After pitching a beautiful game the entire night, Madison Bumgarner struggled a bit toward the end of the seventh inning. He needed a fourth out thanks to a blown call, and he had a little trouble getting it. He allowed a rocket single to Juan Uribe, and then got behind A.J. Ellis. If not for Ellis chasing on a 3-1 pitch, Bumgarner would have walked the bases loaded. Instead, Ellis made great contact on the 3-2 pitch, but shot it right to Marco Scutaro. Inning over, crisis averted.
Then Bumgarner came out for the eighth.
If you've read this site for a while, you'll see where this is going. Except there's a twist at the end. It's a crappy twist -- a true shyamalanianian gas leak -- but it's not like the standard story is any better.
See, I don't like it when tired pitchers pitch tired. And while I don't purport to know Bumgarner's inner monologue, and I certainly don't know him as well as Bruce Bochy or Dave Righetti, he wasn't the same pitcher by the end of the seventh inning that he was for the ballgame to that point. He had to get a fourth out, which stinks, but he needed a little tap-dancing to escape.
Then Bumgarner came out for the eighth.
Then this happened, then that happened, and the other thing, and there was a juggler on a unicycle, and someone locked the keys in the car with the baby still in the back, and the Giants lost.
Here's the thing, though: I empathize with Bruce Bochy. Boom. There's your twist. His sled from when he was a kid was dead the whole time. Poffrrrroow, and your mind is blown. No, I can't even bring myself to blame Bruce Bochy for keeping Bumgarner in. Because here's what happened with the right-handed relievers he did bring in:
George Kontos: Hanging slider, hanging slider
Sandy Rosario: Hanging slider, hanging slider, hanging slider, fastball
Six pitches, and five of them were iffy-at-best sliders. These guys are lousy with the hanging sliders. There isn't a reliable eighth-inning arm or anything close to it. Sergio Romo will hang every eighth or ninth slider (estimate), but they almost catch the hitter off guard. Javier Lopez bounces his sliders when he misses. And that's the complete list of Giants relievers who snap off more quality sliders than they hang. Heck, if you're feeling froggy, you can throw Jose Mijares in there, too.
The rest of them throw just enough good sliders to accrue healthy strikeout totals, but hang way, way, way too many. And if Bochy pulled Bumgarner after the seventh to get to the Hangling Bros. Circus, there's a strong chance he would have looked stupid there, too.
Now, I would have taken that chance. And who knows, it's not like they would have lost twice in my alternate universe, but there's a chance they would have won. So I'm the smart guy! But that's all with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, with the choice being a possibly tired Bumgarner or a couple of clothesline-slider artists, it wasn't that easy. I think the problem is …
/crosses legs, takes puff of tobacco from pipe
… the Giants have bad pitchers. Kontos used to be good, so I'm willing to amend that to "tired" if it please the court. But the Giants don't have any quality relievers right now. No one to trust other than Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez. And given the choice of another bullpen meltdown or Bumgarner finishing what he started, there probably isn't a right decision. Just wrong ones. Bochy made the wrong decision, but it was a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose choice.
And it's a shame because Bumgarner absolutely out-pitched Hyun-Jin Ryu, who never looked comfortable.
I'm picturing a bunch of nerds in a bunker somewhere, working on baseball's version of the Manhattan Project, trying to discover how to get Yasiel Puig out.
Scientist #1: I don't know … look, all I'm saying is that we should at least try a foshball.
Scientist #2: And I'm trying to tell you, I have no ******* idea what a foshball is.
His opposite-field home run on a good pitch -- maybe a little up, but on the corner -- was a statement of intent. It was an effortless swing, an absent-minded flick of the wrists. It was terrifying. So while I have my Kevin Maas anecdote loaded and ready if needed, somehow I don't think I'll get to use them. This dude is terrifying.
Here's my suggestion: Try a pitch that isn't in the strike zone. Like, when you get ahead in the count, or get two strikes. Try a pitch that bounces, or a fastball at his nose. Would you believe that Puig swings at more pitches out of the strike zone than the major-league average? Of course you wouldn't. He's swung at 41 percent of them so far -- over 10 percent over the league average. He makes contact with 56 percent of those swings -- about seven percent worse than the league average.
We're talking ludicrously small samples here, but the data fits the perception that Puig is an aggressive hitter. He's an aggressive everything. He plays baseball like he has bees in his pants. Try to have him get himself out. Because the other ways obviously aren't working for anyone.
Brandon Crawford had a Clerks game. Wasn't even supposed to be here today. Yet he left six on base, squandering two bases-loaded opportunities, and he muffed a liner that might have been an inning-double play to prevent the third run from scoring. Not that it was an easy play, and not that it mattered. Still. Wasn't even supposed to be here today.
Also the Marlins death-fog stowed away in someone's valise, and it got Joaquin Arias tonight. It was probably Brandon Belt. Dammit, Belt.
At least Pablo Sandoval hit Puig in the face with a mitt! That was fun. Remember that? Good times, good times.