Five Cuts: Bochy's game plan, what doomed Phillies in NLCS
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was at his best in winning Game 6 of the NLCS
The final pitch that Ryan Howard looked at was too close to leave to the umpire
Jamie Moyer, who turns 48 in November, will pitch in Dominican winter ball
PHILADEPHIA -- Five Cuts from Game 6 of the NLCS, where the Giants earned their first trip to the World Series since 2002 ...
A box score will reveal in plain sight when a pitcher or a hitter has a big game. Managers, too, can have big games, though the evidence of such achievement is more subtle. So know this about Giants manager Bruce Bochy: he brought the World Series to San Francisco with one of those big nights out of the dugout.
Bochy won a postseason game in which his starting pitcher gave him six outs. How hard is that to do? Teams won only 23 percent of the time when their starting pitcher checked out in two or fewer innings previously in postseason history (36-120).
Only three teams previously clinched a pennant with a starter who was out so early: the 1984 Padres, 1971 Pirates and 1969 Mets. And Bochy's Giants are the first team to pull off that survivor trick on the road.
Bochy's key move was, in fact, getting his starter out of the game so quickly in the first place. Jonathan Sanchez couldn't find the plate, starting the third inning with a walk and a hit batter just after San Francisco had tied the game at 2. Bochy was on his way to get Sanchez even before Sanchez and Phillies second baseman Chase Utley started jawing at one another, emptying the benches and bullpens.
"He was out anyway," Bochy said. "Then all of a sudden all hell broke loose. The guy who saved us was Jeremy Affeldt."
Bochy brought in Affeldt, a veteran reliever, instead of Madison Bumgarner, a young starter not accustomed to working out of the 'pen. Affeldt threw two perfect innings. Then Bumgarner, properly warmed and entering in a calm, clean spot, tacked on two scoreless innings of his own.
Javier Lopez added one more scoreless innings while continuing to haunt Utley and Ryan Howard (1-for-18 combined lifetime). Then Bochy summoned Tim Lincecum, his third starting pitcher of the night. Bochy had told Lincecum before the game that he was getting the eighth inning in a one-run game. Lincecum entered on cue, getting one out before two hits forced Bochy to get Brian Wilson, his closer, for a five-out save.
The Giants are a resourceful team with many flexible parts, but Bochy has had an uncanny knack this postseason of using them in the right place at the right time -- never better so than in Game 6.
Howard will take some heat for looking at a third strike with the winning runs on base to end Game 6. Just ask Carlos Beltran how those series-ending caught-looking whiffs stick to your reputation. But this one, like the curveball Adam Wainwright threw Beltran in the 2006 NLCS, was mostly about the pitch executed by Wilson. The Giants closer snapped off a perfect cutter right at the knees -- and just after Howard had fouled off a curveball. Umpire Tom Hallion made the call.
"I thought it was down," Howard said. "[Hallion] kind of paused. That's what gets you. If you're going to call it, call it."
Asked if he saw a replay, Howard said, "I haven't seen it. I was there. I saw it first hand."
The pitch wasn't down; it was too close to leave in the umpire's hands, anyway. But really, more credit has to go to Wilson than blame to Howard. Howard had an awful series and finished the year with a career-worst streak of 11 straight games without an RBI. And the strikeouts in key spots are a blight on his great playing record. But this one whiff was a triumph of Wilson's doing -- a courageous pitch perfectly executed under tremendous pressure.
It was no surprise that Juan Uribe jumped on a first pitch to hit his game-winning home run into the first row of the right-field seats. The guy is a notorious first-pitch hacker, and Ryan Madson made a mistake by throwing anything hittable with the first pitch.
But, still ... this is how ridiculously hot the Giants are these days: Uribe had hit a career-high 24 home runs this year, and until that swing, none of them were hit to the opposite field. None.
The Phillies' season is over because their stars didn't play like stars. Utley, Howard and Raul Ibanez, for instance, combined for one RBI in the series. The team batted .216 overall.
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But also, Philadelphia didn't have the bench or the fundamental wherewithal to win the kind of tight games that are comfort food for the Giants. The Phillies kept playing for the big inning when this series was decided on a more micro level. It was about not scoring five runs, but scoring the next run.
Case in point: the biggest at-bat of Game 6. The Phillies, finally getting a sense of this series six games in, at last dropped a sacrifice bunt in the sixth to get Ibanez to third base with one out. (Only Arizona and Milwaukee dropped more sacrifice hits than Charlie Manuel's Phillies.) And where does Manuel turn when all he needs is a flyball or something through a drawn-in infield to score the go-ahead run against lefty Bumgarner? Ben Francisco. Ugh.
Me, I'm giving that at-bat to a professional hitter, a guy with an RBI pedigree who is at least going to give you a feisty at-bat: Mike Sweeney, though Sweeney had been buried too long on Manuel's bench. Francisco? The spot was too big for someone never counted on as an RBI guy. And he provided an awful at-bat. After getting ahead 2-and-0, he fouled off the best pitch he would see, chased the next pitch out of the strike zone and missed, and stood there frozen on a breaking ball for strike three. Jimmy Rollins then flied out, but it was Francisco's at-bat that doomed Philadelphia.
Get this: Jamie Moyer, who turns 48 in November, is going to winter ball. In a few days Moyer is packing his bags to pitch in the Dominican winter league, an offseason stop normally frequented by youngsters and fringe players, not by guys with 267 career wins. It is the first time Moyer will pitch winter ball.
Moyer has been rehabbing an elbow injury -- most recently throwing as many as 70 pitches in a bullpen session. Now, he said, "it's time to find out if I can pitch in a game." He plans to make three or four appearances to prove to himself and other teams that he can still get people out. Moyer said he intends to pitch next season.
Asked about the trip, Moyer said, "It's going to be an adventure -- no matter what."