NEW YORK – It’s hard to use the back of your hand when you’re wearing two World Series rings.
But Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged he needed to be more demanding of his players this season, and he vowed to be more vigilant in making sure they are focused on every pitch – both over these final two weeks and when the club reconvenes next spring.
“We’ve got work to do, we’ve got to get better. It’s part of our job to think of things that can make us better,” Bochy said. “I’m looking at ways I can work on being more demanding on the fundamentals and little things that got away from us, both on defense and on offense.
“You have to remind the players that every pitch counts, whether you’re on defense or offense. That’s what this club has been so good at. Those are the types of games we’ve won.
“We can look at a lot of these games that could’ve been won by getting a guy over, a productive out, handling a bunt … We’ve had games in the outfield when we drift mentally. It’s up to me to be more demanding on these little things, these fundamentals.”
It’s not hard to figure out what happened. The Giants were conditioned to playing “torture baseball,” winning 2-1 and 3-2. When the pitching got away from them in April and May, it’s like all the screws came loose. The games got longer. The innings got longer. The defenders let their focus drift, and some of their belief eroded. After all, the Giants won two World Series on the strength of their pitching staff. If they didn’t have that, what chance did they have?
None of this had to be verbalized. The way baseball works, subtle clues and mannerisms can land with the force of a hammer.
All of the sudden, a team that always fought to get a narrow lead and then refused to let go of it, “like a junkyard dog,” as GM Brian Sabean once described it, found itself needing to rally from behind. They did that enough times in April and May to take the lead in the NL West. But when you’re not a dependable home run-hitting team, the worst place you can be is waiting and hoping for that three-run shot.
You can’t take chances on the bases when you’re playing from behind. You can’t give away outs.
All of that had to factor into the way this club ended up playing. These games ended up following a different script, and the players memorized a different part. They didn’t know how to play the scene.
They didn’t compete well, Bochy acknowledged.
“That’s probably something that got away from us at times,” Bochy told the beat writers. “You were there. You take a series like the Cubs (when the Giants were swept at home), and we couldn’t get a run in. One little thing makes the difference to win (any of those) ballgames. And that did get away from us.”
It’s something they need to get back. Sabean is still the GM, after all, and if anything draws his ire, it’s a team that plays laid back. As tight as Sabean and Bochy have been over their tenure together, the manager still works for the GM. And managers receive performance reviews, too.
Wednesday night’s loss aside, Bochy is pleased with how the team is playing with more resolve in September. There’s a reason why, as the rest of the also-rans are fielding Romper Room lineups, the Giants are still playing their old hands.
Changes will come to this club, but the core will remain. And they can start the table read now.
Angel Pagan is starting a day game after a night game but will get Friday off at Yankee Stadium, Bochy said. Ehire Adrianza is getting his first big league start at shortstop and Bochy said he’s eager to see the rookie catch the ball.
Pablo Sandoval is off because he “needs a day.” He certainly could’ve put Wednesday’s game out of reach, but he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded in the third inning against Aaron Harang.
It’ll be CC Sabathia vs. Tim Lincecum on Friday at Yankee Stadium – a place where Lincecum has never pitched. (Timmy might have gotten an inning in the old House That Ruth Built in the 2008 All-Star Game, but he was in the hospital with what the team described as dehydration and flu-like symptoms. That was another lifetime ago. )
Marco Scutaro met with the representative from a batting glove company and showed him his hand. “Man, that is one ugly finger,” the glove rep said.
Scutaro’s ring finger is the one bothering him right now, not the pinky that sustained tendon damage in June when he was hit by a pitch.
As I noted last night on Twitter, the Mets’ 3-4 hitters are Murphy-Brown. One follower chastised me for making a reference that anyone under 30 would have to Google.
What, people under 30 use Twitter?