Giants bullpen quietly dominating the playoffs

Until Ryan Vogelsong went seven strong innings Monday night, the Giants starters hadn’t even made it through six innings this postseason.

That lack of longevity by the starters means the Giants bullpen has been called on to clean up the mess.

Giants relievers have logged the second most innings this postseason, with 30-2/3 innings pitched. Only the Cardinals relievers have seen more action with 34.

And in those 30 2/3 innings, the Giants’ pen has been dominant, racking up a 2.35 ERA. If you remove the one bad inning in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Reds — when Jose Mijares and Guillermo Mota combined to give up five runs — Giants relievers have given up just three runs in 29 2/3 innings for a 0.90 ERA. In 33 1/3 innings, Giants starters have a 5.40 ERA.

The bullpen deserves a ton of credit for keeping the Giants in the postseason. Without George Kontos, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla — and yes, Tim Lincecum — the Giants wouldn’t have made it out of Cincinnati alive.

Giants relievers may have been used, but they haven’t been overused. There is depth there and manager Bruce Bochy doesn’t overwork guys.

The only reliever that has more than six innings of work so far is Lincecum, with most of that coming in mop-up duty in Game 4 against the Reds after Barry Zito was ineffective.

Through seven games, here are the numbers the Giants relievers have accumulated:

  • NLDS Game 1: 4-1/3 innings — 1 earned run
  • NLDS Game 2: 4-2/3 innings — 5 ER
  • NLDS Game 3: 5 innings — 0 ER
  • NLDS Game 4: 6-1/3 innings — 1 ER
  • NLDS Game 5: 3-1/3 innings — 1 ER
  • NLCS Game 1: 5-1/3 innings — 0 ER
  • NLCS Game 2: 2 innings — 0 ER
  • Total: 30-2/3 innings — 8 earned runs

In 2010, the mid-season acquisition of lefty Javier Lopez was key in the Giants’ postseason success. This year, George Kontos — picked up in early April from the Yankees for back-up catcher Chris Stewart — has been more than the Giants could have hoped for.

In 44 regular season games, Kontos struck out 44 batters in 43-2/3 innings to go with his 2.47 ERA. In five appearances during these playoffs, Kontos has thrown four scoreless innings, only allowing two hits.

After the NLDS Game 5 win over the Reds, Kontos was asked about his approach on the mound and what it’s like to be in the bullpen during the game:

“The biggest thing for me was keeping my composure and not let things get out of control. Focus on one pitch, that’s it. One pitch.”

“Everyone was on edge down there [in the bullpen] watching, but when the phone rang, we were ready to go. Our bullpen gave us a big pickup in this series.”

After the historic comeback, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford used one sentence to compliment the group of relievers:

“They’ve been unbelievable all year.”

Without the incredible job the bullpen has done, the Giants would be home making plans for the holidays. Instead, they are three wins away from making plans for the Fall Classic.