Bruce Bochy

Giants manager Bruce Bochy keeps pushing all of the right buttons


The Giants weren’t as much of a surprise the Nationals, so it’s doubtful Bruce Bochy will get much love in the Manager of the Year award balloting when the results are announced next month.

Now if there were a Postseason Manager of the Year award, there’s no doubt Bochy would claim it in a landslide. It seems Bochy and his giant cranium can do no wrong this month and particularly these last five games.

– He pulled Madison Bumgarner from the rotation in favor of Barry Zito in Game 5 of the NLCS, watched Zito pitch a gem to keep the Giants in the series and then restored Bumgarner to the rotation for Game 2 of the World Series with stellar results.

– He’s seemed to have the knack for knowing exactly when to turn to the bullpen. Of course, it’s a lot easier to look like a genius when both the starters and relievers are pitching like they have been lately.

The way I’ve always looked at it is that, if you’ve already decided you’re going to pull a pitcher after one mistake, you don’t send him back out to make the mistake. Jim Leyland may or may not have done that tonight. He had starter Doug Fister open the seventh, only to remove him after Hunter Pence singled to lead off the inning. Maybe it was Leyland’s plan to pull Fister for the lefty (with back-to-back left-handers coming up) regardless of what happened with Pence, and if so, that’s defensible.  Still, it should have been Octavio Dotel’s batter all along.

Bochy has handled the pitching changes flawlessly, and he’s continued to play matchups late in games even when it seems one of his relievers is doing well. Not only is he playing the percentages, but it appears that the quick hooks have made his relievers more effective while working for the second day in a row.

– He’s gotten terrific results from Tim Lincecum as a reliever.

– He hasn’t resorted to any foolish small-ball tactics. Bochy could have had Belt try to bunt in the seventh inning tonight, but Belt has very little bunting experience and probably would have struggled to get it down. Bochy let Belt hit and was rewarded with a walk. And then, with a guy up who can bunt, Bochy had Gregor Blanco move the runners along (and even that turned into an unexpected bonus when the bunt failed to roll foul and Blanco reached).

Bochy doesn’t have a great lineup, but he has his players playing to their strengths. He hits and runs with Marco Scutaro because Scutaro is pretty much the ultimate hit-and-run guy. There haven’t been any bad stolen base attempts. He hasn’t tried to force the issue, and he’s not giving away outs.

– He’s also not giving away baserunners. In the second inning of Game 7 against the Cardinals, Matt Cain was pitching with runners on first and third, one out and No. 8 hitter Pete Kozma at the plate. Daniel Descalso went on to steal second. Had Mike Matheny been managing the Giants, there’s a good chance the steal would have led to an intentional walk of Kozma, setting up the double play with the pitcher up. Bochy, though, let Cain face Kozma, got a strikeout and then retired Lohse on a looping liner to short.  As a result, it was inning over, instead of Jon Jay potentially being up with the bases loaded and two outs.

So, yeah, I like what Bochy is doing this month. And I’m not typically such a big fan of his. It’s also surely worth noting that the starting pitching decisions are hardly his alone; Brian Sabean and company have their say as well. But if the Giants do come through and win this thing, Bochy is going to deserve all of the praise he gets. He’s put the team in the right position to win every time.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta
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Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.

Ding-Dong! The Cubbies ride homers to a 2-1 series lead

Jorge Soler

The wind was blowing out of Wrigley Field on Monday night, but mostly for the home team. Makes you think that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all about the wind.

The Cubs hit six homers off of Cardinals pitching, one each from each of the first six batters in their lineup. Three of them came against Michael Wacha, who Mike Matheny inexplicably let bat for himself in the top of the fifth and take the hill in the bottom of the fifth and on to a third time through the Cubs’ order. He was shaky as it was, and quickly put a runner on and then allowed a two-run homer to Kris Bryant to make it 4-2. One batter later Kevin Siegrist came in and let Anthony Rizzo take him VERY deep to right field to make it 5-2.

Jason Heyward made it interesting in the top of the sixth with a two run shot to make it a one-run game but then Jorge Soler hit a two run shot in the bottom half and Dexter Fowler hit one in the eighth to make it 8-4. You can’t trade solo shots for multiple two-run jobs. You wanna get the Cardinals? Here’s how you get ’em. They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! They hit a solo homer, you hit a bunch of two-run shots. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get the Cardinals!

Not that the Cardinals didn’t do a lot. They scored four runs in five and a third against Jake Arrieta, who hadn’t been damaged like that since June 16. But five Cubs relievers held mostly firm. You tell me before the game that they got to Arrieta like that and I tell you they won. But nope.

Now it’s 2-1 Cubs in a best of five. They go tomorrow with Jason Hammel and try to eliminate the Cards. Who had best figure out how to counter the Cubs’ power.