San Francisco Giants

Nationals’ Williams ‘kicked myself’ over pulling starter against Giants in Game 2

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants did not hold a workout on today's off-day before their N.L. Division Series against the Washington Nationals resumes Monday afternoon. The team flight got in around 5:30 a.m., after the Giants' 18-inning, 2-1 win that went down as the longest postseason game in major-league history, and manager Bruce Bochy said he told his players to scatter for an afternoon.

"I really didn't want them to come to the park," Bochy said. "Just get a break. They played 18 innings, plus we played (the wild-card game) in Pittsburgh. I mean, that was a road trip we were on."

Bochy and Game 3 starter Madison Bumgarner did have to report to AT&T Park to fulfill their playoff media obligations, as did Nationals manager Matt Williams and starter Doug Fister. Williams' session was arguably the most interesting, as he was asked to rehash his much-debated decision to remove starter Jordan Zimmermann with two outs in the ninth Saturday with Zimmermann one out from a complete-game shutout.

Zimmermann had just walked Joe Panik, but had retired his previous 20 hitters. Williams opted to bring in closer Drew Storen, a move that backfired when Storen gave up a single to Buster Posey and a Pablo Sandoval double that tied the game. Williams acknowledged Sunday that the decision stuck with him long after the 18-inning affair ended.

"Anytime you make a decision on something and it doesn't work, you kick yourself," Williams said. "I kicked myself on that. That's human nature."

Williams, though, said he remained comfortable with his reasoning for the decision. He said Posey's previous at-bats against Zimmermann suggested Storen would be the better match-up for Washington, and that having given Zimmermann a chance at the complete game, it was "standard practice" to have his closer up and ready when a runner reached base in a one-run game.

"Now, could you say that it was the wrong move? Of course you can," Williams said. "Could you say it was the right move? Yes, you could say that as well. It didn't work out. That being said, yeah, I kick myself for bringing Drew in and having him tie the game.

"Beyond that, we had nine more innings to win it. So that's how I look at it.

"Could it have been over if one of those two guys makes an out? Yeah, it would've been over. Beyond that, I don't want Drew coming into the game with first and second and two out. I want to give him opportunity to get Posey.

"He didn't. And Sandoval hit a ball down the line. So it happened, that's baseball. What can you do about it except adjust from there and go on?"

Bochy, meanwhile, was asked to talk about a couple of moves that did work. One was bringing in Hunter Strickland, who threw his first pitch in the majors on Sept. 1, in a pair of high-pressure situations in the first two games. Strickland diffused a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the sixth inning of Game 1 and recorded the save in the 18th in Game 2.

As Strickland hadn't pitched above Double-A before September, Bochy credited the Giants' scouting department and minor-league staff with providing an accurate read about Strickland's stuff and makeup.

"We thought he could handle it, and he's done very well with that, starting from day one," Bochy said of the hard-throwing rookie. "I have no problems bringing him in any situation."

Bochy was also asked about using Yusmeiro Petit over Tim Lincecum in long relief on Saturday. Petit entered in the 12th and went six innings, allowing one hit. Bochy's simple explanation -- Petit had a better year, and is also "a little more accustomed to that long role."

That said, Bochy said Lincecum was going to enter the game if the Giants hadn't taken the lead in the 18th. And with Petit most likely not available again until Tuesday at the earliest, Lincecum will be the long-relief option in Game 3.

The Giants have a chance to win this series Monday, and it was pointed out to Bochy and Bumgarner that of their six postseason series wins in 2010 and 2012, they clinched only one at home -- the 2012 NLCS against the Cardinals, in the infamous rain game.

Asked what he thinks the atmosphere at AT&T Park will be like for Game 3, Bochy said he expects the same energy of a regular-season sell-out crowd -- and then some.

"It's going to be a little different tomorrow and these guys know it," Bochy said. "I know they're looking forward to coming out here. This is why you play the game. This is what it's about and it's what you work hard for from spring training."

It's a pretty good situation for a team to be in, having a chance to clinch at home behind their staff ace. In Bumgarner's case, though, there was the oddity this season of his home-road splits, which for much of the year were wildly better away from AT&T Park.

Bumgarner finished 7-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 15 home starts, but those numbers got much better in the second half. When July ended, Bumgarner's home ERA was 5.60.

The Giants and Bumgarner wrote that off all season as circumstantial, and one more time, Bumgarner repeated that Sunday.

"I think it was more coincidence more than anything," he said. "You know, some of those games, obviously I wasn't making very good pitches. I think that's all it comes down to is it just happened to work out that way (at home), which is odd."

Tomorrow's print story focuses on Brandon Belt and his road from missing weeks to a concussion in August and September to the dramatic game-winning homer in the 18th on Saturday night. The notebook touches on Game 3 being a rematch of the second game of the 2012 World Series in terms of starting pitching and one of the more memorable (and scary) moments from that game -- Fister taking a line drive off the head, and staying in.

During Bochy's media session, a reporter started to ask a question about having "the privilege" of playing the longest game in postseason history in Game 2.

"What an honor," Bochy deadpanned.

He'll take the result, though, as it leaves the Giants within one win of moving on to the N.L. Championship Series. It's Bumgarner vs. Fister in Game 3 on Monday with first pitch -- still TBA. If the Royals beat the Angels tonight, the Giants play at 2 p.m.; if not, the game's at noon. Stay tuned.

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