I asked Brian Sabean what Bruce Bochy brings to the table during Media Day, and immediately regretted it because Bochy stared me down as if I was trying to sabotage him. Right, because Sabean’s taking advice from bloggers these days.
Anyway, one of the things Sabean said was that Bochy does an excellent job at keeping everyone on the roster engaged, involved. Friday night’s 4-3 win in 10 innnings over the New York Mets wasn’t exactly a shining example of managerial brilliance and efficiency, with several moves Bochy made subject to questioning. But the guy sure kept everyone involved.
12 position players were used — everyone besides the flu-ridden Ryan Theriot, who didn’t make it to Citi Field. Seven pitchers played, eight if you count Matt Cain’s curious pinch-hitting appearance in the 6th. Three double-switches. Humm baby, Bochy must’ve loved this game.
It was Brandon Belt’s birthday, and Belt was sent up against a LOOGY (he struck out on 3 pitches, the last a fairly mediocre looking slider). Poor guy, right? Later, Belt saved the game by taking the safe play that was actually extremely risky, throwing out Kirk Nieuwenhuis at the plate in the 9th. As far as birthdays go, Belt’s could’ve been worse (the Giants lost 5-2 to the Phillies on Monday, Bochy’s birthday).
Hector Sanchez was the hero with the game-winning hit, although he could’ve been the goat on the Nieuwenhuis play at the plate as Sanchez almost let the ball slip out of his mitt on the tag (that would’ve been the second time he was screwed by Nieuwenhuis, the centerfielder who made a Jim Edmonds-esque diving catch on a Sanchez blast in the 8th). Sanchez also allowed Javier Lopez to be charged on a wild pitch, on a play that had thousands of fans calling for Bochy to replace Sanchez behind the plate with Posey near the end. Bochy’s decision to rest Posey after a full day at first didn’t keep the Giants from winning, or the fans from kvetching during the game.
Alex Pavlovic called Bochy an #EvilGenius, and even though he’s neither evil nor a genius, it sure seemed apt after the Giants went over .500 for the first time this season.
About the hitting…
Now that Barry Zito had the exact start the Giants hoped/expected him to replicate 30 times this season, the kind of start a pitcher has that makes him worthy of the lofty title of “BEST NO. 5 STARTER IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE” (pretty great for a while, pretty shaky for a while, out after 5 innings) the Giants clearly once again have a group of 12 pitchers that are the envy of virtually every other team. Even without Brian Wilson, the Giants’ staff is full of solid-to-great contributors.
The problem, again, comes on offense. The Giants’ struggles with runners in scoring position look awfully similar to what we saw last year. Since we already referenced one of the beat writers on Twitter, might as well mention that I agreed with something Henry Schulman wrote earlier (and Sulia free, this time!):
As improved as the top of the lineup has been (particularly when Angel Pagan, who came up with the Giants’ first HR since last Friday, is hitting), the bottom of the order has looked increasingly grim. Brandon Crawford’s in the funk everyone hoped he’d avoid, and we still don’t know whether he has the ability to escape these offensive doldrums. Emmanuel Burriss has 1 extra-base hit in his last 84 Major League games. The mix-and-match situation with Aubrey Huff, Brett Pill and Brandon Belt has left all three looking completely lost.
Yet, the Giants still have a never-ending list of relievers who on any given night can save the day. On Friday, Jeremy Affeldt (who told Dave Flemming he had made a mechanical adjustment and had better stuff than he’s had in quite some time) was brilliant. Same with Clay Hensley, who could very well get a shot to become the team’s full-time closer if Santiago Casilla falters.
Sergio Romo was masterful in the 9th inning, totally hittable in the 10th. While he’s a fan favorite who possesses the nastiest pitch on the entire staff, I don’t believe its his lack of a “closer’s mentality” that keeps him from entering a new paygrade, or even the righty/lefty thing. It’s the right elbow he taxes with that frisbee slider, the same elbow that gave him problems during the spring and sees a huge pile of ice and gauze after every appearance.
Still, the Giants are 7-3 since the Arizona series, and they’ve allowed only 17 earned runs over the past eight games. The defense appears to be settling down. Buster Posey’s ankle hasn’t been a cause for concern since the beginning of Spring Training. And while you might not always agree with his methods, Bochy’s team is forging an identity: a team that will rarely get blown out, will rarely capitalize fully with men on base, and will rarely make things look easy.
Duane Kuiper exploded during the game’s last at-bat, yelling “GOT HIM” on a 2-strike foul tip by Lucas Duda that clearly hit the ground. His “Premature Kuipulation” drove everyone crazy, but we should all be used to it. Not from Kuiper per se, but we should continue to expect nothing but stress, stress and more stress from the team Kuiper deemed torturous to watch back in 2010. If they can provide half the number of heart palpitations they did that year, they’ll be in good shape.