PHOENIX — Bruce Bochy sticks by his closers until the end, rarely going so far as to even flirt with another option. But with his team scuffling and a Johnny Cueto gem on the line, Bochy pulled Santiago Casilla, opting instead to let Javier Lopez face Jake Lamb with the bases loaded and two down in the ninth.
Casilla wasn’t having it, storming angrily off the mound before Bochy called him back. Bochy then let him go, and later he laughed about the moment. Casilla, an hour removed from the outburst, was in no mood to laugh it off despite the 4-2 win.
Speaking through interpreter Erwin Higueros, Casilla said he was upset because his manager pulled him in a situation “where I thought that he had confidence in me.”
“I think I can pitch to lefties. It shows the manager didn’t have faith in me,” Casilla added.
Bochy said the decision was a no-brainer. Casilla was a day removed from blowing a save when left-handed Blue Jays slugger Michael Saunders took him deep. Lamb hit a solo homer against Casilla last month at AT&T Park.
“Casilla, he’s emotional and wants to be the guy out there, but we’ve got (Lopez) against a lefty and they’re out of hitters (on the bench),” Bochy said. “That’s an easy one.”
Casilla said he was upset in part because Bochy didn’t come out for a conversation or tell him why he was making the move. He had made up his mind, and Lopez validated the decision by getting a game-ending groundout. It was an out Casilla wanted. He had loaded the bases, but he said he had done so carefully, pitching around Paul Goldschmidt to get to Lamb.
“It’s my opportunity to find out who’s who. Just because he beat me once doesn’t mean I give up,” he said. “You have to let me try and see if I can get him out."
On another day, maybe Bochy would have. But a day after Madison Bumgarner saw his lead go up in smoke, Bochy did all he could to clinch a win for Cueto, who gave up two earned in seven innings and left it on the field through 115 pitches.
This night was a rarity for the Giants. Zack Greinke was 8-0 in 11 previous starts against them, but the lineup squeezed out two runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth, the latter rally coming entirely on Joe Panik’s two-run shot. Greinke had thrown Panik a first-pitch fastball in their first meeting and then gone to the soft stuff, and Panik was ready when another first-pitch fastball caught too much of the plate.
“He made a mistake and I was ready for it,” Panik said. “He doesn’t make too many of them. He put it up in the zone. I was able to get the pitch I wanted.”
Cueto didn’t make many mistakes either. He gave up three singles and a run in the first but said that was actually a positive.
“I need to get upset at myself to pitch better,” Cueto said, smiling. “I got mad in the first inning because the ball was up.”
Casilla’s anger was a different kind. Bochy had called for Lopez to warm up during the Goldschmidt at-bat, and the perennial All-Star and MVP candidate walked on four pitches. Lopez, despite the late heads-up, was ready.
“We’re always ready, just in case,” he said. “I’m an old pony now.”
It turned out Casilla wasn’t ready to leave the mound. He started stalking off when Bochy reached for the ball, and then was called back.
“He was leaving and I said, ‘Hey, Santiago, come back here,’” Bochy said, likely cleaning it up a bit. Casilla turned back and threw his hands up. “No, you can go,” Bochy told him.
Bochy said he would talk to Casilla on Friday, and repeated several times that he understands why closers get upset when the ball is taken.
“He didn’t want to come out,” Bochy said. “You want (that) but he probably got a little too emotional.”
As players filed out of the clubhouse late Thursday, Casilla was still emotional. Asked if he needs to sit down with Bochy and clear the air, he said no.
“He’s the manager and I respect his decision,” Casilla said. “I’m just an employee.”