Is Bruce Bochy perfect? No.He was damn close to it last fall, though, wasn't he? Every button he pushed, every lever he pulled, every hunch he played, every move he made -- they all worked out as though he'd somehow banked a lifetime of good karma and cashed it all in over the course of one magical month.Cashing out means the account is empty, however, and while the Giants got off to a great start this season thanks to many memorable close, late and thrilling wins at perpetually sold-out AT&T, Bochy's star, which was as high and bright as its ever been in the wake of the World Series win, slowly and inexorably dimmed as the season wore on.He couldn't control the injuries -- 25 disabled-list trips among 21 players, many of them easily classified as "key" -- or the underachievement of 2010 stars such as Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff and Jonathan Sanchez, but the one consistent criticism of Bochy since he's been at the helm on the shores of McCovey Cove again came to the fore as the Giants slipped from the fore of the National League West.You know the knock. Bochy gives the veterans too much rope, and the veterans often hang themselves with it.It seemed a concept of the past last season, when highly paid but ineffective Aaron Rowand was planted on the bench in favor of Torres, and higher-paid Barry Zito was left off the playoff roster for all three rounds. But it reared its ugly head again this season in the form of Bochy's borderline obsessive compulsion with assuming Huff would wake from his season-long slumber with the lumber.So Bochy, particularly of late, has come under fire from the same fans who sang his praises to high heaven less than a year ago, and that should strike any right-minded fan as somewhat unfair.As stated above, Bochy isn't perfect. No manager is. They all have tendencies that will occasionally or eventually bite them in the butt. They also, because their baseball acumen has led to their hiring as a big-league manager, make a ton of brilliant decisions on a daily basis, many of which most observers are unaware.It might be a quick chat at a struggling young player's locker. It might be a pitching change in the sixth inning of a mid-May afternoon game. It might be dropping someone from second to seventh in the batting order, just because. Heck, It might be something as subtle as a look .Whatever they are, Bochy makes them work more often than not, which is why any criticism leveled at him as the season winds down is unfounded and unfair.Yeah, he probably stuck with Huff a little too long, but if you're going to focus on that as the reason for the Giants' failure to make the playoffs, you're ignoring about a thousand other reasons.In some ways, Bochy has had as good a year in 2011 as he did in 2010. The results have been dissimilar, but not as dissimilar as the circumstances. The man's had to come up with nearly as many lineups as the number of games his oft-fractured team has played, and consistency is a cornerstone of success in the bigs. Yet the lineups with which Bochy came up, came through more often than not, and as such a team that was flawed in many ways still managed to play meaningful baseball into the last week of the season.Perfect? No. Bochy is, though, damn near perfect for the Giants, and to a man they'll tell you that.And isn't that good enough?
SAN FRANCISCO — Hunter Pence walked into the dugout 30 minutes before Tuesday’s game, slid his bat into the rack, and smiled.
“I’m hitting leadoff tonight,” he said, noting that it’s a spot for speedsters.
On this night, it was a spot that was slowed down. Pence kept the bat steady on a couple of big swings that led the Giants to a 4-3 win. He accompanied that with a home run jog that was one of the comedic highlights in a season sorely lacking them.
Pence’s fifth-inning blast to dead center was the go-ahead shot at the time, and Pence made his usual quick trip around first and second. When he approached third, he was confronted by a strange sight. Johnny Cueto, who had singled, turned and held his hand up. The two hit the bag a few feet apart, and Cueto practically walked home. He took 13 seconds to go the final 90 feet, and Pence — once nicknamed Full Throttle by his manager — had no choice but to follow in a power-walk of his own.
“I was like, ‘I’m not the starting pitcher.’ They expend a lot of energy — every pitch is like a sprint,” Pence said. “You’ve got to take it easy if they tell you to take it easy.”
Pence has 218 career homers. He said this was the slowest jog of his career, and that’s exactly what Cueto wanted.
“Obviously I was very happy when he hit the home run, and I just kept telling him to go ahead and slow down and enjoy the homer, because you're always running so fast,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros.
The home run power-walk was a funny moment, but it was also instructive. Pence brings the same energy and enjoyable attitude every day. In Cueto, his neighbor in the clubhouse, he has found a similar player. He said he’s hopeful that Cueto returns next season — as is expected — and noted that it’s a positive trait to have fun in this kind of season.
“That’s imperative and it’s extremely important to keep that passion,” Pence said. “It’s not just about the standings. We love competing.”
Cueto showed his own fire by getting a lead into the seventh despite a soaring early pitch count. When Hunter Strickland coughed it up in the eighth, the Giants bounced right back. Pence ended the night with a sacrifice fly to center with the bases loaded. That capped a big night for him, one that left him smiling from start to finish.
“It’s always a good time when you’re hitting a homer,” he said.
Perhaps that’s why Cueto forced him to soak it all in.
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After dealing with back spasms over the weekend, Hunter Pence is back in the lineup Tuesday against the Rockies.
1. Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
2. DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez (L) RF
4. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
5. Gerardo Parra (L) LF
6. Trevor Story (R) SS
7. Ian Desmond (R) 1B
8. Jonathan Lucroy (R) C
9. German Marquez (R) P
San Francisco Giants:
1. Hunter Pence (R) RF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Denard Span (L) CF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Jarrett Parker (L) LF
7. Pablo Sandoval (S) 1B
8. Ryder Jones (L) 3B
9. Johnny Cueto (R) RHP