one point was considered an after-thought in the trade that brought staff ace James Shields over from Tampa Bay in December 2012.
The Royals tried to use him as a starter, but for some reason he couldn’t get on track. So almost out of desperation, they sent him back to the bullpen, where he’d had success in Tampa Bay. Everything suddenly clicked. By the time the Royals were climbing into contention last season, Davis had become a lock-down eighth-inning reliever.
His electric stuff had the Royals thinking about starting him again. But a season-ending injury to Luke Hochevar in spring training scuttled that plan, and Davis was turned loose in the bullpen. He began mowing down hitters at a record-setting rate.
Davis didn’t allow a run from April 23-June 25, a streak of 20 appearances and 22 1-3 innings. It took 43 appearances, 45 1-3 innings and 179 batters before he allowed an extra-base hit. When Holland sustained a minor injury late in the season, Davis closed out three games.
“He’s a guy that just comes in and goes right after you with his stuff,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s a guy that’s a tremendous competitor.”
In that respect, he’s a bit like Holland, who has come out of nowhere to become one of the game’s top closers. He was drafted by the Royals in the 10th round out of Western Carolina, and was in the big leagues three years later. But after scuffling during that first-call up, Holland proved he belonged in his first full season, eventually taking over the ninth inning.
He never gave it up, compiling a 1.86 ERA in 246 games over the last four seasons.
No wonder Showalter and every other opposing manager have learned the best chance of beating the Royals is to beat their starters. If they have the lead by the seventh inning, the chances of mounting a comeback against their “Big Three” aren’t very good.
“Just get us through six in the ballgame and we can turn it over to the bullpen guys,” Yost said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in everybody we’ve got down there. Our offense has a lot of confidence in everybody we’ve got down there, too, because they know, hey, look, let’s keep it close, let’s get it to the bullpen, and if we can take a lead and get it to the bullpen, odds are we’re going to be celebrating a victory at the end of the day.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Of course Don Denkinger plans to watch the World Series. He always does. He’ll tune in to root for the umpires, check out familiar faces on the Giants and Royals, and see how Kansas City is looking these days.
Chances are he’ll see himself, too.
“Nobody wants to have the call that I did in the World Series,” Denkinger told The Associated Press this weekend from his winter home in Arizona. “But I did. And now it’s part of history.”
All these years later, Denkinger’s miss at first base remains the signature moment from the last time the Series was in town, back in 1985. Not Bret Saberhagen throwing a clinching shutout or George Brett getting a bunch of hits.
Nope, Denkinger’s call stands from Game 6 – and sticks with the umpire who was a part of several memorable moments during a distinguished 30-year career.
“I’m not tired of talking about it. I mean, it happened,” he said. “I just know that if the same thing happened now, they’d get it right on replay and it’d be over with.”
San Francisco and Kansas City open on Tuesday night, and it’s a good guess a replay or two of his mistake will be shown sometime during the telecasts.
Denkinger didn’t have the cushion of an instant-replay review on that October night when the St. Louis Cardinals took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning at Royals Stadium, just three outs away from the championship.
Pinch-hitter Jorge Orta led off with a slow bouncer to the right side. First baseman Jack Clark ranged wide to field the ball, and flipped a high throw to reliever Todd Worrell covering the bag.
Orta was still in the air on his final stride when the ball beat him by a half-step. Denkinger recounted he was standing too close to the play – by the time he saw Worrell catch the ball and looked down, Orta’s foot was on the base. Denkinger ruled him safe.
“I wish I would’ve gotten it right,” he said. “But I didn’t.”
The rest, as Denkinger said, is part of baseball lore.
The Cardinals argued to no avail, then made a couple of misplays that led to Kansas City scoring twice to win.
Denkinger was the plate umpire for Game 7 and the Royals romped 11-0, with pitcher Joaquin Andujar and manager Whitey Herzog getting ejected while fuming over the previous day’s events.
Denkinger received threatening notes in the offseason, and the FBI investigated. The next spring, he was back to umpiring and, to this day, is reminded of what went wrong.
“I’m guessing that if it had been Cardinals-Royals this year, I’d be getting a lot of calls,” he said.
In all, he worked the World Series four times. He was the plate umpire for the famed Game 7 duel in 1991 when Jack Morris pitched all 10 innings to lead Minnesota over Atlanta 1-0. Denkinger also had the plate for the Bucky Dent home run playoff game in 1978 between the Yankees and Red Sox.
Denkinger retired after 1998, and now splits the year between his native Iowa and Arizona. He’s been married more than 50 years, and was in the hospital this week with wife Gayle when she needed a stent.
In recent seasons, Denkinger had spoken out that replay technology would benefit Major League Baseball.
Along with getting more calls right, replay has helped umpires avoid the stigma of being “Denkingered,” as some of them have said. Meaning nowadays, a wrong call gets corrected by an umpire in the replay booth, and the games go on without attaching an umpire’s name to the miss.
“I think replay has worked great,” he said. “I could’ve used it back then.”
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Alex Smith knows Qualcomm Stadium well, from teaming with Reggie Bush to lead Helix High to consecutive San Diego Section championships to throwing five touchdown passes against San Diego State for Utah in its BCS-busting season of 2004.
Smith earned his first NFL victory at the aging concrete bowl in Mission Valley on Sunday, leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a 23-20 victory against San Diego that snapped the Chargers’ five-game winning streak.
“There might be something to it. I’m definitely comfortable here,” Smith said. “I’ve played a lot here – high school, college and as a professional. I think it had more to do with executing out there for sure.”
That, he did. Smith completed three straight passes for 43 yards on the drive capped by rookie Cairo Santos’s winning 48-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.
Just like that, the Chiefs made the AFC West a three-team race.
Coming off their bye, the Chiefs (3-3) pulled within 1 1/2 games of San Diego (5-2). The Denver Broncos (4-1) hosted San Francisco on Sunday night. Had the Chiefs lost, they would have dropped three games behind San Diego.
“I think this team is in a good place mentally,” Smith said. “We took this challenge on, and we had two weeks to get ready with the bye week. We took it on as a challenge with no one giving us a chance. We felt like coming into this game, we were a couple plays away from being 4-1. This was an opportunity for us to kind of show what we’re made of, show the country. I feel like we’re in a good place and we’ll keep going.”
Coach Andy Reid, in his second season with the Chiefs, improved his career record in games following a bye week to 14-2 (.875), the most victories of any NFL head coach in games following a bye week.
“I don’t think there’s a secret to it,” said Reid, who compiled most of that post-bye magic while coaching Philadelphia. “When we have good players and good coaches, good things happen. I’ve been lucky enough to be in those situations.”
The Chargers flunked their sternest test in a month and lost for the first time since a defeat at Arizona in the season opener.
Jamaal Charles scored once and gained 95 yards to give him 6,113 for his career, moving him to the top of Kansas City’s career list. He passed Priest Holmes, who had 6,070.
“That was my first time winning here,” Charles said. “That was big, it was a big win. That’s a good team, they have a great defense, great quarterback on their side. That was an amazing game to pull off today. The team fought with will and we went out there to play a great game.”
Charles weaved in and out of traffic to score on a 16-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. Former teammate Brandon Flowers leveled him a yard into the end zone, too late to keep the Chiefs from tying it at 7.
Flowers later left the game with a concussion.
“Flowers put a big hit on me, but I’m thankful that I got up healthy,” Charles said.
The Chargers, facing an established quarterback for the first time in four games, allowed Smith to complete 19 of 28 passes for 221 yards.
Now they travel to face the Broncos.
“When you win five in a row, losing stinks,” San Diego’s Philip Rivers said. “We have to handle it right and get ready to go to Denver on Thursday night and not let this thing go to two in a row.”
Rivers was 17 of 31 for 205 yards and two touchdowns. After setting an NFL record with five straight games with a passer rating of 120 or better, he tumbled to 83.4.
Smith had given the Chiefs a 20-14 lead with an 11-yard touchdown pass to fullback Anthony Sherman with 14:50 left.
Sherman broke a tackle inside the 10 and scored to cap an 11-play, 70-yard drive. On the previous play, a holding call against Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall nullified a sack of Smith and gave the Chiefs a first down at the 11.
The Chargers got to the Kansas City 6 before Rivers threw two straight incompletions and San Diego had to settle for Nick Novak’s 24-yard field goal to close to 20-17.
Novak kicked a 48-yarder to tie the game with 1:57 left.
Novak has 31 straight field goal conversions, breaking John Carney’s team record of 29 set in 1992-93.
Antonio Gates caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Rivers just before halftime. It was the 67th career TD pass from Rivers to Gates, the most in NFL history from a quarterback to a tight end.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Special teams brought down the Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 100 yards and pass for 300 yards, and the Seahawks had a huge statistical advantage over the St. Louis Rams.
The effort was wasted because Seattle was burned for three big plays and couldn’t climb out of an early hole in a 28-26 loss on Sunday.
Coach Pete Carroll couldn’t help but admire the tricks the Rams pulled.
“Some unbelievable cool things that they were able to do on special teams and it made a big difference,” Carroll said. “We have work to do.”
Wilson had 106 yards on seven carries, including a 19-yard TD run. He was 23 for 36 for 313 yards passing, with Doug Baldwin stepping up and catching seven passes for 123 yards and a TD, and six others had at least one reception.
“I really don’t want to run, to be honest with you,” Wilson said. “I’m trying to throw it all the time and keep my eyes down the field.”
The 100-yard game was Baldwin’s third in four seasons counting the postseason. Baldwin confirmed reports he’d scuffled with receiver Percy Harvin, traded to the Jets on Friday for a conditional draft pick.
“Yes, it is true,” Baldwin said. “However, when you deal with somebody 12 or 14 hours out of the day, you’re going to have issues and conflict.”
Wilson said discussion of locker-room strife was “nobody’s business.”
“Our locker room is our locker room, and we keep everything in-house,” the quarterback said. “He fought hard for us. Like I said, I wish nothing but the best for Percy.”
The Seahawks were prepared for a fake punt, just not on fourth-and-3 from the St. Louis 18 when Johnny Hekker passed for a first down that helped run out the clock. Hekker is also the holder and has one career TD pass for the go-ahead score in a victory over Seattle in 2012.
“They’re a big fake team on the special teams,” special teamer DeShawn Shead said. “We was on high alert. They just executed.”
Stedman Bailey had a 90-yard touchdown on a trick return that fooled the Seahawks into thinking another player was going to catch the punt, and Benny Cunningham’s 75-yard kickoff return out of the end zone on a squibbed kick that had the Seahawks counting on a touchback set up an early touchdown for the Rams (2-4).
The Rams won for just the third time in 19 games against Seattle after somehow recovering a fumble by Tre Mason in the final minute. The Seahawks’ Richard Sherman had the ball after it popped out of Cory Harkey’s grasp, but Harkey apparently grabbed it back in the scrum
NFL spokesman Michael Signora said the play was reviewed by the league and that there was “no evidence of a clear recovery by either St. Louis or Seattle.”
“I thought we had the ball,” Wilson said. “But I guess not.”
Hekker was a high school quarterback and is 4 for 5 for 60 yards and a touchdown in three seasons. He also serves as the emergency quarterback.
The Seahawks (3-3) have lost two straight for the first time since the middle of the 2012 season.
Seattle outgained the Rams 463 yards to 272. Baldwin’s’ 9-yard reception cut the deficit to two with 3:18 to go, but the Rams were able to run out the clock after Hekker’s completion to Cunningham on fourth-and-3.
Wilson was sacked three times by St. Louis, which trailed the NFL with just one in the first five games. Robert Quinn’s got his first of the season; Quinn led the NFC with a franchise-record 19 sacks last year.
The Rams led by at least two touchdowns at home for the third straight game and Bailey’s punt return made it 21-3 midway through the second quarter. They couldn’t hold on the first two times, coughing up a 14-0 advantage last Monday night against the 49ers, and a 21-point cushion against Dallas in Week 3.
On his tricky TD, Bailey had clear sailing past a stunned Seahawks sideline after an excellent fake by Tavon Austin drew most defenders to the opposite side of the field. Austin sold it well, staggering under the imaginary ball.
“They hokey-dokeyed us,” punter Jon Ryan said. “In that situation, we’re at the 50-yard line, that ball is going to the left 100 percent of the time, so I’ll leave it at that.
“I’m screaming, but too little too late.”
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Giants defensive starters Cullen Jenkins and Jon Beason are out of New York’s game against the Dallas Cowboys because of injuries sustained in the first half.
Jenkins, the left defensive tackle, sustained a calf strain Sunday. Middle linebacker Beason left the game because of a toe injury.
The Giants said after halftime that both players were out for the rest of the game. X-rays on Beason’s toe were negative.
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Frederik Andersen has plenty of wins in his brief time with the Anaheim Ducks, but the goalie had never before stopped every puck sent his way.
That changed Sunday when Andersen turned away all 28 shots in his first career shutout, leading Anaheim to a resounding 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Andersen joined former Boston goalie Ross Brooks as the only two goalies in NHL history to win 25 of their first 30 starts. Andersen improved to 25-5 in his short career, but the young netminder was more excited about finally keeping a clean sheet.
“Oh, I knew. I knew I didn’t have one,” Andersen said. “That’s something you remember, obviously. It’s like the players when they get that first goal. They will remember it forever.”
Andersen, who never started five consecutive games during his rookie season, was rarely challenged as the Ducks (5-1-0) won their fifth straight with Andersen in net. They also extended their home winning streak against St. Louis to eight games.
“I think we just started playing like we wanted to,” Andersen said. “We came out really good defensively, and on offense, too, the whole 60 minutes. That was a really good team effort today.”
Andersen delivered his best save when he slid back across the crease and used his blocker to deny Alexander Steen on an odd-man rush early in the second period.
Sami Vatanen had his first career multigoal game for the Ducks, scoring with a pair of blistering one-timers on the power play.
Brian Elliott made 22 saves for the Blues (2-2-1), who went 1-1-1 on their road trip. St. Louis played without free-agent prize Paul Stastny, who sustained an upper-body injury Friday against Arizona.
“They were a step ahead of us most of the night,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Thought their checking was a step ahead. Their puck support was a step ahead. They looked quicker on pucks and quicker to pucks than we were.”
Matt Beleskey collected a clever entry pass from Rickard Rakell and unleashed a slap shot past Elliott at 1:37 of the first period for his fourth goal of the season.
Anaheim sustained pressure early, but needed an impressive stick save by defenseman Clayton Stoner to thwart a golden chance for Jaden Schwartz.
“It’s expected to feel a little slow out there, but that is something you have to battle through,” Elliott said after the Blues’ third game in four nights. “The ice is a little softer out here, and you have to play smart hockey and know that the easy plays aren’t going to be there. Probably for half the game, we were not doing the things that make us successful.”
Vatanen made it 2-0 with a rocket shot from just inside the blue line late in the first period, leaving Elliott no time to react. Vatanen added his fifth career power-play goal with 15:37 left in the second, sending it in off a no-look pass from Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf.
“The other four guys did the work there,” said Vatanen, who became the sixth Anaheim defenseman with multiple power-play goals in a game. “I just got my stick on the ice and the puck comes there, and it was an empty net. I just needed to put it in.”
When the Ducks went back on the power play 2 minutes later, the Honda Center crowd screamed for Vatanen to shoot every time he touched the puck, but he said he never heard those pleas.
Getzlaf had two assists, but Corey Perry’s franchise-best streak of five games with a point to start the season came to an end.
Par for the Course
Tom Benyo Class A GCSAA
Willow Springs Municipal Golf Course
Big Turnout for Pavilion Tourney
Maybe it was all the rain washing out golf, maybe it was one more chance to play in a tournament…whatever the case our Pavilion Tourney drew 14 3-person teams for the event. The Sunday afternoon window of no rain was perfect as we have had significant rains on either side of it. The play was excellent as almost all of the teams shot between 59 and 70. The winning team was Mike Coatney, Steve Coatney and Chuck Swift who had to go that low to win as 4 other teams were within 3 shots. Second place went to the team of Bill Altermatt, Jeremy Haynes and Jerry Premer who shot a 60. Third place was won by Kyle Wake, Kim Wake and Chris Thomas who fired a 61. The A Flight was all 64′s and of course there was some pain as we went to the Payne System to break the ties. The team of Ted Noirfalise, Jerry Moore and Jerry Dennis won out for first. Second place was won by Keith Collins, Scott Miller and Leroy Trone. Suffering the most “Payne” and finishing third was Brent Colley, and Michele and Michael McDaniel.
Hole prizes went to Deb Ferner and Kyle Wake for longest drive; closest to the pin was won by Mike Coatney (11 inches), Des (no car this time) Miller (12 inches) and Kyle Wake; and longest putt winners were Jack Noirfalise, Bill Altermatt and Leroy Trone.
The biggest winner of the day was the pavilion that now has enough funding to finish that project off…thanks to all who attended.
The Last of the Leagues
The last week for league play was this past week. In Casual League there was a tie as always. Kaye Tipton and Tom Benyo tied with Barb Tate, Paul Davis and Tom Siegrist with each team shooting 2 under par. Barb and Paul won “greenies” for closest to the pin.
The Cat and Dog finale was won by Linda Benyo and Steve Coatney who shot a 29. Second place was taken by Michele and Michael McDaniel with a 31. Michele won closest to the pin.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Michael Wacha finally got to pitch in this year’s playoffs. Pretty soon, he was gone – and so are the St. Louis Cardinals now.
Manager Mike Matheny opened himself up to second-guessing all winter, bringing in Wacha for the first time this postseason and putting him on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning with Game 5 of the NL Championship Series tied.
Travis Ishikawa wrecked the move, hitting a three-run homer off Wacha with one out that sent the San Francisco Giants to a 6-3 win over the Cardinals on Thursday night and into the World Series for the third time in five years.
“Not difficult at all,” Matheny said of his decision. “We put him in a tough place without giving him much work lately – that’s on me.”
Wacha was the NLCS MVP last year as a rookie, pitching deep into October until Boston beat him in the final World Series game. The 23-year-old righty missed two months this season because of a shoulder injury, and Matheny hadn’t yet found a spot to use him in the Division Series against the Dodgers or in the first four games vs. the Giants.
Then with the score 3-all, Matheny called on Wacha out of the bullpen. It was Wacha’s first game since Sept. 26, and his first relief appearance of the year.
“I’ve pitched in the postseason before. I’ve pitched in some tough innings in some hostile environments. I was ready for it,” Wacha said. “I just wasn’t able to throw strikes. Walks and then falling behind to Ishikawa there got myself in trouble.”
The Giants beat the Cardinals in the NLCS for the second time in three years, and Matheny’s move to Wacha wasn’t the only decision that will be questioned.
After a strong start by ace Adam Wainwright, Matheny turned to Pat Neshek. The reliever gave up a tying homer to pinch-hitter Michael Morse on a hanging slider in the eighth.
“You want that one back,” Neshek said.
Wainwright said he told Matheny after the sixth that he could pitch one more inning. He retired the final 10 batters he faced, including a perfect seventh that brought his pitch count to 97.
“I was running low on gas. I think he made the right call,” Wainwright said.
The right-hander gave up two runs and four hits, quieting an orange-and-black-clad crowd that came for another pennant party by the bay – and Wainwright could only watch it all unfold.
Wacha said Matheny informed him in the afternoon that he might finally be used out of the bullpen, and then he was told he’d pitch the ninth after Neshek gave up the tying homer.
Pablo Sandoval singled off Wacha to start San Francisco’s final rally. Hunter Pence flied out before Brandon Belt walked, setting the stage for Ishikawa’s long ball.
Ishikawa sent a 2-0 fastball from Wacha over the brick wall in right, bringing most of the 43,217 fans at AT&T Park roaring to their feet. Fireworks exploded in the air above center field as Wacha walked off the field with the rest of the Cardinals, stunned and silent after a chance to stick around had gone awry.
Just like most of the series.
“Everything felt pretty sharp going into the ninth,” Wacha said. “Just fell behind to him and he put a good swing on the 2-0 fastball and hit it out.”
Sloppy defense and subpar pitching – especially in Games 3 and 4 – put St. Louis in a 3-1 deficit. A couple of questionable pitching changes and a beleaguered bullpen finished off the Cardinals.
Homers from Matt Adams and Tony Cruz – who filled in for injured catcher Yadier Molina – in the fourth gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead and seemingly enough with Wainwright rediscovering his postseason prowess.
The bullpen couldn’t make it last, though, and the Cardinals missed a chance to rally back.
They stranded two runners in the ninth when reliever Jeremy Affeldt retired pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras on a groundout, fielding the comebacker and running all the way to first.
The Cardinals went 90-72 to win the NL Central, overcoming injuries and inconsistencies to hold off Pittsburgh’s surge in September. They beat Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers twice in the Division Series before running into a Giants club they still can’t figure out.
“Just kind of confused,” Neshek said. “Everybody in here thinks we’re the better team and we just wonder what the heck happened.”