San Francisco Giants: Defense Struggled, but Tag Loss on Bruce Bochy

Ted SillanpaaAnalyst IApril 14, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 31:  Brandon Medders #52 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on May 31, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The baseball season is 162 games long, so some losses just have to be written off and filed away in a folder tagged "Stuff Happens."

The San Francisco Giants' 6-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday wasn't one of those games. Manager Bruce Bochy and his willingness to go by the book cost the Giants the game.

Oh, it should be a throw-away loss on a random Tuesday night in April that even the Giants themselves will forget about by the time summer arrives. For the New York Yankees or the Philadelphia Phillies, it would just be a game where some things went wrong. Good teams can afford to give away a game once awhile.

The Giants entered Tuesday's game with a 6-1 record. They are not, however, a really good team. Well, they haven't had the time to prove that they're a really good team yet. So, it's tough to swallow the idea of them kicking one away to a weak Pirates team.

The defense isn't great, so there are going to be nights when Edgar Renteria makes an error or Juan Uribe botches what should've been an easy double play turn at second base.

Giants fans might want to get used to watching first baseman Aubrey Huff watch a ball roll into right field for a hit. If he got to every ball it seems like he could reach, he wouldn't have been a DH in the American League.

And, you know, there are times when third base coach Tim Flannery is going to run Pablo Sandoval or another Giant into an out at home plate. Flannery drew criticism from KNBR's Jon Miller who questioned sending Sandoval with Bengie Molina waiting to hit. It was unfair, I thought.

Sandoval runs well enough and Flannery was betting that the troubled Bucs wouldn't be able to pull off catching the ball cleanly and throwing it straight two, maybe three, times on one play.

I mean, Molina at his best gets three hits every 10 at-bats. How often do you suppose the Pirates bobble a throw or otherwise screw up a relay play? Flannery took a chance that the Pirates would do something, um, Pirate-like.

The Giants scrambled back, scratching out runs in every way imaginable. Somehow the Giants overcame a poor outing from Matt Cain to tie the game 3-3. The club was in position to put the mistakes in the rear view mirror.

Alas, one of the defensive mistakes cost the Giants and Jeremy Affeldt a run in the eighth, so the Giants entered the top of the ninth trailing 4-3.

Brandon Medders hasn't pitched well this season. In fact, he appears poised to be one of those journeyman relievers who comes out of nowhere to have a nice season and then reverts to anonymity a year later.

Given that the Giants had already scratched and scraped for runs, keeping the deficit at one run seemed paramount. So, while the book probably indicated that Medders was the guy who belonged on the mound to start the ninth, folks who've followed the 2010 Giants knew better.

Bochy had left-hander Dan Runzler and right-handers Guillermo Mota and Waldis Joaquin available. Joaquin hasn't pitched well, but Mota was fresh. He pitched one quick inning on Monday. Runzler pitched a single inning on Monday. Given how the Giants had battled back, the idea hit while Medders warmed up that getting through the ninth with Mota and Runzler would've been better.

Still, Andy LaRoche is a right-hand hitter and Medders is a right-handed pitcher. And there's probably a book somewhere that shows that LaRoche is batting .258 against Medders and .272 off Mota. Thus, paralysis by analysis set in on Bochy and Mota stayed put.

With one out, LaRoche homered off Medders to make it 5-3. If Runzler had been warming up to face left-hand hitting Ryan Church, well...strike that, because Bochy wasn't treating the game like the seventh game of the World Series.

Managers never jerk a reliever after a strikeout and a home run, right? Medders should handle Ryan Church.

We had time to consider the matter while Church legged out a triple off Medders. A 6-3 deficit, after all the energy the Giants used to tie after trailing 3-0, seemed like something Bochy would've wanted to avoid. I mean, big league managers don't actually have a file where they throw games tagged "Stuff Happens" do they?

Well, they might, because after Medders induced righty Ronny Cedeno to pop out, we still didn't see Runzler. Lefty-swinging Akinori Iwamura singled off the righty Medders and it was 6-3.

That's when I really began to question the need for seven relief pitchers. It's not rocket science, no matter what they tell us. Mota and Runzler are pitching well, so they should've pitched.

With a runner on third base, maybe even call on Joaquin because he's a righty who can pitch for a strikeout (even if he recently more often winds up issuing a walk).

Then, of course, Eugenio Velez just blasted a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to cut the deficit to 6-5 and we—well, I—were thinking about why Medders worked the entire ninth.

And, a couple hours later, I'm still thinking about it. In part because I will put a couple bucks on a game (and, well, I might have done just that on Tuesday with Matt Cain pitching) and, in part, because I don't think the Giants can afford to give away any games just because big league managers feel like they have to play by the book.

Bochy might not manage like it's Game Seven of the World Series, but there could come a time when this loss seems just as important as that.

I promise that nothing would bother Bochy, or any other big league manager, more than having a reporter waltz into the office after the game and ask, "Why didn't you use Runzler or Mota in the ninth?"

Someone asked Tommy Lasorda a question like that when I was a kid reporter and he unleashed a streak of obscenities that, essentially, translated into, "I'm a big league manager. Who do you think you are, young man, to question me?"

That was the same night I walked into the Dodgers clubhouse with beat writers twice my age and was greeted by former Dodgers star Pedro Guerrero tweeting, "Here come de' assholes..."

The Velez rocket was an Eugenio Moment.

He can run. He throws well enough. And, unlike Bowker and Schierholtz, he's still learning to play the outfield and, thus, has an actual upside if handed the right field job. Forget his size and his inability to take pitches. Velez has crazy power for a smaller guy who runs like the wind.

That home run Tuesday was reminiscent of a home run he hit off of Pedro Martinez down the stretch last year. Just a blast.

If the Giants had another first baseman, they could put Huff in left field and move DeRosa to right field. Huff's no worse in the pasture than he is on the corner. Honest. But, first, I'd like to see Velez get a full shot at playing every day in right field.

Forget Andres Torres as a platoon guy against lefties. OK. Just forget it. Bowker and Schierholtz have had their chances. They are offensively limited.

Velez can hit for power, get on base, and utilize his speed and, well, he's got more to give in the lineup in right field than the other four guys combined.

And, let's not forget that he played well down the stretch in 2009. When have any of the others played that well for that long?

Buster Posey has gone 0-for-7 since he stood 9-for-18 and was hitting .500 in Fresno.


Ted Sillanpaa is a San Francisco Bay Area sports writer and columnist. He can be reached at


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