Programming note: Immediately after Nationals-Giants Game 4 ends, change the channel to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area for comprehensive postgame coverage on "October Quest."
SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong has a 1.09 ERA in four postseason starts and the Giants aren’t facing elimination as they get ready for Game 4 of their NL Division Series with the Washington Nationals.
But this is October, and Bruce Bochy doesn’t wait till he’s cornered to scrap.
As suggested here following their Game 3 loss Monday night, Bochy said the entire pitching staff is available to back up Vogelsong as the Giants try to clinch the series and avoid a winner-take-all Game 5 back at Nationals Park.
Yes, that includes Jake Peavy.
“They’re all available,” Bochy said. “Peavy is available. We played 18 innings one game. … We’ll do all we can to win this game, but you have to be smart and be sure you have a pitcher ready for Game 5.”
Peavy and Tim Hudson would be the only fully rested choices to start a Game 5. If Bochy has to use Peavy in relief, then he could turn to Hudson and hope for another strong outing like his one-run effort in Game 2.
Bochy, remember, used three of his four starting pitchers in Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS at Philadelphia -- a non-elimination game. He is a line-in-the-sand manager, and there’s no reason to expect any different now.
Bochy is taking a less drastic approach with a lineup that has produced just six runs in 36 innings against the Nationals pitching staff. He made two changes, subbing out Juan Perez for Travis Ishikawa to add a right-handed bat to a lefty-heavy lineup against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. Bochy also moved transposed Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence in the middle of the order, moving Sandoval from fourth to fifth.
[RELATED: Giants lineup: Perez in, Ishikawa out]
Sandoval looms as a huge X-factor against Gonzalez. He’s 1 for 10 with a walk and a strikeout against him, but in the bigger picture, the Panda is batting just .199 as a right-handed hitter this season. He’s also a hitter who has come up huge on the biggest stages. And he has a 14-game postseason hitting streak.
Blanco is another key. He’s just 1 for 14 in the series, and now it’s a left-on-left matchup. But Bochy said he didn’t give much consideration to moving Blanco out of the leadoff spot for Game 4.
“He’s our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “I didn’t think it was time to change the order. … You lose one game, that’s not a time to change everything.”
Left unsaid: The Giants don’t really have an alternative. Bochy could move Hunter Pence to the top spot, but he needs lineup protection for Buster Posey (and as established, a right-handed Sandoval can only do so much). And batting Pence leadoff would bunch a lot of lefties in the bottom half the order.
Nationals manager Matt Williams followed Bochy in the interview room and also described Game 4 as an “all hands on deck” situation. But he said he would only use right-hander Jordan Zimmermann in an “extreme emergency.” Stephen Strasburg is more likely to be used.
So Williams pretty much telegraphed it, then: It would be Zimmermann, who was pulled an out away from a 1-0 victory in Game 2, awaiting the Giants back at Nationals Park if this series goes the distance.