DENVER – It comes down to faith and hope so often in life. In baseball, too.
Bruce Bochy has faith in his rotation. He hopes to heaven they figure it out.
And in the meantime, if the rest of his boys could stop kicking the ball around, making thick-headed and/or errant throws -- including those that bounce into the stands – and see their way to nine innings of clean baseball, well, that would be just dandy, too.
The Giants lost 10-9 because they committed four errors in the first three innings, giving them nine in just 28 defensive innings on this road trip, and this is usually where I slip in a Chico’s Bail Bonds reference.
The way Bochy sees it, the Rockies didn’t beat the Giants for the first time in 11 games. The Giants beat the Giants.
“You look back and we beat ourselves,” the manager said. “It was that simple.”
You are free to recount all the errors in the Instant Replay, if your rack is out of tune or your Morningstar has gotten dull. I’ll pull out this stat for you, though: In four games on this trip, the Giants rotation has a 10.13 ERA – and that doesn’t include 10 additional, unearned runs in just 18 2/3 innings.
“Nine errors in four games, is it?” groaned Bochy, as if he’d just taken down Joey Chestnut in an eating contest. “We’ve got to tighten things up. Obviously, we’ve got to pitch better, too. We’ve got to get this pitching back on track and play more our type of game.”
After a pretty nice series opener here Thursday night, you could swear Canada annexed Colorado when no one was looking. And as we all know, walks and errors are especially toxic at altitude.
But enough about that. Let’s spend the remainder of our time discussing another subject – one that is sure to draw a fair amount of debate:
Did Bochy leave Madison Bumgarner in the game too long?
“He was right at that point, I knew it,” said Bochy, who let Bumgarner face Jordan Pacheco with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth. “I was going to give him a chance with one more hitter and it backfired.
“Sure, those are tough calls. At that point, they were his runners. I was going to give him a chance to get out of it.”
Bumgarner did not. He threw one pitch – his 102nd of the game and 30th of the innin -- and Pacheco hit a tiebreaking grand slam.
“Cutter in,” said Bumgarner, who hadn’t given up a slam in the big leagues before.
Bochy is fairly consistent in these matters of state. His starting pitchers have banked a lot of currency with him over the years, and even with the rotation wildly spending it this season, Bumgarner began the day with a 2.18 ERA.
Bochy gives his starter a chance to untangle himself. And with one out to qualify for a victory, if Bumgarner escapes, he’d still be in line for a win if the Giants took a lead in the sixth and protected it.
Of course, of course. Wins are among the silliest stats in baseball. They are so context dependent as to be almost irrelevant. They are probably not among the first dozen stats that any educated Cy Young Award voter will consider when he or she fills out a ballot.
But wins do mean something to the players, still. And in turn, that means something to Bochy. He’s been successful in the postseason in large measure because he’s been able to shuffle players into different roles, and get them to invest their full belief into them. It isn’t just the players who build up currency with the manager. The goodwill gets banked the other way, too.
“He’s an awesome manager – awesome,” Bumgarner said. “I love playing for him. I wish I could’ve mad him look good out there, but it didn’t work out that way today.”
I can hear what’s coming next. You don’t give the Sally Field speech at the Oscars in a major league dugout. It’s about winning the game, not being liked by your players, and Bumgarner clearly was laboring.
So I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who maintains that Bochy made a mistake by leaving Bumgarner in to face Pacheco.
But I don’t think Bochy cost them this game.
Did he pull his starter too late? You can argue either side. (For my part, yeah, I thought prior to Pacheco's slam that it was a mistake to stay with a pitcher who was overthrowing, off his game and already had worked hard.)
But there’s no disputing that the Giants keep giving away outs, making errors and forcing their pitchers to work harder when they’re already struggling to reestablish themselves as the strength of the team.
That has to stop. No argument necessary.