Nothing comes easy for Bochy, Giants in milestone victory

Kruk & Kuip: Congratulations to Bruce Bochy

Nothing comes easy for Bochy, Giants in milestone victory
July 24, 2013, 12:30 am
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Bruce Bochy became the 21st MLB manager to reach the 1,500-win plateau on Tuesday. (AP)

SAN FRANCISCO – Giants manager Bruce Bochy wasn’t sure what to make of his 1,500th career victory, which his players climbed a tree to retrieve for him after a long afternoon and night of baseball at Third and King on Tuesday. 

For one, Bochy doesn’t spend much time polishing his medals. For another, he burned too many neurons while the Giants stranded 14 runners in a 5-3 victory. There wasn’t much juice left to wax eloquent on a nearly four-decade career in professional baseball.

[RECAP: Giants 5, Reds 3]

“Well, I’ll be honest. I don’t know what that number means, except I’m fortunate I’ve been doing this as long as I have,” said Bochy, who is 1500-1497 in 19 seasons with the Padres and Giants. “I’m grateful, I’m thankful. I wish we were in a better situation now. You’re blessed to be in this game and I know how lucky I am.”

Here’s what 1,500 wins means: Bochy is one of just 21 managers to reach that milestone, and one of just 11 members of that club who also own multiple World Series rings. Eight of those club within a club are in the Hall of Fame -- and Joe Torre and Tony La Russa have a deposit down on their plots.

No matter what the milestone means, Bochy did not autopilot his way into it as the Giants used five relievers to throw 4 1/3 shutout innings. They split a doubleheader -– and avoided becoming the first team in baseball history to be walked off in their own ballpark -- as Sergio Romo struck out four to finish a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Giants are 3-3 since the All-Star break. In their three victories, they have stranded 33 runners, held opponents to 3-for-27 with runners in scoring position, and the manager has made 17 pitching changes.

With all those mound visits, Bochy’s feet had to be as sore as his head.

But there is a lightness of being that comes tethered to any victory –- especially when there was just a 30-minute intermission to quit trembling after the horror-show, 9-3 loss in Game 1.

[RECAP: Reds 9, Giants 3]

It was the Giants’ first win in six games against the Reds this season. They had been outscored 34-6 in those losses, and been no-hit, too.

So this was significant?

“No question,” said Bochy, who doesn’t often unpeel the big-game label to describe a win. “They’re a good ballclub and they’ve beat on us pretty good. It was a pretty gutty effort by the whole club. That’s a tough day. The way we got beat on the first game and bounced back, I’m proud of them.

“We did a great job pitching in traffic. It seemed every inning, they had guys on.

“I mean, this really was, I thought, a much needed win for this club.”

It’s the kind of scrambling victory that Bochy has patented while managing so many teams that didn’t have top-shelf talent. It required master puppetry of the bullpen, which probably will go down as Bochy’s greatest strength.

And it required faith, too. A rookie manager probably doesn’t pull a former Cy Young Award winner and 14-year veteran when he’s one out away from qualifying for a victory. But when Barry Zito allowed a pair of two-outs hits in the fifth, allowing the Reds to make it a two-run game, Bochy ambled out for the baseball.

Zito wanted to stay in the game. He said he was frustrated with himself. But he did not take issue with Bochy’s decision.

Instead, he offered the foremost praise for the manager.

“I think he’s a very underrated manager, maybe because he’s kind of a quiet guy who doesn’t toot his own horn,” Bochy said. “It’s a special accomplishment. We’re all really happy for him.”

Said Hunter Pence: “Amazing accomplishment. It’s hard to fathom. There’s so many good things you can say about him. He’s always on top of the games, the double switches. You always have confidence in all his moves, and not only that, but he knows how to handle the team.”

And Romo: “You have to respect everything he’s done in the game and what he’s meant to the game. I don’t know any other big league managers, but I have no room to complain, no room to say anything negative about the man. He puts us in positions to succeed.” 

Even if he had to think twice about it, with the Giants acting as the road team for the first time in a game at AT&T Park while making up the July 4 rainout from the series at Cincinnati.

“You know, it was a little different,” Bochy said. “I had to remind myself, especially late in the game, when you’re using your setup men and closer. I had to remind myself the inning didn’t flip over after we hit.”

He wore his road grays. But it was a tight game, a hard-fought game. It was a game that required weathered resilience.

And that’s when Bochy always seems most at home.

RkMgrYrsFromToGW ▾LW-L%
1 Connie Mack HOF 53 1894 1950 7755 3731 3948 .486
2 John McGraw HOF 33 1899 1932 4769 2763 1948 .586
3 Tony LaRussa 33 1979 2011 5097 2728 2365 .536
4 Bobby Cox 29 1978 2010 4508 2504 2001 .556
5 Joe Torre 29 1977 2010 4329 2326 1997 .538
6 Sparky Anderson HOF 26 1970 1995 4030 2194 1834 .545
7 Bucky Harris HOF 29 1924 1956 4410 2158 2219 .493
8 Joe McCarthy HOF 24 1926 1950 3487 2125 1333 .615
9 Walter Alston HOF 23 1954 1976 3658 2040 1613 .558
10 Leo Durocher HOF 24 1939 1973 3739 2008 1709 .540
11 Casey Stengel HOF 25 1934 1965 3766 1905 1842 .508
12 Gene Mauch 26 1960 1987 3942 1902 2037 .483
13 Bill McKechnie HOF 25 1915 1946 3647 1896 1723 .524
14 Lou Piniella 23 1986 2010 3548 1835 1713 .517
15 Jim Leyland 22 1986 2013 3435 1730 1703 .504
16 Dusty Baker 20 1993 2013 3113 1637 1475 .526
17 Ralph Houk 20 1961 1984 3157 1619 1531 .514
18 Fred Clarke HOF 19 1897 1915 2829 1602 1181 .576
19 Tom Lasorda HOF 21 1976 1996 3040 1599 1439 .526
20 Dick Williams HOF 21 1967 1988 3023 1571 1451 .520
21 Bruce Bochy 19 1995 2013 2996 1499 1497 .500



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