PHOENIX -– Bruce Bochy has two World Series rings, but he also has a fair bit of experience managing in the doldrums of the NL West. And if you were to reduce down his common-sense wisdom in those situations, you’d get this:
If it isn’t working, change something.
The Giants changed their roster prior to Saturday’s game, shifting around some living-room roster furniture to purchase the contract of second baseman Joe Panik from Triple-A Fresno.
And with the game on the line in the ninth inning, Bochy changed his strategy, too.
After a lengthy, hand-on-shoulder conversation with Sergio Romo, Bochy had his right-handed closer pitch to Paul Goldschmidt –- arguably the most dangerous hitter in the NL -– with first base open and the tying runs on base. Goldschmidt barreled up a first-pitch slider that was down but caught way more plate than where Buster Posey was set up.
Hunter Pence raced back to make the catch near the warning track in right field, and the Giants finally caught a break while snapping their six-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory at Chase Field.
It was Romo’s first appearance since blowing saves the previous Friday and Saturday against the Colorado Rockies. As you might recall, Bochy had Romo intentionally walk hot-hitting Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson in almost the exact situation: second and third with a two-run lead. The only difference is that Dickerson batted with one out while Goldschmidt hit with two.
The walk to Dickerson backfired, and that loss started the Giants’ six-game skid. Nothing was working. So Bochy changed something.
“Well, you know it’s a tough call,” Bochy said. “It’s against the book a little bit to put him on, but you’re facing one of the best hitters in the game. He might have gotten away with that pitch, but he found a way to get the job done.”
Did he solicit Romo’s input?
“Sergio, yeah,” Bochy said. “He wants to go after everybody. That’s his mentality.”
That’s the kind of mentality that Bochy hoped his players would exhibit after meeting with them following Friday’s loss here. The hitters were in attack mode against Brandon McCarthy, with Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence all making loud contact all game. Pence’s 440-foot drive to burgerville landed in the second deck in the sixth inning.
It’s the swings from the middle of the order, even amid the losing, that had most players convinced that this 1-9 record over their previous 10 games was more a matter of circumstance than a true unmasking of a team that had gotten to 21 games over .500 on June 8.
The rotation still isn’t in top form, though.
Ryan Vogelsong has allowed 14 extra-base hits spanning 16 innings over his last three starts, and the only good news is that none of them have been home runs. He nearly gave back a 4-0 lead and only qualified for the victory because Aaron Hill was thrown out trying to stretch his two-run single that made it 5-4 to end the fifth.
Bochy confirmed that Hill was Vogelsong’s last batter.
“There’s two ways to get out of this thing,” Vogelsong said. “One is to come out and swing the bats and score a bunch of runs, and the other one is to put up a bunch of zeroes. And we know which one happened tonight.”
Vogelsong had good stuff in the first inning and only allowed five hits, but four were doubles. The pinch double that Jordan Pacheco hit was a 3-2 curveball that Vogelsong hadn’t shown earlier in the at-bat.
“And he hit it off the center field wall,” Vogelsong said. “He hit a pitch. I hate to tip my cap to a hitter but I threw a 3-2 curveball and he hit the dog snot out of it.
“Thankfully we scored and we won.”
There is concern on the hitting front as well, though, especially as it concerns the outfield. Michael Morse exited in the fifth inning with a tight lower back that he’s been feeling for the last couple days. Two overeager windmill swings in the fourth inning on a strikeout caused it to flare up.
"The ball was down and in," Morse said. "And I'm not a down and in hitter."
Morse said he didn’t think the back was too significant and he hoped to return Monday after taking Sunday off. But with Angel Pagan also missing his fifth consecutive game -- he wasn’t available off the bench, either -- because of his bad back, and Juan Perez just optioned out to make room for Panik, the Giants don’t have much coverage.
Brandon Hicks, who hasn’t played an inning in the outfield in his big league career, would be the next backup option behind Gregor Blanco, Tyler Colvin and Hunter Pence.
Bochy and GM Brian Sabean were meeting when the clubhouse was opened to the media, and they planned to talk some more Saturday night. The topic: whether to put Pagan on the disabled list.
Pagan, who is feeling the back while hitting from the left side, took batting practice on the field and hit a homer while batting lefty. But when asked if he was nearer to turning a corner, he said he’d likely need another day or two.
“If we need to make a move, we will,” Bochy said.