Programming note: For comprehensive Giants-Cardinals NLCS coverage, watch “October Quest” tonight at 8:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
SAN FRANCISCO – There haven’t been many instances to second-guess Bruce Bochy in October. The Giants’ Game 2 loss, in which the Cardinals strafed them with four home runs, provided ample opportunities.
And Bochy might be second-guessing his strategy, too.
“We may have to tweak some things,” Bochy said of rookie right-hander Hunter Strickland, who has faced seven left-handed batters this postseason and allowed home runs to four of them.
Bochy said Strickland threw off a bullpen mound and worked to make some adjustments Monday, one day after the Cardinals’ Matt Adams spit on three consecutive curveballs before hammering a 97 mph fastball for a tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning.
Bochy said Strickland “is still going to be a part of our sixth, seventh innings” but probably won’t be allowed to face any more left-handed hitters. Bochy didn’t have a lefty for Adams because he already used Jeremy Affeldt to pitch the fifth and sixth, and he burned Javier Lopez on a matchup in the seventh.
Perhaps Bochy needed to save Affeldt for a later matchup and use Tim Lincecum for the first time in the postseason? If not, why is Lincecum even on the roster?
“To be honest I wasn’t thinking of putting him in then,” Bochy said. “Sure, I think about Timmy. I know he wants to be out there. But where their lineup was, I just thought Jeremy was the perfect guy to go out there. I knew I had him for two innings, and he gave us a chance to come back like we did.”
Strickland, speaking for the first time since the mistake fastball to Adams, said he’s getting the support of teammates.
“None of them are easy,” Strickland said. “It’s never an easy thing to take, because obviously, you’re getting beat. I got beat last night. Hats off to him. He capitalized on a pitch I left over the plate.”
Was Strickland troubled by the ease in which Adams took those three breaking balls, and then how geared up he was for the fastball? Is it possible Strickland tipped his pitches, or some other subterfuge was at work?
“We’ll look at video,” Strickland said. “Hopefully not, but if we are (tipping pitches), we’ll make an adjustment and hopefully get better.”
Said Bochy: “With his equipment, it works, and with his mentality, he can handle what’s happened. He just made a mistake there. We made four mistakes.”
The Giants have allowed just 14 runs in seven postseason games but eight have come on solo homers, with Strickland giving up half of those.
The Giants have hit two homers this postseason, both by the Brandons (Crawford’s grand slam at Pittsburgh, Belt’s 18th-inning shot at Washington). But Bochy said he wasn’t tempted to start Michael Morse in left field in Game 3.
Travis Ishikawa is playing well on both ends, Bochy said.
“I don’t see him starting right now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind,” Bochy said. “Though it would be nice to hit a couple long balls here, just to balance things out here a little bit.”
Morse had just two at-bats in September because of a strained left oblique, and his broken-bat pinch single Sunday was his first hit since Aug. 30. The Giants are hoping to get him sharp because they have no obvious candidate to DH if they win the NL pennant and advance to play the Kansas City Royals or Baltimore Orioles.
John Lackey sat in the interview room and cast himself in the role of the seasoned veteran, explaining how he is a totally different pitcher than the fastball-curve chucker who faced the Giants as a rookie in the 2002 World Series, and that he’ll even “invent stuff on the mound nowadays.”
Then, asked about Tim Hudson, Lackey said he learned a lot from him as a young pitcher in their AL West battles between the A’s and Angels.
When the veterans start to say they learned from you as a young pitcher … well, can the Early Bird Special be far behind?
Hudson has waited a long time for this first postseason start beyond the best-of-5 division series round. Through to the LCS for the first time in seven tries, he said he’ll be pumped to oppose Lackey in Game 3.
Like Lackey, Hudson was a two-pitch guy –sinker/split and the occasional changeup -- when he came up. Like Lackey, he’ll kitchen sink it when necessary now.
“There’s been times when I’ve tried to make up pitches to try to get guys out,” said Hudson, who followed up a rotten September marred by a hip issue with a tremendous start in the NLDS at Nationals Park.
“It’s one of those things where you have to throw your ego aside. You might not have 94 or 95 in the tank any more, but at this point in my career I feel I’m a much smarter pitcher and I understand my body and my mechanics better.”
Hudson was asked if he looks forward to renewing a rivalry with Cardinals catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who is expected to start because of Yadier Molina’s left oblique injury. Back in 2003, Hudson’s A’s had a number of verbal jousts with Pierzynski’s Twins.
“Gosh, that was so long ago,” Hudson said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s been on teams that have been successful. He’s one of those guys who goes out there and competes and he does it in a way that really makes you want to beat him.”