McAdam at the World Series: Giants youth serves

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McAdam at the World Series: Giants youth serves

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The last time the San Francisco Giants were this close to a World Series championship, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey were barely out of middle school.

And the previous World Series appearance before that? Posey was all of 2 12 and Bumgarner was two months old.

History may be lost on them. They're too busy making it to worry about it.

Sunday night, Bumgarner, 21, was brilliant, limiting the Texas Rangers to three measly hits and Posey, 23, was helping to call his second shutout in the last four games while adding a solo homer.

Together, they led the Giants to a 4-0 victory over Texas, and to within a game of the Giants' first title since 1954. Together, they also represented the first rookie battery to start a World Series game since 1947.

Neither began this season in the major leagues. Posey was brought up in the final week of May and spent his first month with the Giants playing first base. Bumgarner wasn't summoned until the last weekend of June, making his 2010 debut against the Red Sox.

Sunday, they were linked, pushing the Rangers to the edge and positioning the Giants to within a victory of the title which has eluded the franchise for so long.

"I didn't expect this in my wildest dreams,'' gushed Bumgarner, who became the fifth-youngest pitcher in history to start a World Series game.

Posey, as perhaps befits someone two whole years older than his starting pitcher, seemed a little less overwhelmed by the historical nature of the battery, but nonetheless labeled it "pretty cool.''

"I think it's probably a little bit harder for some people to believe rather than us,'' he said.

Count the Giants general manager, Brian Sabean, among that group.

"I get choked up,'' said Sabean of watching his newbies thrive on the big stage. "I still have butterflies and a lump in my throat. It's something to behold if you're a purist. It's very unusual. It's humbling because they're amazing people. They're aware of the gravity of all this. I don't know how they balance it. I really don't.

"I've never seen composure like this.''

Bumgarner walked the first hitter he faced, Elvis Andrus, and issued another walk with two out in the second, then didn't walk anyone else over the next six innings.

He faced the minimum number of hitters six times in his eight innings and it wasn't until Mitch Moreland's single to right in the sixth that he allowed a base hit out of the infield.

Posey, his team's cleanup hitter, greeted Texas reliever Darren O'Day by slamming a slider out to center, accounting for the fourth run of the night.

Together, they were as calm as could be, unshaken by the circumstances or the setting, though under some questioning, Bumgarner allowed that, yes, this might be slightly more nerve-wracking than the North Carolina state championship which he referenced recently.

While Bumgarner and Posey took questions, Giants' special assistant Felipe Alou stood off to the side and spoke with reporters about what it would mean if Giants could win Monday night. Or Wednesday or Thursday night back in San Francisco.

Alou, of course, brings a different, deeper perspective, having been in the game for longer than Bumgarner and Posey, combined, have been alive.

He was part of 1962 National League champion Giants who came up one run short against the New York Yankees. Alou attempted to move his brother, Matty, over, but failed so that Matty had to stop at third on a double by Willie Mays. He was stranded there when Willie McCovey's liner was caught by second baseman Bobby Richardson.

"Sometimes, we had great Giants,'' said the sage Alou, recalling past clubs. "But sometimes the team was not as great. A team is not necessarily a bunch of great players together. But this team is a team.''

Alou has said that he still feels haunted by the Giants' inability to win in 1962. McCovey said recently that a win by these Giants would make him feel better.

"Me, too,'' acknowledged Alou. "Matty was still at first base when Willie Mays hit that double that didn't score him. It's a rather sore spot in my career, my life, really.

"But if this team wins, maybe I would forgive me a little bit.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

The Boston Red Sox' worst fears with Carson Smith have been realized: The reliever needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

The Sox announced this morning that Smith will undergo the procedure today in New York.

Smith injured his elbow during spring training and was able to pitch in only three regular-season games after being activated on May 3. His loss will probably step up the team's efforts to acquire more bullpen help, as Smith was expected to reduce the workload on Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara as set-ups for closer Craig Kimbrel. In the short term, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree will probably help in that role.

Red Sox starters handled 'the big inning' differently in Indians series

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Red Sox starters handled 'the big inning' differently in Indians series

BOSTON -- Avoiding the big inning isn’t just a major concern for Red Sox pitching, it is for all pitchers, at any level.

They can be used as benchmarks for a pitcher’s worth, given one’s ability to minimize the damage, and are in general big momentum shifters.

In each game of the Cleveland series Boston’s starting pitchers were presented with an inning that had potential on running awry.

And each handled it differently.

Joe Kelly took care of business. Rick Porcello minimized the damage and moved on. And, in typical fashion, Clay Buchholz didn’t do well -- even though he managed to log a quality start.

Kelly’s big inning came in his 30-pitch fifth inning, where he lost his perfect game bid -- and gave him no chance at completing the game -- with three walks.

But despite a lapse in control and pressure mounting with runners in scoring position, he held down the fort.

He was able to stay in them moment and work through his worst inning unscathed.

“[I] just got a little bit out of my mechanics and tempo from the stretch,” Kelly said on his fifth inning struggles following Saturday’s 9-1 win. “The pitches still felt good. The life on the fastball felt good [and] the breaking stuff felt sharp. It was just a matter not getting that timing down with my mechanics and just being a little bit to late on getting my arm extended.”

The following day Porcello took the mound and was off once again. John Farrell credited it to a lack of sink on Porcello’s go-to pitch, which is definitely a problem if that’s the case.

But there’s a lot to be said about a pitcher who doesn’t have his best pitch, yet still goes out and pitches a good game (even if it doesn’t get marked as a quality start).

And there’s even more value in the fact that on a bad day, Porcello can still get out of a jam.

“I was overthrowing and out of my game a little bit,” Porcello said on his rough second inning in Sunday’s 5-2 win. “In the third inning I just tried to get the ball down and get some quick outs.”

He also explained that he tries to simplify his approach in starts when he doesn’t have everything working.

“[You] just regroup mentally and battle through it,” Porcello said. “[I was] just trying to keep the balls in the ballpark and let the defense make the plays behind you like they did today.”

Kelly and Porcello set a positive tone to end the series with the Indians after Buchholz had proven that even the Quality Start statistic is misleading at times.

“The one pitch to [Jason] Kipnis is the difference in this one tonight,” John Farrell said following Buchholz’s start Friday. “What we’ve seen is when it’ been a home run, it’s probably been a walk that’s mixed in . . .The home runs are going to happen I think we all look at the base runners leading up to where he puts himself into a little bit of a corner where you don’t have much margin for error with men on base.

“And then there’s been a fastball that’s leaked back to the middle. And that was the case again tonight. He’s trying to crowd Kipnis and to keep the ball in on him and it ends up on the inner half. To me I don’t know if it’s focus, it’s a manner of falling behind in the count and the walks are factoring. We’re working to get him over that hump.”

The “one pitch” being the issue for Buchholz got him a pass for a few starts -- not to belittle the issue, it still is one -- but putting runners on in excess is the righty’s big problem.

He’s clearly still not comfortable throwing from the stretch (never mind bring the game to a screeching halt) and that needs to change. Fact is pitchers throw out of the stretch more often than not.

And going back to the “one pitch” being the problem. It seems more often than not that it’s Buchholz’s “front-door” two-seamer that is supposed to start at a lefty’s hip and scrape the inner edge of the plate.

But once again it wound up catching too much plate, even more barrel and parking itself in the outfield bleachers.

The question beckons, “When will he stop using that pitch so frequently?” It is absolutely a valuable weapon, but if Buchholz has to see that the risk-reward isn’t in his favor.

Regardless, Buchholz needs to take a page out of Kelly and Porcello’s book. Simplify to minimize the damage.

He might even get a standing ovation like Kelly and Porcello when they got pulled.