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Friday, October 22, 2010
This time, Giants' trade-off betrays them

Both managers made minor, ultimately irrelevant gaffes in the Phillies' 4-2 win in Game 5.

Charlie Manuel went back to bunching Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup, which made it a lot easier for Javier Lopez to get through the eighth inning. None of which mattered, because the Phillies wound up not needing to score in the eighth.

Bruce Bochy didn't ask Brian Wilson to pitch in the ninth, with the Giants trailing by one run. Instead Bochy summoned Ramon Ramirez, who did post a 0.67 ERA with the Giants but is not anything close to that brilliant. He just doesn't throw enough strikes.

Now, maybe Wilson's slightly fatigued after working in Games 3 and 4. But he didn't work real hard: 11 pitches in Game 3, 12 in Game 4. Seems like he's about as rested as a reliever can be after consecutive appearances.

Ramirez gave up a home run to Jayson Werth. No shame in that, and later Jeremy Affeldt stranded a couple of runners who were Ramirez's responsibility. None of which mattered, because the Giants didn't score against Brad Lidge in the bottom of the ninth.

Essentially, Game 5 went almost completely as the managers planned it. Both ace pitchers were effective (if less than brilliant). Both bullpens were effective (the Phillies' slightly more than the Giants', but that didn't matter).

But managers can't plan for defensive miscues, and it was defensive miscues that beat the Giants. If Pablo Sandoval could have found third base after Roy Halladay's bunt in the third inning and if Aubrey Huff, moments later, had fielded Shane Victorino's hard grounder cleanly, the Phillies never would have scored. Simple as that.

Wait, I wrote something before that isn't true ... Managers can plan for defensive miscues. Or they can plan to avoid them, anyway. Neither Sandoval or Huff are anyone's idea of a Gold Glover. The Giants' best defensive infield probably includes Travis Ishikawa at first base and anyone not nicknamed "Panda" at third base.

It's a trade-off, defense for offense, and generally speaking it's worth making. Well worth making. In this game, it wasn't. With another first baseman and another third baseman, the Giants probably win. Which is obvious to everyone in the world, now. Nobody could have known it when Bruce Bochy was making out his lineup. Including Bruce Bochy.

He didn't do anything wrong. Now he just needs to resist the temptation to overreact and send his hitters to the bench in Philadelphia.