Last night’s game was decided in the sixth inning and it is very reasonable to lay a good helping of the blame onto Bruce Bochy. Bochy has rightfully been praised as a great manager, but he had an off night in Game 2.
The first questionable decision was leaving Jake Peavy in to face the Royals’ 3-4-5 hitters for a third time. Peavy this season has been a good pitcher the first two times that he has gone through an opponent’s lineup (.655 OPS). When players get to see him for a third time, they hit like All-Stars (.933 OPS). With Peavy not looking great to this point and a bullpen that was well-rested with an off day coming up, there is little to no defense for leaving him in to face the heart of the order in a tie game.
After a single and a walk, Bochy finally had seen enough and went to the bullpen. With runners on first and second and no outs in a tie game, this was the second-highest leverage situation in the game up to this point. That’s also how it would end, after the Giants gave up five runs.
Ideally a reliever would have been given a fresh start to the inning. But that wasn’t the case here, so now it was a matter of who to bring in. Bochy had his full bullpen available to him, and ultimately chose Jean Machi. This is a hard decision to defend; it is difficult to argue that Machi is anything more than the Giants fourth or fifth best reliever in the bullpen behind Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Yusmeiro Petit and Javier Lopez against lefties, and Sergio Romo against right-handed hitters.
I can understand not wanting to go to Casilla to save him for a big spot in the eighth or ninth inning, yet not going to one of the other top arms to preserve a tie game is hard to explain.
After Machi gave up a single to Butler, Bochy brought in Lopez to face lefty Alex Gordon. Lopez did his job and got his out before making way for Hunter Strickland. I like Strickland — it’s nice to have a hard thrower in the bullpen for once. But again, the Giants desperately needed to keep the game close to give themselves a chance against the Royals’ excellent bullpen. Bochy went with a reliever that was well down the depth chart and it ended up costing the Giants.
In the end it seemed like Bochy played this one too much like a random game in June than the second game of the World Series. He let his starting pitcher go too far, and when he got in trouble he went with one of his least-trusted relievers in the biggest moment of the game.
Perhaps he felt he felt he was playing with house money after already taking the first game on the road, but it’s hard to imagine that he’d turn down a commanding two games to none lead so easily. Sure, the players were the ones that ultimately gave up the runs. Bochy didn’t help matters by putting them in suboptimal conditions to succeed, either.