Reflecting on the Giants’ 1-0 loss to the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, one play still had manager Bruce Bochy grumbling a day later.
That was the check-swing call against Gorkys Hernandez in the ninth inning. Leading off against Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, Hernandez tried to hold up on a full-count pitch but was called out on appeal by first-base umpire Alan Porter.
“That check swing hurt – that really did,” Bochy said Saturday afternoon. “Sometimes you think, well, you’re biased, it’s your guy. But when I looked at it later, he did not go.”
The Giants’ dugout immediately reacted in disbelief to the call, which had ramifications. Bochy said having the leadoff hitter on might have changed how the Cubs’ infield played the next hitter, Eduardo Nunez, who grounded out. And of course, Buster Posey followed with a double off the wall in left-center.
A check swing is not reviewable, but Bochy said he had wondered: “Why couldn’t that be a replay deal there?”
The main complication would be how to establish and judge the boundary between a non-swing and swing. A hitter is said to have swung if his bat breaks a plane that is up to the judgment of the umpire.
“It would be a tough call,” Bochy said of challenging a check swing. “Late in the game, you get to review it anyway. But if it’s early, that would be a tough decision, whether to review it or not, because you know that’s going to be a tough one to change.”
The check swing was just one of myriad plays to be dissected after the Giants’ first 1-0 postseason loss since 1987. Bochy said he didn’t realize how much analysis occurs after these games until his first year managing in the postseason in 1996, when he saw that it was “every pitch, every play.”
“I didn’t think (Hernandez) went; we didn’t think he went,” Bochy said. “But part of this game is getting the calls, too, and the ball bouncing your way, and they got the call.”
Nunez update – Nunez’s ninth-inning at-bat was his first since Sept. 25, and he appeared hampered still by a strained hamstring running to first base on the groundout. Bochy said “there’s concern there” about Nunez’s health but that he would still use Nunez to pinch hit again Chapman, who is extremely difficult on left-handed hitters.
“I would still use him hoping that he could get a base hit there and we can run for him,” Bochy said.
Posey’s night – With his double Friday night, Posey improved to 6 for 11 off Chapman during his career. Posey said there is “nothing I can pinpoint” to explain that success and chuckled when asked how he managed to stay back on a slider while having to account for Chapman’s 103-mph fastball.
“It’s not staying back,” Posey said. “It’s still a 90-mph pitch. You just see it and react.”
Posey also caught some heat for his baserunning in the fourth inning, when he held up approaching second base on a flare that skipped under Cubs left fielder Ben Zobrist. Bochy, though, echoed Posey’s explanation: He hesitated to see if Zobrist would knock the ball down, in which case he would have stopped at second base.
“I don’t think he would have scored anyway,” Bochy said. “I really don’t. They did get the ball in pretty quick. Buster, he’s not one of our speed guys.”
Ah, memories – Giants outfielder Angel Pagan broke into the majors with the Cubs and played at Wrigley Field in his second big-league game. He said he’s still “very grateful” to the Cubs for giving him his first opportunity and holds their fans in high regard.
“They’re very passionate,” Pagan said. “They’re true fans, because they’ve been waiting over 100 years to win a championship. That means a lot.”