Armchair managers wept bitter tears. Hey, everyone needs a hobby.
But they rally.
They never stop, even when the answer they seek is force-fed to them. They never give up hope.
So it is that Bruce Bochy smiled sardonically as the questions about pitching Madison Bumgarner in Game 4 of the World Series Saturday kept lapping at his feet, ankle, knees, thighs and ultimately his chest. The San Francisco Giants are getting the full Royal treatment by Kansas City, losing Game 3 Friday night, 3-2, and therefore, down two games to one, it is their duty to full-tilt panic.
“Vogelsong’s our starter,” Bochy said again and again, noticing that the evening’s media trend was to ignore San Francisco’s four hits and general helplessness against the Royals bullpen. “He’s done a pretty good job for us, so he’s going to have his start tomorrow.”
And if he sounded like that wasn’t exactly a full-throated vote of support for Vogelsong, it was far more likely that he was merely letting the narrative parade form on its own without providing any of the music.
Put another way, only a fool says anything is 100 percent certain in baseball, but Bochy’s handling of his pitchers comes very close. Vogelsong may not be given a lot of rope, but he’ll be given enough to decide what he intends to do with it.
“I’ve talked about how we’ve pushed Madison pretty hard here,” he said. “It’s been a long postseason, and he’s had a lot of starts. So we’re going to keep things in order and go with Vogey.”
True, desperate times often cry out for desperate measures, but 2-1 to the bad with two games still at home and Bumgarner available in turn in Game 5 probably doesn’t count as desperate. Oh, Bumgarner told Bochy he was available when asked, but it was in that “tell me what you want” way rather than that “give me the ball tomorrow or I will insert you forcibly into that wall behind your desk.”
If you want desperate times, the hitting would be a better place to go.
This World Series has rightfully been defined as a race to six, because the bullpens have been so sturdy this year as well as this October, but the Giants have learned face first just how impenetrable the Royals’ Gang Of Three And Change is.
In the two Giants losses, the San Francisco is 1-for-24 with nine strikeouts against Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and late entry Brandon Finnegan. In fact, Kansas City manager Ned Yost ran afoul of the Mezzanine Constabulary again by:
(a) Letting starter Jeremy Guthrie, who had been brilliant for five innings, start the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead, a single to Brandon Crawford and an RBI double by Michael Morse.
(b) Bringing Herrera on to stanch the bleeding, which he did after walking Gregor Blanco and giving up three routine groundouts, one of which scored Morse.
(c) Letting Herrera bat for himself in the seventh with two outs and Jarrod Dyson at first. He became the 15th American League reliever to bat in the last 20 years, and the 15th to fail. He then started the seventh, walked Hunter Pence and was pulled for Finnegan, making the idea of letting him hit seem particularly daft.
But Yost has his ways, and he will be second-guessed until the cows come home, get their GEDs and head off to college without bother. He’s the one up, 2-1. Savage away, o fevered intelligentsia.
Besides, the Royals have been the better team. Not by a lot, but it doesn’t take a lot in this series
No, the tables have been turned on Bochy, because his team hasn’t solve the back half of the game, because their bullpen hasn’t been lights out (you can still see faint flickering here and there), and because he is the guy with the one dominant starting pitcher in this series.
And the demand to pitch him in every game grows with every passing day.
“Aww, you know, I’ll talk to Rags (pitching coach Dave Righetti) and Gardy (bullpen coach/secondary pitching coach Mark Gardner) and Brian (general manager Brian Sabean),” Bochy said in the quiet of his office. “But it’s not likely.”
And then he raised the fainter of his two eyebrows and said with a smile to see if his audience would snap at the bait, “But you never know.”
Well, yes you do.
Bochy doesn’t manage against his better judgment. He is reluctant to quit on Vogelsong. He saw enough strong pitching from starter Tim Hudson to believe he can replicate that performance in Kansas City. He still has ultra-long man Yusmeiro Petit in the WCS (worst-case scenario). And starting Bumgarner on short rest (which he has never done) only means you have to start him on short rest again if it gets to a seventh game, and as Bochy said from behind his chair and a beer giving its life so that his holder could live, “They’re human beings."
Ultimately, Bochy is what Bochy is, a gambling man who is also a creature of habit when it comes to his pitchers. So it shall be Ryan Vogelsong Saturday, and maybe Petit, and maybe Tim Lincecum and the rest of the bullpen Saturday.
But unless Bruce Bochy has decided to stop being Bruce Bochy, it will not be Madison Bumgarner.