Streak-snapping win helps soothe frustrated Bochy
Giants skipper gets ejected before team rebounds with late rally
PHOENIX -- No matter how many years he's managed and no matter how many World Series rings he has to fit on his oversized hand, Bruce Bochy still can't stand losing.
Before Monday night's game against the D-backs at Chase Field, the Giants manager was asked why his team had hit the skids of a five-game losing streak.
"It's a number of things. It's a combination of a few things," he said. "When you're in a skid like this, your hitting is not there one day, your pitching is not there one day, the defense. They've all kind of reared their head at a tough part of the ballgame and that's why we've lost five in a row. We've made some mistakes defensively and that's what we have to clean up."
"How much of this was just bad managing?" one scribe quipped.
"All five, all five was because of bad managing," Bochy said, seemingly in all seriousness.
Bochy was then ejected for the 58th time in his managerial career and was sitting in his office when the Giants snapped a tie and the losing streak in the eighth inning on Brandon Belt's two-out, two-run single to win, 6-4.
It was pointed out to Bochy afterward that the Giants had won without him in the dugout.
"We needed somebody else to get a win," he said. "I haven't been doing too well here the last five games, so Rags [pitching coach Dave Righetti] and Ronnie [bench coach Ron Wotus] did a great job tonight."
This time Bochy was surely kidding. It was the 1,468th win in 19 years managing the Padres and Giants, his club for the last six-plus seasons. If anyone thinks Bochy wasn't pulling the strings after being tossed by first-base umpire Bill Miller when Hunter Pence was called out on the back end of a double play to end the top of the fifth, they have another thing coming.
Bochy wasn't lurking in the tunnel behind the first-base dugout at Chase Field wearing Groucho glasses a la Bobby Valentine one day when he was ejected an eon ago as manager of the Mets. Bochy sat in his office watching the game on a flat-screen TV hovering above the desk and kept constant contact with Righetti and Wotus on the bench.
Pence looked safe to the naked eye and later during repeated TV replays. That fact brought Bochy out to argue the play as much as the current period of despair, which runs counter to the success the Giants have had by winning the World Series twice in the past three years, including last October's stunning sweep of the Tigers.
"That's why I went out there. I didn't agree with the call," Bochy said about his first ejection of the season. "But it's frustration. We're in one of these ruts. We had some close calls tonight. That one was a big call or we'd still have something going. But it's frustration that's built up, too."
Bochy never lost contact with the game. When Pablo Sandoval had to come out because of a flare-up of incessant right elbow problems, Nick Noonan came in to play third base and later hit a key double off D-backs right-hander Brad Zeigler to open the eighth.
Bochy, a former backup catcher, is one of the best in the game at running a bullpen, and the relief sequence was again seamless after starter Matt Cain labored to get his club through the sixth. The last three were handled by Jean Machi, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo as the Giants won another battle of the bullpens.
"We stayed in touch," Bochy said. "Rags and I, we talked a little bit. Ronnie knows what he's doing."
So basically, Bochy outmanaged Kirk Gibson, his D-backs counterpart, from his office.
"No, no. I let them go," Bochy said. "Ronnie has been doing this long enough."
Basically, though, Gibson left Ziegler in long enough in the eighth to load the bases with a pair of walks and had the right-hander face the lefty-swinging Belt, who had already homered off right-handed starter Ian Kennedy to open the second inning.
Belt said he didn't think the move was quizzical.
"Not at the moment 'cause there was nobody warming up in the bullpen," he said, accentuating the point.
And as Ziegler struggled to a 3-1 count on Belt, pitching coach Charles Nagy went to the mound and left-hander Tony Sipp finally started heating up in the 'pen -- for the second time during the game. Ziegler allowed the Belt single and Sipp was brought in to face Andre Torres, a switch-hitting pinch-hitter. Torres popped out to end the inning. Too little, too late.
The two teams have split four games in the past eight days and all four have them have been decided by the use of the bullpen. The D-backs blew saves in all three games at San Francisco, but came back to win the last two in extra innings. And after a four-game home series against the Rockies this past weekend, the 'pen was depleted, Gibson said. That didn't explain why he used Sipp too late and didn't have Matt Reynolds, his other left-handed relief specialist, up until the bottom of the ninth inning, just in case.
"It was uncharacteristic of him," Gibson said about Ziegler's performance. "We kind of made the decision that we were going to go to him in the eighth inning and it just didn't work out."
The entire turn of events turned Bochy's mood from sour to sweet. As he sat behind his desk afterward, he had a little smile on his face. Despite all the success, winning never gets old, just as losing sticks right there in the gut.
"You know, it doesn't change," he said. "We talk about this all the time. It's great to have success, but that's behind us. You have to focus forward, as we say. It's a new year and you still have to deal with those ups and downs. It doesn't much matter what's happened in the past. You still take the losses hard."
And enjoy the wins, even one in a row.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.