MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Pitching, defense are name of game for Giants

Pitching, defense are name of game for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- When you score nine runs in four games and win three of them, you might be pitching. And catching.

When people tell you that the San Francisco Giants were a "surprise" winner over the Washington Nationals, you can recite the appropriate series pitching statistics to them. These numbers will remove any and all elements of surprise. The Giants finished off the Nationals, 3-2, on Tuesday night at AT&T Park to end this National League Division Series in four games.

It was a triumph of pitching and defense for the Giants. This formula remains the surest route to victory in baseball, particularly in October.

  Date Time Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   SF 3, WAS 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   SF 2, WAS 1 (18 inn.) video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   WAS 4, SF 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   SF 3, WAS 2 video

In the home clubhouse, between champagne dousings, Giants manager Bruce Bochy managed as usual to put a feasible context around his team's accomplishment. The Giants had, after all, beaten the team with the NL's best record. And they had held this team to nine runs, eight earned, in 45 innings.

"It's a great ballclub we played," Bochy said. "They had an unbelievable year, and I congratulate them on their year. You've got to play your best ball to beat them, and our defense and pitching did it."

Did they ever. The Giants only hit .222 in this series. But that was Ty Cobb stuff compared to the Nationals, who hit .164. The slash lines: San Francisco .222/.275/.278; Washington .164/.222/.258. Yes, the Home Run Era has definitely left the building. In this case, it appears to have been replaced by the Dead-Ball Era.

At the very least, this reminded you of the dominant pitching in the Giants' 2010 World Series run. Three teams with big-time lineups -- the Braves, the Phillies and the Rangers -- put up a collective batting average of under .200 against the Giants that October.

The pitching dominated here, especially San Francisco's pitching. Each team scored nine runs in this series, but that was skewed by the fact that the Giants had three one-run victories and the Nats had a four-run splurge in their Game 3 victory. But in three of the four contests, San Francisco simply outpitched Washington.

On the issue of surprise, it was relatively easy to refer to the Nationals as favorites. On paper, they had the deepest pitching staff in baseball.

But the Giants have been around this block before. Three times out of four in this series, they were the better pitchers, the better defenders. They gave up one unearned run in this series. The Nats gave up three.

A small oddity enters. The only loss the Giants suffered was in Game 3, a game started by the ace of their staff, Madison Bumgarner. In the one defensive breakdown that befell San Francisco, Bumgarner made an ill-advised attempt to get a force at third on a bunt and chucked the ball into the bullpen down the left-field line.

This was wholly uncharacteristic for the Giants. The club received exceptional defense as a rule, the biggest play in the clincher being Hunter Pence's leaping grab against the wall in right on a drive by Jayson Werth.

"One of the best catches, given the stakes," Bochy said. "Looked like it was going up the wall, but he got that out. That looked to be tough. It was huge. That's probably a double, Adam LaRoche is coming up and it's a tie ballgame. You can't make a better play than he did."

And San Francisco received three superb starts from veterans -- Jake Peavy in Game 1, Tim Hudson in Game 2 and Ryan Vogelsong in the clincher.

"Coming into the series, I just had this crazy thought that it was going to come down to me in Game 4," Vogelsong said. "I just had to do the job."

Mission accomplished. Vogelsong pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up one run on two hits. In the three games pitched by Peavy, Hudson and Vogelsong, the starters gave up a total of three earned runs in 18 2/3 innings.

"What a job Vogey did," Bochy said. "He came out and had great stuff, command. It's been an up-and-down year for him, but there must be a reason that he's on the mound for us tonight. He's going to find a way to get it done for us, and he did."

Vogelsong was asked in the clubhouse what was the common thread in the dominant pitching the Giants had.

"You have to tip your hat to Buster Posey," Vogelsong said. "He called a great series."

You get a lot of one-for-all, all-for-one content like that with San Francisco. After two World Series championships in four years -- and what the Giants are accomplishing this year -- it feels like the real thing.

Vogelsong spoke Tuesday night, for instance, about the importance of getting Hudson to the second round of the postseason. In his long and successful career, Hudson has never been on a team that has reached a League Championship Series.

"You know, he's never been past the first round, and it was weighing on my mind pretty heavy today that I needed to come out and throw a great game to get Huddy to the next round," Vogelsong said.

"That just speaks to you about what we have in this room. It's not about 'You,' and it's not about 'I.' It's about 'Us.'"

It might well be about "Us" with the Giants. But, as usual, it is definitely about pitching and defense. In its last seven postseason series, this team is 7-0. The way the Giants have pitched, no other record would make sense.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.