Bochy should have pulled Peavy earlier, but that's life as a manager
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jake Peavy had thrown only 57 pitches entering the sixth inning. He had retired 10 straight hitters. And when his streak ended, it ended quietly, with a Lorenzo Cain bloop single to center.
If I were Giants manager Bruce Bochy, I still would have lifted Peavy right then, after the first baserunner. I would have had relievers warming, including a left-hander for the hitter after Cain, Eric Hosmer. I surely would not have allowed a 2-2 game to disintegrate into a 7-2 defeat in Game 2 of the World Series, never!
Thing is, I’m not Bruce Bochy. None of us out in Second-Guessing Land is Bruce Bochy, or for that matter, Ned Yost. One thing is certain: The managers know their players better than we do. Doesn’t mean they always use sound logic. Doesn’t mean they’re all idiots, either.
Believe me, I’m not trying to serve as an apologist for Bochy, Yost, the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny and Nationals’ Matt Williams, all of whom I’ve strongly disagreed with at one point or another this postseason.
Second-guessing is part of baseball, a fun part. Second-guessing in real time is inevitable in this age of social media. And actually, this was the second time Bochy arguably stuck too long with a veteran starter this postseason — see Tim Hudson, Game 3, NLCS.
But one minute we’re talking about Bochy as a lock for the Hall of Fame, and now all of a sudden he’s a dunce? Sorry, count me out. It’s true for Bochy, it’s true for Yost, it’s true for all of ‘em: Managerial decisions only look bad when they don’t work out.
Let’s go back to the American League Wild Card Game. Yost, in his pregame meeting with the FOX broadcasters Wednesday, replayed his controversial decision to summon Yordano Ventura in relief against the Athletics. And quite emphatically, he said he would do it again.
Weeks later, I can rattle off several reasons why I still believe that move was a mistake. In fact, before the Royals rallied that night, I was in the middle of the column comparing Yost to Grady Little in the 2003 ALCS and saying that he could not possibly return as Royals manager. Good thing the Royals rewrote the script. Considering where Yost is now, that column would have been an over-reaction, no?
Now back to Bochy. You saw what happened Wednesday night, the Royals’ five-run sixth that was the turning point in the game and perhaps the Series. You saw Peavy walk Hosmer, reliever Jean Machi allow an RBI single to Billy Butler and then the full Hunter Strickland meltdown. Two-run double by Sal Perez. Two-run homer by Omar Infante. Temper tantrum that confused anyone watching the game.
The trigger point for all this was Bochy’s decision to stick with Peavy, even though the pitcher’s opponents in the regular season had a .324/.389/.548 batting average/on-base/slugging line on his third time through the order.
Again, I didn’t like the move. I thought Bochy already had hit the jackpot on Peavy, and needed to cash in his chips. But if Hosmer had hit into a double play — uh, he is 0 for 6 in the first two games — I’m writing a different story.
Frankly, the Giants have bigger problems, starting with their bullpen, which no longer appears rock-solid. And though Thursday is an off-day, Bochy again could need to make heavy use of his relievers in Games 3 and 4 behind Tim Hudson, 39, and Ryan Vogelsong, 37.
Where to turn in the middle innings?
Machi has flopped in four straight postseason appearances. Tim Lincecum left with lower back tightness in the eighth inning and is at best day to day. Strickland has allowed five — count ‘em, five — homers in these playoffs. Bochy afterward vowed to use Strickland again, but I trust that the manager’s actions will speak louder than his words.
Would Bochy use left-hander Madison Bumgarner on three days’ rest in Game 4 in an effort to squeeze the most out of his pitching staff? Anything is possible, but Bochy has used a starter on short rest only three times in eight years with the Giants, most recently in 2011.
Those three instances occurred during the regular season — Bochy has never pitched a Giants starter on three days' rest in the postseason, and Bumgarner has never pitched on short rest in his major-league career. Bochy is not philosophically opposed to using a starter on short rest, particularly one as strong as Bumgarner. He just says that he has always had enough starters to avoid it.
In any case, Bochy has a day to sort through his various pitching issues, and he’s unlikely to do anything drastic, except possibly replace Lincecum on the roster.
He made a questionable decision Wednesday night. It backfired.
On to the next game. On to the next decision.
Life as a manager.