Christopher Russo, Mad Dog from “High Heat,” likes the St. Louis Cardinals over the San Francisco Giants, in Game Three of the National League Championship Series, because he feels it’s a must-win for St. Louis. If he were correct, or even if the Giants lose Wednesday instead, Bruce Bochy may want to reconsider his lineup as it stands now. He could insert Yusmeiro Petit to pitch Thursday’s game at AT&T, and keep Madison Bumgarner available to pitch in St. Louis, when San Francisco returned to Busch Stadium.
It’s no secret that Petit has fared far better at home than he has on the road. And the fact that Bumgarner is known as the Road Warrior, and demonstrated why, in the NLCS opener, would reinforce the notion that Bochy may want to juggle his lineup, with the thought of going back to St. Louis, remaining uppermost in his mind.
Petit is a control pitcher. During the course of his setting an MLB record for consecutive batters retired, at 46, he also went 39 batters in a row, without going past a 2-ball count. That is precision control that keeps a team in the game and gives the guys playing behind him, an opportunity to coax two or three runs across, and eke out a victory. If they are not going to rely on the big hit or the big fly-or both-then the Giants must be able to count on two or three runs standing up.
Jul 18, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) throws during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
This season, Petit is 3-2, with a 3.08 ERA (13 ER, 38 IP) at AT&T Park in six starts. On the road, he is 0-2 in five starts, with an 8.03 ERA (22 ER, 24.2 IP). Conversely, Bumgarner is 11-4 on the road this season with a 2.22 ERA, whereas he is 7-6 with a 4.03 ERA at home.
There are five reasons why Bruce Bochy might opt to start Yusmeiro Petit on Thursday, if necessary, because of a loss in games three or four, instead of simply following the script, and going with MadBum.
First, look at the stats-they speak for themselves. Petit wins big at home and Bumgarner does the same on the road. It’s not to say that either is incapable of doing the reverse, as needed, but why not go with the odds?
Second, The Giants do not want to return to St. Louis and not have their Road Warrior available, because then the Giants must survive the raucous environment at Busch Stadium without their best weapon in the arsenal.
Third, Petit proved his postseason moxie in Washington, by going six stunning innings of one-hit, shutout ball, so that San Francisco could win in the eighteenth. If he can do it on the road, where he has struggled, it follows that he could continue his success at home.
Fourth, Bochy has complete faith in his all starters and it sends a message to the entire rotation that by having confidence in Petit, Bochy shows confidence in all of them, which strengthens the team chemistry.
Finally, who ever said Bochy follows a script? There is no script in existence that follows the twists and turns of a Bochy-managed game. And the bigger the game, the more complex the path.
Should San Francisco win both Tuesday and Wednesday’s games, then Bumgarner is the logical choice to start the final game to be played in California. However, should the Cards take one of them, an entirely plausible reality, then Bochy should tweak the rotation so as to cover all of his bets.
Bochy is renowned for always staying one-or more-steps ahead of the game. Pitching Petit instead of Bumgarner gives him the best chance to keep that reputation intact.