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Dear Bruce: An Open Letter To Bruce Bochy

Patrick Crawley |
October 26, 2010 | 9:03 p.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor

Dear Bruce Bochy,

I haven’t always agreed with the decisions you’ve made as a manager, particularly when it comes to pitching.

You’re often too counterintuitive for my taste. Your habit of removing hot pitchers at the end of games at the first sign of trouble, for instance, drives me crazy. But even I must admit you managed a gem of a Game 6 on Saturday.

In the middle of absolute chaos, you were as steady as they come. A regular Sandy Cohen.

You knew heading into Game 6 that it was an all-or-nothing game. You said so yourself in your post-game remarks: “I knew tonight I was going to throw everything at them. This was a huge game. If we lose, momentum would be on their side, so we wanted to do everything we could to win this one.”

Losing two in a row is bad enough, but having to play a Game 7 in Philly against Cole Hamels and a hot lineup? Forget about it. There would have been no shot.

So when Jonathan Sanchez hit Chase Utley between the shoulders in the bottom of the third inning, you knew right away what had to be done. And you did it.

It wasn’t a popular decision to remove Sanchez from the game – seven innings of relief pitching in a must-win game on the road is hardly an ideal situation, no matter how good your bullpen is – but you did it anyway. The numbers spoke for themselves, right? 50 pitches in just over two innings (over half of them balls), three hits, two walks, two runs, one hit batsman. Sanchez had to go.

Jeremy Affeldt was an obvious choice out of the ‘pen as Sanchez’s replacement. I won’t give you too much credit for that one. But later, in the fifth inning, your strange intuition paid off once again.

Rather than bringing in another reliever (say, Santiago Casilla or Ramon Ramirez), you replaced Affeldt with Madison Bumgarner, a 21-year-old rookie who had lasted all of 4 2/3 innings against Philadelphia just three days before. It seemed crazy at the time, but damn if it didn’t work.

Bumgarner was no Christy Mathewson, but he did hold the Phillies scoreless through two innings, setting the stage for Javier Lopez, and later Brian Wilson. He was just what the Giants needed at the time. And somehow you knew.

Later in the game, after Lopez worked his magic and Juan Uribe flashed his opposite field power, you pulled out all the stops just as you said you would. You put in your ace, “The Freak” Tim Lincecum, with a 3-2 lead in the eighth.

That didn’t work out so well. Lincecum gave up two consecutive singles after striking out Jayson Werth. Even so, you can’t be faulted for your urgency. This was the game and you managed it that way all the way to the end.

Besides, you redeemed yourself. You followed Lincecum with a double dose of Brian Wilson, who induced a double play to end the eighth and later struck out Ryan Howard with a brilliant 3-2 fastball to seal the game.

To recap, that’s two innings from Affeldt (solid middle reliever), two innings from Bumgarner (gamble that worked out), an inning from Lopez (typical setup guy), 1/3 of an inning from Lincecum (gamble that didn’t work out) and five outs from Wilson (informed gamble that worked out).  That’s seven innings of near flawless decision-making in the most meaningful, pressure-packed game of the season.

That’s where you, as a manager, are expected to come through. And you did.

Juan Uribe and Brian Wilson are getting the majority of the headlines. Cody Ross is (rightfully) getting a lot of credit as well. But without your steady leadership in Game 6, none of this would have been possible.

I’ve kept a skeptical eye on you all season. When Sanchez faltered, I had my doubts about what you would do. But you came through. You made the improbable possible. You guided this unremarkable crew past the star-studded Phillies.

You did a brilliant job.     

Don’t think it went unnoticed.


Patrick Crawley

To reach editor Patrick Crawley, click here. Follow him on Twitter: @BasketballFiend.



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