Last night the Giants bullpen who had been so solid this season went boom. The Royals and their fans who were shell-shocked after the beat down they took at the hands of the Giants in Game One. The Royals are now alive and we are set up for a long drawn out World Series and that is just what I and all baseball fans were hoping for. There is nothing like the drama of October baseball. We have two wild card teams playing for the trophy. That means you have two teams that are survivors. Two teams that didn’t win the division yet had the backbone to get back up after being knocked on their tails to win a wildcard spot. They both survived a one game winner takes all, loser leaves town play in-game to get a chance to play a divisional winner. They fought through the LDS best of five crap shoot. Then they knocked out their opponents in the LCS for a chance to play in the World Series. All that after the marathon of a 162 game season. The Giants and the Royals are battle hardened and well-tested. We should be in store for a some real fun over the next week.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, like Joe Maddon likes to use his bullpen by matching up his relievers in different situations against certain hitters. Its much more than guess-work by running a bullpen in that manner. Ned Yost has three horses in his bullpen that he has programmed in to the 7th, 8th and 9th inning. When you have power arms in the bullpen that dominate you can run your bullpen very effectively. If you don’t you are forced to mix and match and play the percentages. You rely on advance scouting and a math nerd with a laptop to help you get the best information to make best guess on what arm to use. Then you turn it over to a receiver and hope for the best. It is a very inexact science.
Last night Bochy pulled all the right levers but his pitchers didn’t respond to the moves he made. Jean Machi gave up a hit with two on when he comes in for Jake Peavy in the 6th pushing one across for the Royals. He uses a lefty to get Alex Gordon to fly out for one away in the inning. This early in the game so he can’t use his high leverage guys like Romo, so he needs a big arm to get out of the jam with one away and runners on 1st and 2nd. Bochy goes with Hunter Strickland looking for a strikeout, a fly ball or a pitchers best friend the inning ending double play. Bochy had played his hand just right, but now he needed his pitcher to execute. This is where the best played plans sometimes don’t go right. Strickland poured lighter fluid on the game when he threw a wild pitch to move the runners-up 90 feet. He then grabbed a gas can and tossed it on the fire when he gave a double to Salvador Perez scoring two more for KC. Then he backed up an oil tanker on the game and gave up a two run bomb to Omar Infante. Boom goes the bullpen for the Giants.
The most important asset a relief pitcher can ever have isn’t a blazing fastball, but a short memory. Bochy will call on all the pitchers he used in Game One again in this World Series and ask them to perform again in the same situation. While we as fans will be thinking about what happened last time out, a big league reliever can’t afford to remember what happened last time out, otherwise he will be worrying about the last game instead of the one he is pitching in today.