SAN FRANCISCO – Giants manager Bruce Bochy wasn’t sure what to make of his 1,500th career victory, which his players climbed a tree to retrieve for him after a long afternoon and night of baseball at Third and King on Tuesday.
For one, Bochy doesn’t spend much time polishing his medals. For another, he burned too many neurons while the Giants stranded 14 runners in a 5-3 victory. There wasn’t much juice left to wax eloquent on a nearly four-decade career in professional baseball.
[RECAP: Giants 5, Reds 3]
“Well, I’ll be honest. I don’t know what that number means, except I’m fortunate I’ve been doing this as long as I have,” said Bochy, who is 1500-1497 in 19 seasons with the Padres and Giants. “I’m grateful, I’m thankful. I wish we were in a better situation now. You’re blessed to be in this game and I know how lucky I am.”
Here’s what 1,500 wins means: Bochy is one of just 21 managers to reach that milestone, and one of just 11 members of that club who also own multiple World Series rings. Eight of those club within a club are in the Hall of Fame -- and Joe Torre and Tony La Russa have a deposit down on their plots.
No matter what the milestone means, Bochy did not autopilot his way into it as the Giants used five relievers to throw 4 1/3 shutout innings. They split a doubleheader -– and avoided becoming the first team in baseball history to be walked off in their own ballpark -- as Sergio Romo struck out four to finish a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Giants are 3-3 since the All-Star break. In their three victories, they have stranded 33 runners, held opponents to 3-for-27 with runners in scoring position, and the manager has made 17 pitching changes.
With all those mound visits, Bochy’s feet had to be as sore as his head.
But there is a lightness of being that comes tethered to any victory –- especially when there was just a 30-minute intermission to quit trembling after the horror-show, 9-3 loss in Game 1.
[RECAP: Reds 9, Giants 3]
It was the Giants’ first win in six games against the Reds this season. They had been outscored 34-6 in those losses, and been no-hit, too.
So this was significant?
“No question,” said Bochy, who doesn’t often unpeel the big-game label to describe a win. “They’re a good ballclub and they’ve beat on us pretty good. It was a pretty gutty effort by the whole club. That’s a tough day. The way we got beat on the first game and bounced back, I’m proud of them.
“We did a great job pitching in traffic. It seemed every inning, they had guys on.
“I mean, this really was, I thought, a much needed win for this club.”
It’s the kind of scrambling victory that Bochy has patented while managing so many teams that didn’t have top-shelf talent. It required master puppetry of the bullpen, which probably will go down as Bochy’s greatest strength.
And it required faith, too. A rookie manager probably doesn’t pull a former Cy Young Award winner and 14-year veteran when he’s one out away from qualifying for a victory. But when Barry Zito allowed a pair of two-outs hits in the fifth, allowing the Reds to make it a two-run game, Bochy ambled out for the baseball.
Zito wanted to stay in the game. He said he was frustrated with himself. But he did not take issue with Bochy’s decision.
Instead, he offered the foremost praise for the manager.
“I think he’s a very underrated manager, maybe because he’s kind of a quiet guy who doesn’t toot his own horn,” Bochy said. “It’s a special accomplishment. We’re all really happy for him.”
Said Hunter Pence: “Amazing accomplishment. It’s hard to fathom. There’s so many good things you can say about him. He’s always on top of the games, the double switches. You always have confidence in all his moves, and not only that, but he knows how to handle the team.”
And Romo: “You have to respect everything he’s done in the game and what he’s meant to the game. I don’t know any other big league managers, but I have no room to complain, no room to say anything negative about the man. He puts us in positions to succeed.”
Even if he had to think twice about it, with the Giants acting as the road team for the first time in a game at AT&T Park while making up the July 4 rainout from the series at Cincinnati.
“You know, it was a little different,” Bochy said. “I had to remind myself, especially late in the game, when you’re using your setup men and closer. I had to remind myself the inning didn’t flip over after we hit.”
He wore his road grays. But it was a tight game, a hard-fought game. It was a game that required weathered resilience.
And that’s when Bochy always seems most at home.
|1||Connie Mack HOF||53||1894||1950||7755||3731||3948||.486|
|2||John McGraw HOF||33||1899||1932||4769||2763||1948||.586|
|6||Sparky Anderson HOF||26||1970||1995||4030||2194||1834||.545|
|7||Bucky Harris HOF||29||1924||1956||4410||2158||2219||.493|
|8||Joe McCarthy HOF||24||1926||1950||3487||2125||1333||.615|
|9||Walter Alston HOF||23||1954||1976||3658||2040||1613||.558|
|10||Leo Durocher HOF||24||1939||1973||3739||2008||1709||.540|
|11||Casey Stengel HOF||25||1934||1965||3766||1905||1842||.508|
|13||Bill McKechnie HOF||25||1915||1946||3647||1896||1723||.524|
|18||Fred Clarke HOF||19||1897||1915||2829||1602||1181||.576|
|19||Tom Lasorda HOF||21||1976||1996||3040||1599||1439||.526|
|20||Dick Williams HOF||21||1967||1988||3023||1571||1451||.520|