San Francisco Giants Outlast Nationals In Marathon 18-Inning NLDS Game 2

The marathon game is finally over after Brandon Belt hit a solo homerun in the 18th inning to lead the San Francisco Giants over the Washington Nationals 2-1. This game should be about Belt’s heroics, but much will be made of the Nationals manager. Matt Williams cost the Nationals a chance to win game-two of the NLDS. After a ninth inning walk to Joe Panik to end Jordan Zimmerman’s streak of 20 straight batters retired, Williams chose to turn to Drew Storen out of the bullpen instead of staying with Zimmermann.

It was truly an inexplicable decision. Zimmermann was cruising, and he was only 100 pitches on the night. With Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval due up the order, wouldn’t you want your team’s best pitcher against the opposition’s heart of their lineup? I know I would. Nevertheless, after a two-out walk to Panik, it took only a handful of pitches for Posey to single and Sandoval to double him home. The Nationals could have very well lost it in the ninth inning as well, as Posey was called out in a controversial play at the plate.

The Nationals had plenty of chances to walk away with the win, but nine innings later, regardless, the Giants now head back to AT&T Park ahead in the NLDS 2-0. With Madison Bumgarner scheduled to pitch on Monday, it could be over quickly for the Nationals, just like it was in 2012, when they entered the postseason in similar fashion.

The decisions by Williams just highlighted the team’s total inexperience in the postseason as the Giants remained cool. After allowing the tying run in the ninth, Williams and Asdrubal Cabrera were both tossed after arguing balls and strikes in the 10th inning. It was a complete unraveling by the Nationals due to the frustration buildup from game-one and the majority of game-two, and it ultimately cost Washington the game, and potentially the series.

The win for the Giants, however, was just more evidence of how resilient this team really is. They won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 with similar resiliency. They weren’t the favorites in either of those series, but yet they moved their way through. Tonight was just another example of Bruce Bochy pulling all the right strings and believing in his players to come through in the end.

The same cannot be said for Williams, as the rookie manager made the mistake of pulling Zimmermann, and in turn, probably costing the Nationals any chance of winning this series.

Can the Oakland A’s Win the AL West?

Although the game is under protest by the Oakland A’s and manager Bob Melvin, as it stands now, the LA Angels own a 4-3, 10th inning walk-off win against their division rivals. This translates to an 80-53 record for the Angels and a two-game lead over the A’s at 78-55.

The game is under protest due to a ninth inning obstruction call that went against Oakland and was upheld by umpire Greg Gibson and crew chief Gerry Davis. Howie Kendrick collected the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the 10th off A’s reliever Ryan Cook (1-2).

The A’s did put up quite a fight in the game, typical of their outstanding season. After struggling through the first three innings, staff ace Sonny Gray retired the next 12 batters to finish with seven innings, allowing three runs off six hits and three walks. Gray’s season record is an impressive 13-7 with 3.03 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 178 innings pitched.

But the A’s are struggling as a team since the All Star break. They are 19-19 since the break and have lost 11 of their last 17. The A’s still maintain a 5-1/2 game lead on the top Wild Card spot over Detroit and Seattle. LA has won seven of ten and appear to be the hot team right now, although the loss of staff ace Garrett Richards could diminish their chances of staying on top.

Although the acquisition of starter John Lester from Boston has certainly improved the A’s pitching staff and their team overall, the loss of Yoenis Cespedes has hurt the offense. In 24 games with the Red Sox, Cespedes is batting .280 with four doubles, four home runs and 20 RBI’s. Although not staggering numbers by any stretch, the A’s could use his bat right now.

Derek Norris is leading the team offensively with a .270 BA. Josh Donaldson is leading in power numbers with 26 homers and 88 RBI’s, but is only batting .255. The offense will have to pick it up in September to support the pitching staff if they want to challenge the Angels for the AL West crown.