Everything you needed to know about this game can be explained through Madison Bumgarner hitting for himself in the bottom of the seventh inning, down by one. Is it the worst tactical decision of the night? Eh, whatever. But as something that had layers and layers of meaning, it'll do just fine. Here's what the non-move told you about the Giants:
When the Giants play against a left-handed starter, anyone who could be considered a threat to left-handers is moved into the lineup. And by "anyone", I mean "Brett Pill." He is the threat against left-handed pitching.
It's not like Schierholtz, Huff, Belt, or Sanchez should be the big bat off the bench against a lefty. There isn't anything Bochy can do. He can't feed Emmanuel Burriss after midnight and turn him into Charlie Hayes or Russ Davis. The Giants don't have a 25-man roster to deal with late-inning lefties. Oh, that feeling when you look up at the heavens and yearn for Justin Christian …
With Pablo out and Melky Cabrera day-to-day, this team kind of stinks. Feel free to take a sip of water, read that sentence again, and do a spit take. But with Joaquin Arias not available, and Melky being saved as the extra-special-tying-run pinch-hitter in the eighth or ninth, it was a thin bench filled with left-handed options.
Still, with seven outs left, any left-hander on the bench is a better option than Bumgarner. I know we like to giggle about Bumgarner being the fifth-best hitter on the roster, but the odds are much, much, much better for Huff, Schierholtz, or Belt to get a hit against Randy Johnson in his prime than they would be for Bumgarner. Let's not go nuts. Those outs are still valuable, even if they're Giants who are spending them.
Bruce Bochy thinks his bullpen contains Jim Poole, Wayne Franklin, Al Levine, Leo Estrella, and Brandon Medders
It's like a wizard put a spell on him, and that's all he sees when he looks in the bullpen. The need to squeeze another inning out of Bumgarner is so paramount, so urgent, that it's imperative to let him hit for himself.
The risk is that the one of the final seven outs was going to be wasted. The reward is that Bumgarner gets to throw another inning. How much better is an eighth-inning Bumgarner compared to any of the relievers the Giants could have thrown out there? Not that much better. Not especially close. This applies to Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Zito in the same situation. Outs are precious. Late-inning appearances from your starters, all things being equal, aren't. There just isn't enough of an advantage to be gained
Bumgarner was hitting eighth in the first place
Because this team is so lousy with injuries and feckless talent that the third baseman wasn't even worth putting in the eighth spot. And when Bumgarner did reach base -- when he put a bloop where no one could get it -- the ninth-place hitter made you realize how stupid it was that you were concerned with the lack of a pinch-hitter at all. What was the pinch-hitter supposed to do, get to Burriss? Hell, you might as well let Bumgarner swing for the fences at that point. Bumgarner hitting a two-run homer with no one on was more likely than Burriss doing anything.
Things are going so lousy for the offense, that special concern is paid to the pitcher getting a win to reward his efforts
Bumgarner deserved a win tonight. He pitched quite well, keeping the Cardinals off the bases all night and making only a couple of ill-timed mistakes. Wins and losses for pitchers are silly, but there's still a secret part of the baseball-card-collecting fool in all of us that thinks it's kind of neat when a pitcher gets one. It's a reward.
Bochy might have figured that Bumgarner deserved the win if they could come back in the eighth, so why not? Just keep doing what you're doing, Bummy. We'll get you your runs. As a confidence-builder, that's all Bochy has.
Letting Bumgarner hit for himself isn't the reason the Giants lost. Heck, it didn't even contribute that much, other than a couple of insurance runs. But as the description on the dust jacket covering the book of stink, it did fine. The Giants are terrible right now for various reasons. Here's Bumgarner hitting for himself to remind you of them.
Burriss: Dude, dude, Freese hit it over the fence!
Crawford: Oooooooh! Busted!
Belt: Oh, man, he's gotta get the ball now.
Theriot: Hey, Freese! You gotta get the ball from Old Mrs. McStanley, who lives on the other side of the fence, or so I am told!
Burriss: Yeah, go get the ball, Freese. I heard Old Mrs. McStanley has a doberman. Hope you can be quiet when you hop over.
Crawford: Ha. Wait, why is he going back in the dugout? Get the ball, dingus! We have a game to play!
Theriot: Oh, he's lucky. The umpire had another ball.
Belt: Oh, man, that's not fair. We'd do that all the time if we didn't have to get the ball.