Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Bruce Bochy had grown accustomed to being in the October spotlight during even years, so he had a hard time getting on board as a spectator during one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory. 

Bochy’s Giants blew a three-run lead in their final game of the season, a loss so devastating that several players headed home the next day without even packing up their lockers. Two months later, Bochy is all smiles. He likes his team, and on Monday he got the closer he needed back in Game 4 of the NLDS. 

Bochy sat down with CSN Bay Area on Tuesday for a one-on-one interview about Mark Melancon, left field, that postseason loss, his new coaches and much more. It will air tonight on SportsTalk Live at 5 p.m. and we’ll run the whole thing back as a podcast. But for now, here are Bochy’s thoughts on the loss that ended his even-year run: 

“I had a hard time, I’m not going to lie. In all my years, that’s the toughest game I’ve ever had to bounce back off of,” he said. “It took a while. It was hard to watch that first postseason game but gradually it got a little better. Just the way we went out, that’s a tough way to go. Our bullpen has been such a big reason for our success so to go out that way, it really wasn’t just that game — it was the second half — we just had a hard time trying to get it figured out. 

“You know, you’ve got to put it behind you, but I’m not going to lie, that was a pretty big blow to the chin. It took a while to get over it.” 

The Giants led the Cubs 5-2 when Bochy made the decision to pull Matt Moore after eight brilliant innings and 120 pitches. That night, Moore and Bochy and everyone else involved said that there was a consensus that Moore had reached the end of the line. Two months later, Bochy doesn’t regret the move. Moore’s 120 pitches went down as the postseason high. 

“I think you can always look back, but these cards have backs on them,” Bochy said. “I felt good about protecting Moore. If he goes back out there he’s probably looking at 135 or maybe more pitches or you’ve got to bring a reliever in with men on base. I felt with the three-run lead that the guys I had could get three outs.” 

Derek Law was the first man out of the bullpen and he gave up a single that was inches from Brandon Crawford’s glove. Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. Sergio Romo entered and gave up a double to Ben Zobrist. Will Smith gave up a single to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras. After an error, Hunter Strickland gave up a single to Javier Baez. The Cubs won 6-5 and went on to win the World Series. 

“We knew we could get the matchups that we wanted,” Bochy said on Tuesday. “It started out with Law and he got the ground ball right in the shift. The walk hurt. We got behind Rizzo and ended up walking him and Romo ended up getting behind Zobrist and that hurt, the double. And then we had Smitty. I was comfortable and sure they put in the right-handed bat, but the tying run was on second and I didn’t want a left-handed bat up there to pull the ball. He hits a ball that Smitty doesn’t quite get to, a seeing-eye base hit, and unlike us, we made a costly error. There was another, I felt, like a cheap hit there.

“But these are moments you relive. The good ones, but the bad ones stay with you too sometimes.”

Report: Former Padres All-Star joins Giants' coaching staff

Report: Former Padres All-Star joins Giants' coaching staff

For nearly seven years, before being traded to the Rangers, Phil Nevin played under Bruce Bochy with the Padres from 1999 to the 2005 trade deadline. And now, Nevin is reportedly back with Bochy as part of the Giants' coaching staff. 

Nevin's best years as a player were under Bochy's teachings, smacking 156 homers with the Padres. He was named an All-Star third baseman in 2001 as he hit a career-high 41 long balls. 

The last three seasons Nevin served as the Diamondbacks' Triple-A manager for the Reno Aces. Previously he served as manager for both the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates of the Tigers after managing one year of independent baseball. 

Nevin was reportedly in the running for Arizona's opening for the team's new manager, but was eventually beat out by Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo. 

Over his 12-year career in the majors, the No. 1 pick in the 1992 MLB Draft hit .270/.323/.472 with 208 home runs before going unsigned and retired in May of 2007. 

At this point it is unknown what role Nevin will serve for the Giants. Robert Murray of FanRag Sports was first to report Nevin heading to San Francisco on Nov. 4 while Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports confirmed the report on Sunday.

The Giants fired first base coach Bill Hayes and third base coach Roberto Kelly two days after their season ended in a Game 4 NLDS loss to the Cubs.

Giants take aim at new closer as offseason begins

Giants take aim at new closer as offseason begins

SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy leaned back in his chair a few hours before Game 4 of the National League Division Series and pondered a reporter’s question. Who would pitch the ninth? Bochy smiled and said everyone would just have to wait and see. 

The answer turned out to be one not conducive to postseason success: All of them. 

Bochy turned to five relievers in the final inning of the season. The Giants gave up four runs and handed over the three-run lead that Matt Moore and an opportunistic lineup had built. Postseason teams had been 824-3 when taking a three-run lead into the ninth. The Giants became the first in 30 years to blow such an advantage. 

That kind of carnage will lead to changes, but general manager Bobby Evans said the Giants are not looking to “overhaul” their bullpen. They feel good about the young arms they have assembled, but it’s clear that the returning relievers need a leader for the ninth. 

“The bullpen performs at a much higher level when you know who your ninth-inning guy is,” Evans said. “It puts everybody at ease and helps Boch as he defines roles. With ambiguity, it creates tension and unknowns that can add to or detract from performance and ultimately lead to struggles. We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure we’re clear on who is finishing our games.” 

Evans said he would scour the free agent market, the trade market, and his own roster to try and find one man for the final three outs. The initial read in talks with team executives is that a trade may be the most likely option. There are three dominant relievers at the head of the offseason list, but the Giants would need to make an overwhelming offer to beat the Yankees, Cubs and others to Aroldis Chapman, the man who closed them out. They likely would have to hand a blank check to Kenley Jansen to pry him away the division rival Dodgers. 

That leaves Mark Melancon as the most likely target, and Giants who have gotten to know the veteran right-hander believe he would be a perfect fit in the clubhouse. Melancon is said to be a strong clubhouse presence, the type of quiet, ego-free worker who would fit right in alongside the Buster Poseys and Madison Bumgarners of the world. 

The 31-year-old had 47 saves for the Pirates and Nationals this season, posting a 1.64 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. He saved 51 games a year ago, with a 2.23 ERA. The year before that, it was 33 saves and 1.90. In short, he is the type of player who could walk into the clubhouse on Day 1 and lock down the ninth inning. 

The Giants made a hard push for Melancon at the trade deadline. Evans’ bid came up just short of Washington’s, and he has spent months asking himself if the Giants should have overwhelmed the Pirates. The Giants never had a realistic shot at Chapman or Andrew Miller, who has helped carry the Indians into the ALCS.

“There were instances where you were told you just don’t have enough to get active, like we have on the table from other folks,” said Brian Sabean, vice president of baseball operations. “We knew it was going to be 'how much pain from the minor leagues,' or maybe even the major league team as was the case with (Matt) Duffy. I know the effort was there. But again, you have to have a willing partner that thinks that you’re a good fit. 

“In every case that a closer didn’t come to the Giants, they went elsewhere for probably a lot more than we could have been involved in.”

Starting a few days after the World Series, the only issue will be the size of the offer. 

Team president and CEO Larry Baer said Thursday that “resources will be expended” to fill any holes. A year ago, Bochy asked management for innings-eaters. The front office went out and spent $220 million on Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, each of whom threw 200-plus innings. 

If the Giants can bring in a closer, they believe the rest of the bullpen will fall in line. 

Evans confirmed that he will tender a contract to George Kontos, who posted a 2.53 ERA in 57 appearances. Cory Gearrin may take over for Sergio Romo as a specialist against right-handers. The Giants have not ruled out reunions with members of the Core Four, but it is expected that Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla will move on. Much of the talk Thursday revolved around young relievers Derek Law, Hunter Strickland, Steven Okert and Josh Osich. Will Smith is a lock for late-innings work. 

None of it worked Tuesday, but Bochy has not lost faith. He said the Giants “threw everything (we had) at them and that was the plan.” Bochy believes the 2016 struggles will prove a blessing in disguise for his young pitchers. The Giants talk often about the fact that guys like Lopez, Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt had to go through trials elsewhere before turning into bullpen stars and champions in San Francisco. 

“Every season, you learn from what happened the year before and you get better because of it,” Bochy said. “These guys will be better. We did ask them to do some things that aren’t easy to do, especially a young guy like a Law or Strickland. They’ll be better pitchers because of what happened this year and down the stretch and pitching in these games with such intensity. They have the weapons to do it. 

“I love Smitty. Okert, he stepped up for us. I think Osich is going to be better, so we do have a core of good young pitchers there. We’re going to have some growing pains but they’ll be better because of what happened.”

The Giants are counting on it. The offseason plan is not quantity. It’s quality, specifically in the ninth. There will be no more ambiguity. 

“As much as we can,” Evans said. “We’d like to know going into spring training who is going to pitch the ninth.”