Sarah's Take: Giants' roster moves pay off

Playoff-seasoned vets and plucky youngsters were right mix in marathon

Sarah's Take: Giants' roster moves pay off

The San Francisco Giants finally prevailed over the Washington Nationals on Saturday night to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series. It took 18 innings to win an old-fashioned pitching duel on a chilly and windy night in D.C.

The Giants' experience is paying off. Since 2010, they have been to the postseason three times. Most of their roster has played in many crucial games, so the unusual pressure of the postseason hasn't affected them. No matter how depressing it may look, the Giants just don't give up.

With all of the postseason experience, general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy know how to put together a postseason roster that can meet any challenge. This ability enabled the Giants to win Saturday's marathon.

Both teams are glad Sunday is an off-day, so their players can rest and to be ready for Monday, when the Giants play host to the Nationals in Game 3.

Since Bochy and Sabean understand a starter can have a bad day or a playoff game can go to extra innings, they chose at least two relievers who could pitch multiple innings, and this foresight enabled the Giants to win Game 2 without burning up the bullpen.

Yusmeiro Petit pitched six scoreless innings in relief, which gave the stymied offense the opportunity to score the winning run. During the regular season, after the Giants removed the ineffective Tim Lincecum from the starting rotation, Petit became a starter. For the last two months of the regular season, he and Madison Bumgarner were the most consistent Giants starters.

Most teams might have left Petit off the roster for the NLDS. The Giants won't use him as a starter and they wanted Lincecum available as a long man after he demonstrated a superb ability to pitch in relief during the 2012 postseason. However, since Lincecum was a seldom-used reliever in August and September, he had lost a little arm strength, so he wouldn't have been able to pitch as long as Petit did.

Since Lincecum wasn't used Saturday, he will be available Monday if Bumgarner runs into trouble early or the game goes into extra innings again.

Having two teams with reasonably good offenses score a combined three runs in 18 innings demonstrates the outstanding pitching for both teams.

Giants starter Tim Hudson, coming off a rough September as he dealt with a hip injury, allowed only one run over 7 1/3 innings, but Nats starter Jordan Zimmermann, fresh off a no-hitter, outpitched him.

If first-year Nationals manager Matt Williams didn't have such a quick hook in the ninth, the series very well could be tied heading back to San Francisco.

After retiring 20 consecutive batters and with two outs in the ninth, Zimmermann walked Joe Panik. Williams pulled his starter, who had thrown 100 pitches, for his closer Drew Storen.

During the regular season, after becoming the closer, Storen was automatic, but during the 2012 postseason as the Nationals' closer, he struggled mightily, allowing the Cardinals to advance to the NL Championship Series where they ultimately lost to the Giants.

The postseason is a different animal than the regular season. Some players thrive on the extra pressure, while others don't. Storen gave up two consecutive singles that enabled the Giants to score the tying run, and they came within inches of taking the lead before Buster Posey was thrown out at the plate.

While Bochy found a reliever to go multiple innings after the 11th, Williams used a string of relievers who mostly pitched one inning each. This strategy could backfire later in the series, if employed again.

Although Brandon Belt missed a lot of time during the regular season with serious injuries, so far this postseason he has performed amazingly well. With the cold windy weather, the ball wasn't traveling far. There were many balls that would have been home runs during the summer but were simple flyouts Saturday. In the 18th inning Belt crushed a solo homer to break the tie and the hearts of the Nationals.

Bochy showed an incredible amount of confidence in reliever Hunter Strickland, a September callup who impressed so much that he made the postseason roster. He was chosen to close the marathon and did it without trouble.

It will be interesting to see how the Nationals respond to this heartbreaking defeat in Game 3 in San Francisco.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.