Madison Bumgarner Getty

Will the Giants get the good or bad Madison Bumgarner in Game 2 tonight?


Madison Bumgarner was bumped from the Giants’ rotation in the NLCS after back-to-back poor playoff starts in which he failed to make it out of the fifth inning, but manager Bruce Bochy is putting his faith in the 23-year-old left-hander tonight.

Bochy chose Bumgarner to make the Game 2 start rather than Tim Lincecum, who was used in relief of Barry Zito in Game 1 last night and has been brilliant for the Giants out of the bullpen all postseason.

Bumgarner has been anything but brilliant as a starter, allowing opponents to hit .385 off him while coughing up 10 runs in eight innings, and he also struggled down the stretch with a 5.89 ERA in his final seven regular season starts.

So why is Bochy trusting Bumgarner in Game 2? Well, for one thing he’s been one of the best left-handers in baseball since joining the rotation in mid-2010 and was the Giants’ second-best starter overall this season, throwing 208 innings with a 3.37 ERA and 191/49 K/BB ratio. And last time Bumgarner took the mound in the World Series he shut out the Rangers for eight innings in Game 4 two years ago, allowing just three hits in one of the best postseason performances ever by a 22-year-old.

“I feel good about Madison,” Bochy said, via Lyle Spencer of “He’s had a great year. He’s done a great job for us since he’s been up here, including postseason. This is a small sample on a couple hiccups he had earlier, and I think he’s getting some much-needed rest and some time to work on making a couple adjustments in his delivery.”

Bochy and the Giants think Bumgarner has corrected some mechanical issues that hurt his performance. Pitching coach Dave Righetti studied video with Bumgarner, who found that he’d been reaching further back in his delivery than usual. “I think throwing the way I was throwing was causing a lot more stress on my body, and that was causing me to tire out more quickly,” Bumgarner said, via Jane Lee of “We got that all worked out now, I think.”

Of course, Jose Valverde also claimed to have corrected a mechanical issue between the ALCS and World Series, and … well, saw how that worked out last night. Bumgarner last started 11 days ago, but he’s been throwing bullpen sessions to stay sharp since then and declared himself “good and ready to go.”

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.