Giants skipper makes right call in leaving Bumgarner on regular rest for Game 5
By Mike Bauman
SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy's decision to not start Madison Bumgarner in Game 4 of the World Series was the intelligent decision, the calm-hand-on-the-tiller decision, the correct decision.
And I would say the same thing even if the San Francisco Giants had lost Game 4 to the Kansas City Royals. But the Giants very pointedly did not lose Game 4. With their manager steering a steady course by sticking with his usual postseason rotation, the Giants came from behind to defeat the Royals, 11-4, and even the Series at 2-2.
Hours after Game 3 was over Friday night, I was watching television. And OK, that was my fault. But there was a national commentator shouting that Bochy had to start Bumgarner because the Giants were trailing in the series, and the manager had to go with his ace right now.
This alleged baseball insider kept referring to the pitcher as "Baumgarner" but I'm assuming that deep down he meant Bumgarner. Anyway, he concluded that Bumgarner had to pitch Game 4 and then Ryan Vogelsong, the scheduled Game 4 starter, would start Game 5.
Wow. What would be gained there? We can all answer that in one word:
Or, we can all answer that one in three words:
Less than nothing.
The effect of that switch would have been to pitch the Giants' ace on short rest. It would also have been completely out of character for Bochy, and thus could have been seen by his players as a highly unusual move. Maybe their situation was more desperate than they thought. Maybe people were starting to make panic moves.
But Bochy doesn't make panic moves. And that's why he stayed with Vogelsong. His reward is a World Series that is all even. But it seems better than that for the Giants, because Sunday night their best starter will pitch. And Bumgarner will pitch on normal, regular rest.
After the Game 4 victory, Bochy was asked about resisting the temptation to start Bumgarner.
"Well, again, we were not going to change course on how we were going to do things," Bochy replied. "We wanted to keep him on his normal routine and his rest. "So it's good to have him on normal rest. I mean, we're going to be facing a good pitcher [James Shields]. It's going to be a good battle. But we'll say the fact that he's had his normal rest, I feel a lot better, to be honest."
The people who really need to rest are the panic-mongers, those over-the-edge types urging Bochy to go completely out of character. The guy has won eight straight postseason series, nine if you count the Wild Card Game. He might know exactly what he is doing.
The record is going to show that Vogelsong has started seven postseason games for the Giants. The Giants have won every one of those games.
All right, he wasn't great in the last two starts. But Saturday night it was time for the San Francisco offense, after two distinctly unproductive games, to rise up and take care of business. This the Giants' bats did, against KC starter Jason Vargas and the second tier of the Royals' bullpen.
Vogelsong on the mound was like a man suffering a series of paper cuts. The four-run Kansas City third inning included two infield singles and a missed opportunity for a double play. Vogelsong could have escaped without damage had he run a better route to first base on a ball hit wide of first by Eric Hosmer. As it was, Vogelsong stabbed at first with his right foot, but missed and a run scored. A walk and two singles later, Vogelsong's evening was finished.
"This guy was making great pitches, and we couldn't get that last out," Bochy said. "I think if he gets out of that inning, he throws a nice game for us. He had buzzard luck, and there's not much you can do about it."
"That was the best I've felt in a while," Vogelsong said. "That's why giving up four runs is hard to take."
Vogelsong said he would immediately volunteer his services to pitch in any capacity for the rest of the Series. No one should doubt the genuine nature of this offer.
The Giants won Saturday night because Yusmeiro Petit, invaluable in this postseason, put up three more shutout innings. And then there was the offense, a non-factor in the two previous games, here a relentless machine, its 16 hits the most in a World Series game in seven years.
And now, the Giants are in a really good position to win Game 5, as well, with Bumgarner ready to go on -- all together now -- regular rest.
The other argument for Bumgarner pitching Game 4 was that then he could pitch a potential Game 7. Once again, he would be pitching on short rest. Here is a guy who has made, counting the postseason, 38 starts and has pitched 256 innings. Now let's ask him to do something he hasn't been asked to do all year, and do it twice?
The more you think about this decision, the more intelligent Bruce Bochy becomes.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.