Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Opinion: It's Giants vs. Cubs, with the pressure squarely on Chicago

So Conor Gillaspie in 2016 is Marco Scutaro from 2012 or Travis Ishikawa from 2014 or Cody Ross from 2010, at least for one enormous wild-card game and that means it could go on and on again.

And Madison Bumgarner in 2016 is. Madison Bumgarner, the perpetual postseason legend.

That's a two-paragraph summary of the Giants' scintillating 3-0 wild-card victory over the Mets on Wednesday, and yes, obviously, the patterns and connections from the previous three Giants postseason trips are impossible to ignore.

You know who probably understands this better than anybody? That would be the Cubs, who now face the Giants in the NLDS, starting with Games 1 and 2 at Wrigley Field on Friday and Saturday.

And just having Bumgarner out there, throwing up zeros, calms everybody on the Giants roster, and just knowing that he's on the team sets them up in every postseason series.

I think the Giants weren't as stressed as another team would be going up against somebody like Noah Syndergaard, because they knew their guy probably would match Syndergaard, and would stay on the mound longer than Syndergaard.

I covered most of those previous Giants World Series runs — in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — and what we all know is that the Giants are very, very difficult to kill off in October, even when they're matched up against a more talented (on paper) opponent.

The Cubs are more talented. The Cubs are the most talented team in baseball.

I'm not saying the Cubs should fear the Giants or start doing crazy things right off the bat in this series in order to counteract what the Giants might bring.

Still, I said days ago and I'll say it again: If the Giants can get a split of the games in Chicago, and hand the ball to Bumgarner for Game 3 at AT&T on Monday. I think they're going to beat the Cubs in that game, they're going to beat the Cubs in that short series, as the pressure mounts.

We know how the Giants play when the pressure is the highest; the Cubs will have find out for themselves and find out how they deal with it.

And I think, if those things happen, the Giants will win the World Series again.

It's silly just to say that the Giants have some sort of October magic or that anything they do in the playoffs is perfect, because every season is different than the one before it and maybe the Giants will start screwing up immediately in the first inning at Wrigley.

But what I think about this season: Just like the Giants' incredible first half probably was an exaggeration of how good they were, their prolonged second-half slump absolutely exaggerated all of their weaknesses.

The Giants are a good team, they have good, battle-tested talent, they might have the deepest starting rotation in the playoffs.

And they have Bumgarner. It all points to him, just like it did in 2014, and if the Giants can get it to him with a chance to take a commanding lead against the Cubs, then that's almost all they'll need.

Because if they get great starting pitching then the great unexpected moments are even more valuable, such as:

• Gillaspie jumping into the lineup because of the injury to Eduardo Nunez who was inserted in place of Matt Duffy who took the place of Pablo Sandoval last year.

• Joe Panik making that great plate appearance to work the walk off of Jeurys Familia in the top of the ninth right before Gillaspie's at-bat, which forced the Mets to pitch to Gillaspie (with Bumgarner on deck).

• And no need to go to the bullpen — the Mets had to remove Syndergaard when his pitch-count got up there after seven innings, but the Giants had Bumgarner cruising.

Nobody else was going to finish off this one. Nobody had to. And he's slotted for Game 3.

Comments
Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

The Rays will put single game tickets for spring training home games on sale Friday at 10 a.m. via raysbaseball.com.The Rays are playing 14 home games in Port Charlotte, starting with the Feb. 23 opener vs. Pittsburgh. Tickets will be available at th...
Updated: 6 hours ago
A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

With the start of spring training now less than a month away, here is what the Rays roster looks like, with the most glaring hole at first base, which at this point seems likely to be manned by Brad Miller, and some questions about the pitching staff...
Published: 01/17/18
Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

The Rays' March 29 season-opener against the Red Sox has been set for a 4 p.m. first pitch at Tropicana Field.This will be the ninth straight year the Rays have opened at home, and the third time they have opened against the rival Red Sox.  The ...
Published: 01/17/18
Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight    Ted Williams museum inductions

Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight Ted Williams museum inductions

Hall of Famer Tony Perez and longtime Phillies/White Sox star Dick Allen will be inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame next month in Clearwater.Former Yankees Cy Young Award winner Ron Guidry and longtime Astros ace J.R. Richard also wi...
Published: 01/16/18
Jones: Besties, Ball and bloopers -- it’s TV tidbits time

Jones: Besties, Ball and bloopers -- it’s TV tidbits time

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best comebackExcuse Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp for getting so carried away that he dropped the queen bee of curse words on live television Sun...
Published: 01/14/18
Jesuit High product Lance McCullers gets big raise, avoids arbitration

Jesuit High product Lance McCullers gets big raise, avoids arbitration

Astros right-hander Lance McCullers, a Tampa native and former Jesuit High standout, reached a one-year deal for $2.45 million on Friday, avoiding arbitration. McCullers, 24, made $548,000 last season.
Published: 01/12/18
Jake Odorizzi, Adeiny Hechavarria lone Rays set for arbitration

Jake Odorizzi, Adeiny Hechavarria lone Rays set for arbitration

ST. PETERSBURG — For the second straight winter, pitcher Jake Odorizzi is taking the Rays to arbitration.Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria will join him.They were the only two of the nine arbitration-eligible Rays to not agree to a one-year contract by Fr...
Published: 01/12/18
Odorizzi, Hechavarria heading to arbitration

Odorizzi, Hechavarria heading to arbitration

The Rays have reached agreements on 2018 contracts with seven of their nine arbitration-eligible players with pitcher Jake Odorizzi and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria heading to arbitration.Odorizzi made $4.1 million last season after taking the R...
Published: 01/12/18
Alex Colome, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi among Rays’ arbitration-eligible players

Alex Colome, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi among Rays’ arbitration-eligible players

ST. PETERSBURG — The payroll for the 2018 season will become clearer this afternoon after the Rays and their nine arbitration-eligible players exchange figures on one-year contracts.Those who do not agree to the club’s offer will head to arbitration ...
Published: 01/11/18
Rays announce minor league coaching staffs

Rays announce minor league coaching staffs

Jim Morrison, the one-time manager of the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs, will return to his old job in Port Charlotte this season.Morrison, the Tampa product, was named as the Stone Crabs manager Wednesday after spending the past four seasons as the ...
Published: 01/10/18