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What Bruce Bochy should have done in the ninth inning of Game 4

Some suggestions of how the Giants could have avoided a ninth-inning meltdown are better than others. Let’s look at some.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

There's got to be a morning after / If we can hold on through the night / Dammit, Giants, seriously, not even a one-run lead / Like, I could have understood blowing a one-run lead / BUT A THREE-RUN LEAD ARE YOU SERIOUS / We have a chance to find the sunshine / Let's keep on looking for the light

This is that morning after. And, yes, I’m still stunned. Bullpens can be awful. Predictably awful. Bite-your-nails-to-the-cuticles bad. But they should still hold a three-run lead.

As such, there are a lot of Bruce Bochy criticisms out there. Some of them are valid. Some of them are questionable.  I’m here to judge them. I have found what Bochy really should have done, and it ranks #1 on the list, but no skipping ahead.

Leave Matt Moore in

The worst of all arguments. Moore had thrown 120 pitches. The Giants are counting on him next season and the season after. He’s a Tommy John survivor. More importantly, if this plan works, and if the Giants win Game 5, they would have needed Moore for the NLCS and potentially the World Series.

If Bochy had allowed Moore to throw 140 pitches and the Giants advanced, I guarantee you that a lot of the people who complained about Moore being taken out would have yelled just as loud if he allowed seven runs in two innings in his next start.

Ugh, this is because BOCHY ran him INTO THE GROUND. Anyone could have protected that three-run lead. What a MORON.

Not all complainers would have said that. Not all complainers. Enough, though.

If you’re contemplating grinding your starting pitcher into dust during the NLDS because you don’t trust your bullpen to hold a three-run lead, you probably shouldn’t bother grinding your starting pitcher into dust, because the bullpen will fail you plenty in the next two rounds. It’s the Matt Moore Paradox!

It was something of a bold move to use Moore in the eighth, you know. Bochy pushed his starters harder than any manager in baseball this year. He was right to back off on this one.

Final judgment of criticism: Not valid

Just put Sergio Romo in to start and finish the inning

Yeah, probably. Plop a guy down and leave him there would have been preferable, even if it was Santiago Casilla. Romo had done well-ish in his new/old role, Game 3 notwithstanding.

The only caveat is that a) Romo blew a save the night before after an inexcusable walk to the leadoff hitter, which might have set off alarms, and b) he threw two innings the night before, which he almost never does. I would have used him there. It probably would have worked. But I also understand the skepticism.

Final judgment of criticism: Somewhat valid

Just put Hunter Strickland in to start and finish the inning

His platoon splits make me worry about him as a full-time, decision-free closer, but yeah. Anyone would have been preferable to the five-pitcher merry-go-round to hell.

Final judgment of criticism: Valid

Just put George Kontos in t...

Okay, okay, I sense a theme. Yes. All of these suggestions are valid. Up to and including Casilla!

Final judgment of criticism: Valid

Leave Derek Law in the game

Yes, sure. However, there are caveats. From FanGraphs, we have Law’s velocity chart for the season:

Down, down, down, disabled list. His last two outings were up, sure, but just as worrisome as the velocity was the command. He hung more breaking balls in his last seven outings than he hung in his previous 40*. Then you get into the part where he threw 35 pitches in two innings the night before.

There were reasons to be dubious about his efficiency and durability in that game. I’ve seen Kris Bryant’s hit described as a "seeing-eye single," which is poppycock. The single was hit hard, and it came on a bad pitch.

That is not a fastball location that Law would have thrown in July. A pitch like that after being worked hard the previous night are why I would have steered clear of him in this game entirely, to be honest.

Final judgment of criticism: Kinda sorta valid, but with potential to backfire

* Stat courtesy of my butt

Not trusting Will Smith as the first lefty out of the pen, or even as the full-time closer

Okay. Now we’re getting into the realm of unambiguously legitimate complaints. Smith is better than Javier Lopez right now. While we all appreciate what Lopez has brought to the Giants’ bullpen in each of their championship seasons, he lost the special command that made him what he was.

Not only did Lopez walk Anthony Rizzo, but he did so on pitches that weren’t even close to tempting. With a three-run lead that Rizzo couldn’t spoil even if he hit the ball over McCovey Cove. Inexcusable.

I mean, I know that if we were offered a magic Lopez in 2010 in exchange for that inexcusable walk, we would have taken it and laughed at the time. But it wasn’t a mystery that Will Smith was the better pitcher.

Did you notice that Smith was working on an 18-game scoreless streak when the regular season ended? Yep. That’s 20 strikeouts, too, in 13⅔ innings. He could have held the lead. Instead, he was allowed to face one batter. And that was a seeing-eye single.

Trusting Smith more would have helped the Giants from the moment they acquired him. Will Smith got 23 swings and misses in September. Javier Lopez got 28 swings and misses all season.

Final judgment of criticism: Very, very, very valid

Making it so that Derek Law didn’t get hurt and/or tired in August

Technically, there’s no way Bochy or anyone could have prevented this, but this really is the best answer.

The Giants were inching toward using Law as the full-time closer. Or, rather, Casilla was pushing them forward, yard by yard. Not only was Law the only pitcher in the bullpen without platoon splits, but he was statistically dominant. When Casilla was demoted, it was clearly Law who was next in line.

And right when it became time to do that? Law was hurt. Without that injury, Law is plopped down in the ninth inning and left alone. No Ryan Schimpf. No blown saves against the Cardinals and Dodgers. He would have been a steady force.

Maybe he goes full Familia when he’s asked to protect the three-run lead in the Wild Card Game. There’s no way to know. But if the biggest problem was that Bochy didn’t trust anyone — which was certainly the biggest problem — Law’s injury did more to scramble that than anything else Bochy did in the ninth inning of Game 4.

Final judgment of criticism: Unfair, impossible, and more than a little "what-if," but very, very, very, very valid

When it comes to realistic options? Not making Will Smith the top lefty out of the pen, and not trusting him to get right-handers out like an all-purpose setup man was the biggest screwup, and it had been for weeks. Maybe not pitching Law for two innings in the previous game, with the benefit of pure, uncut hindsight? I don’t know.

I do know that it didn’t work. None of it. So Bochy deserves criticism. But the pitchers deserve it more. And it sure feels like we’re giving Brandon Crawford a pass for having his worst defensive game of the year at the absolute worst time. There were things that Bochy could have done better, though.

There were things that Bochy could have done better.

There were things that Bochy could have done better, alright.