Programming note: For comprehensive Giants-Cardinals NLCS coverage, watch “October Quest” today at 4 p.m. and immediately following the game on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy’s greatest managerial strength might be the way he runs his bullpen, but there comes a time when any gunslinger runs short on bullets.
So even though Bochy termed everyone available for Game 5 of the NLCS Thursday night, it wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings if Madison Bumgarner went the distance -- or close to that -- against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jeremy Affeldt would be pitching on a third consecutive day, and he has been used often this postseason -- for good reason, since he’s working on 17 consecutive playoff appearances without giving up a run. Yusmeiro Petit threw three innings Wednesday night, too. And Tim Lincecum has had such a long layoff, it’s hard to envision Bochy putting his two-time Cy Young Award winner in any leveraged situation.
Even in October, Bochy doesn’t believe in grinding down his relievers to the point of diminishing returns.
“Once in awhile you have to take the ball from them in the season,” Bochy said. “They may say they are available, but you look at the workload, not just in the game, but (whether) they were up in the ‘pen a couple times. They are all really resilient and that’s nice to have for a manager.”
Compare it to the Dodgers and how their bullpen imploded in the NLDS against these same Cardinals. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly used his frontline guys a ton in the first half, and you could make a pretty good argument that his clumsy usage caught up to them in the end.
Affeldt said he’s available.
“We don’t ever go into the playoffs feeling we’re unavailable to pitch,” Affeldt said. “I think we trust him and trust the way he matches us up against different guys.”
One Giants reliever who is well rested, besides Lincecum, is right-hander Hunter Strickland, who received a timeout after giving up homers to four of the seven left-handed batters he’d faced in this postseason. Bochy more or less acknowledged that Strickland was tipping pitches.
[RELATED: Bochy to tweak strategy with Strickland]
“He has a little different delivery where he takes the ball out of the glove, and we wanted to make sure he wasn’t tipping,” Bochy said. “So we took a look at it. We had him throw on the mound. We had some hitters look at it. But we’re comfortable with where he’s at now. We tweaked him a little bit.”
As for Lincecum, who hasn’t appeared this postseason, Bochy made a point to touch base with him.
“He’s taking his bullpens. He’s staying ready,” Bochy said. “He said, 'Hey, I get it. I understand. But I’m going to stay ready.' Now, he hasn’t pitched in awhile, but I think with his consistent bullpens and things, he’ll be fine.”
Affeldt had a good answer when asked his opinion of the Kansas City Royals winning the AL pennant for the first time since 1985.
“When I played there, I think they thought they were overdue then, and that was seven or eight years ago,” he said.
Affeldt also had the highest respect for Royals GM Dayton Moore.
“He traded me, and he traded me for a reason, and he wanted to give me a fresh start,” Affeldt said. “He contacted me a little bit after and told me why he did what he did. I have a high respect for Dayton and it’s pretty cool to see the moves he made and the players he signed and developed. It’s starting to work out for him.”
The Cardinals tried and tried to downplay Adam Wainwright’s elbow issue, but they’re giving up the pretense now. Matt Carpenter had an interesting answer when asked how much Wainwright reveals to his teammates.
“He’s not the kind of guy that is going to make excuses or relay to his teammates that he’s not 100 percent,” Carpenter said. “So he does a pretty good job of hiding that, so to speak. But we are all aware of it. We see him in the training room and getting things worked on. But you know, whether Adam is 60 percent or 100 percent, he’s still the guy I want out there, and I know everybody in that clubhouse feels the same way.”
Lance Lynn could be available in an emergency, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. And catcher Yadier Molina, who would have entered had the team forced the Giants to bat in the bottom of the ninth in Game 4, is available for late-inning defense.
Tony Cruz is starting at catcher to get an extra right-handed bat in there against Bumgarner, Matheny said.
[RELATED: NLCS Game 5 lineup: Cruz catching for Cards]
The Giants, if they clinch without going deep, would join the 1990 A’s as the only teams since 1919 to win a postseason playoff series with zero home runs. The A’s swept the 1990 ALCS over Boston without a homer. Prior to that, the last team to win a postseason series without a home run was the 1919 Reds over, you guessed it, the infamous Black Sox.
It only seemed at times like the Cardinals were trying to throw this series.