Rather atypically, the mistakes of manager, Bruce Bochy, cost the San Francisco Giants game two of the Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals last night. Normally one of the best at orchestrating his bullpen, his failure to micro-manage the game last night was costly — so costly, the Giants now find themselves in a one-to-one series tie with the Cardinals.
Bochy did make some nice moves last night. Pinch-running Matt Duffy for Andrew Susac was a run-scoring move. Leaving Jake Peavy in to face Matt Carpenter with the bases loaded was the correct move, however, the inspired decisions stop there. These two minor-moves in no way, shape or form facilitate whatsoever for his later mistakes with the bullpen.
The errors began in the fifth inning when Bochy brought in Jeremy Affeldt from the bullpen – while Affeldt retired six hitters, and worked two scoreless innings, Boch botched this decision. Affeldt is invaluable in the ‘pen. His ability to sit-down both right handers and left handers is very useful indeed, when paired with his ability to get ground-balls when needed, or a strike-out when needed, is even more useful.
What’s more, Affeldt has the composure and the ability to pitch in the late innings, when the stakes are higher and tensions are running high. So; burning him in the fifth and sixth inning was utterly stupid. Isolated, the move was silly, however, it also sparked a line of bad decisions. Like a line of dominos, using Jeremy this early on came back to haunt the Giants.
In the seventh, Javier Lopez was fully ready to come into the game to retire the two left-handers at the top of the order. With the pitcher’s spot coming before Carpenter and Jon Jay, Mike Matheny went to his pinch hitter; Oscar Taveras. The inning was now calling for Javi. With a left handed hitter, followed by a left handed hitter, followed by left handed hitter, it is mere common sense to bring in the leftie specialist Lopez.
Nope. Bochy was to save him for the top of the order, which is a feasible theory given Lopez is a specialist pitcher, and isn’t really built to pitch full innings. With only right handers left in the pen — given that Bruce had already used Affeldt — it was up to Jean Machi or Hunter Strickland to sit down Taveras. Now, this is where Bochy’s decisions get unbelievable.
Taveras has an ISO of .000 against fastballs, and an ISO of .206 against changeups. Ready to pitch was either fastball pitcher Strickland, or changeup pitcher Machi. For some reason unbeknownst to anyone, Bochy went with the change up pitcher, against the change up hitter. Utter madness. Of course, Taveras homered.
The Giants now, due to wasting Affeldt in the early innings which are suited to guys like Machi and Strickland, had to call upon Strickland to pitch the eighth. The rookie, who has had a horrible postseason thus far, had to face the middle of the order in the penultimate inning of the NLCS, crazy. As aforementioned several times, Lopez and Affeldt were no longer available. Matt Adams, a power-hitting, fastball-loving, left-hander came to the plate — a hitter with a repertoire not too dissimilar to Bryce Harper, who hit two home-runs against Strickland. Of course, Adams homered to give St. Louis the lead.
All in all, Bochy’s sheer failure to utilise his bullpen cost him game two of the NLCS. Had the bullpen been used correctly, the Giants may have been returning to San Francisco with a two-game lead. Thankfully, these unforgivable errors are entirely atypical for Bochy, who has also won the Giants many, many games. Fans will cross their fingers, and hope he has learnt his lesson.