Game 1 suggests NLCS will be a reliever's series



Its been one game, and one game only, in the National League Championship Series, and we know this one thing:Its a relief pitchers series, which means its a managers series, which means second guessing on a galactic scale. You know, like always.The Giants took a right pounding in Game 1, losing 6-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals, and they took it because Madison Bumgarner has moved slowly from the reliable side of the whiteboard to the get someone up quick side. The lefthander came into Game 1 starting to shown signs of weariness, and left it after 11 outs and six runs looking like weariness was the least of his worries.Not very good, was how he summed up his outing in Game 1, and he may have been grading on a curve there. I just didnt have my best stuff, and its been going on like this for a few starts now.Yes it has, but this was one of those games that was going to redefine him as the big-game pitcher he has been in the past. The Giants are perceived as the team with all the starting pitching, but Bumgarners fastball started out at 91, dropped to 90 in the second inning and was mostly 89 after that.Worse yet, he couldnt spot either his fastball or his off-speed stuff. We tried to work some guys up, but I guess I didnt get it up enough, he said. This isnt mechanical, like in April.No, this looks like Bumgarner has either hit the wall or discovered a cul de sac at the worst possible time for the Giants, and as a result, manager Bruce Bochy is going to be managing for his life. His bullpen skills will be taxed mightily as he has gone from four reliable starters to three and now, unless Bumgarner has a reserve he can tap soon, two.Well talk about it as far as where Bums at, Bochy said when asked about a Game 5 starter, which would currently be Bumgarner. He came out with good stuff, but it dropped a little bit. Well talk about it tonight, tomorrow, and as we get to Game 5 on what well do.But he was careful, as usual, not to leave Bumgarner marooned.Hes one of our guys, Bochy said. Hes had a great year, and weve seen what this kids done for us during the season and in postseason. But it is something that well discuss.In other words, and parsing Bochys words is always a bit of the damp-dynamite juggle, he now has two startersRyan Vogelsong, Mondays Game 2 headliner, and Matt Cain in Game 3 Wednesday in St. Louis.Everything else is catch-as-catch-can, which means Bochy will be walking to the mound an awful lot between now and Denouement.Game 4 is still up in the air despite two more spotless innings from Tim Lincecum. Bochy has to decide between one of the two, making this a 39 million juggle, and he may have to face the possibility of using both to keep a game in order.And now Game 5 is a headscratcher as well, with Bumgarner still the favorite to start but by a far smaller margin than before. Maybe this turns into Lincecum in 4, Zito in 5, and Bumgarner the new long man. Or Zito in 4, Bumgarner in 5, and Lincecum as the platinum-coated long man.And after that, there is the rest of the paradeSunday, it was George Kontos-to-Lincecum-to-Jeremy Affeldt-to-Santiago Casilla-to-Jose Mijares, with Guillermo Mota-to-Javier Lopez-to-Sergio Romo in reserve.This is the worst-case scenario that convinced the Giants to go with a 12-man staff, and why they might still run out of pitching anyway.This is not to say the Cardinals are in much better shape. St. Louis starter Lance Lynn lost his stuff in about a five-minute span in the Giant fourth, giving up two-out hits to Hunter Pence (single to right), Brandon Belt (bloop single to center), Gregor Blanco (shrieking triple into right center) and Brandon Crawford (double down the right field line).That made St. Louis 6-0 lead a 6-4 lead, and we have seen the fragility of sixes in this postseason. And while Cardinal manager Mike Matheny seemed slow to catch Lynns plummet from grace, he worked the rest of the night with Bochys quick hook and ingenuity.Thus, the comedy pitching ended right there. The two teams combined for only two hits in the final five innings, because as the Cardinals succumbed to the Giants pen, so did the Giants to St. Louis barrage of Joe Kelly-to-Marc Rzepcynski-to-Trevor Rosenthal-to-Edward Mujica-to-Mitchell Boggs-to-Jason Motte.As the Cardinals next two starters, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, have all the postseason pedigree Cain has, and more than Vogelsong, this may become a lopsided series quickly. Or it may remain what it was in Game 1a cavalcade of pitching changes by two managers who are dancing as fast as they can to find a chair when the music stops.

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