With a chance to take three out of four games against one of the best teams in baseball, it would make sense to keep your team's hottest hitters in the lineup.
But with Giants manager Bruce Bochy throwing out his 45,699th lineup of the season on Thursday, both right-fielder Nate Schierholtz and shortstop Edgar Renteria were absent from the lineup.
To be fair, after picking up 14 hits in a six-game stretch, Schierholtz went 0-for-4 in back-to-back games heading into Thursday's series finale.
But his replacement, Fred Lewis, has been absolutely dreadful—both in the field and at the plate this season.
Clearly, the better move would have been to start Andres Torres to give Schierholtz a day off, but we'll get back to that later.
Despite being a questionable free-agent acquisition, Renteria has been a solid veteran presence in an otherwise young Giants lineup.
Not only has Renteria hit exceptionally well with runners in scoring position, but going into Thursday's series finale, he was riding a seven-game hitting streak.
In those seven games, Renteria racked up 12 hits, raised his average from .249 to .266, scored five runs and had nine—count them—nine RBI.
Yet, with Uribe sliding over from second base to fill the void at shortstop on Thursday, Matt Downs essentially took the lineup spot of Renteria.
Matt Downs? The current Giants second baseman is hitting just above the Mendoza line at an even .200 with one home run and just two RBI.
In a game that can really change the mood of a club that is about to return home after a long road trip, the manager takes out the team's hottest bat for their worst bat?
It would be understandable if Renteria needed a day off because he had been struggling. But if one of your players has hit safely in seven straight games and improved his average 15 points, he shouldn't be taken out of the lineup.
I would love to ask Bochy his thought process when electing to give Renteria the day off.
Now back to Fred Lewis. The Giants outfielder has been reduced to pinch-hit duties due to an extremely poor May and early June.
In his place has been Schierholtz, who has been hitting extremely well and playing superb defense.
However, after Schierholtz cooled off for a couple of games going 0-for-8, Bochy decides to replace him with Fred Lewis.
Why you may ask?
Well, Lewis did have a clutch pinch hit double and later scored the tying run in the eighth inning on Wednesday. But is that enough to warrant a start the next day?
I guess for Bochy, that is good enough to earn a start. But in most people's books you need to do a bit more than that.
Now if you missed the game, you may be wondering how did these changes effect Thursday's outcome?
Well, with Schierholtz out of the starting lineup, Randy Winn moved back over to his more accustomed right-field with Lewis playing left.
And in the bottom of the first inning, the Cardinals' Skip Schumaker came up with a runner on first and nobody out.
Schumaker proceeded to hit an extremely high fly ball down the left field line that both Andres Torres and Randy Winn would have caught easily.
However, Lewis and his team-low fielding percentage took an absolutely horrid route to the ball and tried to make a reaching catch before missing the ball and embarrassingly falling over to the ground.
The official scorer generously credited Schumaker with a double, but the ball clearly should have been caught.
Regardless, the Cardinals now had runners at second and third with nobody out and Albert Pujols coming up.
The Giants were forced to walk Pujols and load the bases with nobody out. An infield hit, a walk, and a fielder's choice later, and the Cardinals have a 3-0 lead.
The three runs ended up being the difference in the ball game. San Francisco ends up splitting the series with the Cardinals after a 5-2 loss on Thursday.
Lewis and Downs combined to go 0-for-7 at the plate with a strikeout each.
Meanwhile, with a single pitch, Schierholtz came up with a pinch-hit, line-drive single to center field and later scored on Aaron Rowand's home run.
If Renteria and Schierholtz had been in the lineup, this game could have gone completely differently, but it also could have still ended up in a Giants loss.
However, both Schierholtz and Renteria in the lineup would have given the orange and black a much better chance at coming away with a victory.
Quite simply, both John Bowker and Kevin Frandsen would have given the Giants a better chance to win than Lewis and Downs—yet Bowker and Frandsen are playing for the Fresno Grizzlies.
Even though Bochy deserves some credit for putting his club in the playoff picture by calling pitches and keeping players accountable in the clubhouse, his lineup decisions have been extremely poor—even stupid in some cases.
If the Giants are going to make a serious run in the second half, the best players—not random call ups and mediocre outfielders—need to be playing everyday.
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