Bruce Bochy

Bruce Bochy doesn’t seem fully confident in Game 3 and 4 starters

SF Giants NLDS 2014 Tim Hudson Brandon Belt

Neither Tim Hudson nor Ryan Vogelsong were at their best in September, but that didn’t seem to matter in the NLDS. They combined to allow just two runs, nine hits and two walks over 13 innings against the Nationals, but it appears that Bruce Bochy isn’t fully sold just yet.

1. Delayed announcement of the Game 3 and 4 starters

Bochy didn’t announce that Hudson and Vogelsong would start Games 3 and 4, respectively, until yesterday afternoon. There’s really no advantage to putting your, ahem, cards on the table early. Just ask Jim Harbaugh, who uses the phrase “working through something” to describe just about any injury a player can sustain.

But with both pitchers slated to get plenty of rest between their previous starts and the games slated to take place tomorrow and Wednesday, Bochy going with a public “TBA” for so long made me wonder if Hudson’s hip is OK, or if something else was amiss.

His decision-making process in Game 2 added to the uncertainty …

2. Saving Yusmeiro Petit

Jeremy Affeldt was fantastic last night. Unfortunately for the Giants, his outing started in the fifth inning. In a perfect world, Bochy wouldn’t have had to use “Good Affeldt” until the later innings. Jake Peavy’s uneven performance was partly to blame, but the fifth inning seemed to scream for one of the middle relievers: Petit or Tim Lincecum. Since Lincecum won’t be trusted on the road unless the Giants are ahead or behind by eight-plus runs (or it’s the 19th inning), Petit would’ve seemed like the logical choice.

In fact, Jonah Keri brought up Petit’s name as a better option than both Hunter Strickland AND Sergio Romo in his story titled, “Nine Managerial Decisions That Helped Decide Game 2 Of The NLCS.”

Granted, the next two batters due up for St. Louis were right-handed hitters. And Bochy had already used Jeremy Affeldt and Lopez, his two big lefty arms out of the pen. But Strickland had shown last round that lefties can smash his straight heat, and Adams certainly had the ability to do the same. Lights-out swingman Yusmeiro Petit, closer Santiago Casilla … the Giants had multiple pitchers whom you’d have trusted more than Strickland in this spot.

***

DECISION: Bochy brings former closer/erratic setup man Sergio Romo into the game.

THE MATH SAYS: Casilla and Petit, by the numbers, were both better options to enter the game than was Romo. Then again, whoever was coming in for the bottom of the ninth did have the bottom of the order coming up, and you can make a case for preserving Casilla for tougher competition and having Petit available to serve as a multi-inning-shutdown guy later, the way Bochy did when he rode Petit for six shutout innings in the Giants’ 18-inning win over Washington in Game 2 of the NLDS. Even with those other factors on the table, the best practice for bullpen use that late in the game should be to make sure a team uses its best guys, instead of trying to get cute with lesser pitchers. Hold Romo back as something closer to a last resort and hope the game never even gets to him while riding more reliable options like Casilla and Petit in the here and now.

I wasn’t thinking about Petit heading into the ninth inning, because it was obvious when Bochy warmed up Javier Lopez in the fourth, and went with Affeldt in the fifth, that Petit was being saved for the games at AT&T Park (or a lengthy extra innings appearance, if Game 2 of the NLCS went like Game 2 of the previous series).

Bochy will use Petit relatively soon, especially with Machi and Strickland giving up six postseason homers combined. He may have given serious consideration to starting Petit in Game 3 if Hudson’s hip was achy enough, and Petit will probably be in there quickly if Hudson struggles in the early innings. If Hudson pitches well, then Petit is there to back up Vogelsong. As for the “perfect situation” for Lincecum … maybe the Giants will need a pinch-runner for Morse.

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