Bruce Bochy was tempted. He most assuredly was tempted. His starters can’t through the sixth inning, his players are staring at a hole – the history isn’t pretty – and his ace is campaigning to pitch on short rest and throw the Giants right back into this best-of-seven World Series.
But it is not happening. Madison Bumgarner has to wait until Sunday. Ryan Vogelsong starts Game 4 today because Bumgarner has thrown a ton of innings, because Vogelsong has been here before, and because changing up after Friday’s defeat to to the Kansas City Royals reeks of panic. Or something. Perhaps, a loss of faith or a lack of decent alternatives. It’s not happening.
“He (Bochy) always shows a lot of faith in all of us,” catcher Buster Posey said after the 3-2 defeat at AT&T Park. “We’ve got all the confidence in the world in Vogey.”
The truth of the matter is, the franchise that relied on its starters to throw well and throw deep into games, that at various times these past four years rode the powerful arms of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Vogelsong and Bumgarner, among others, to two World Series titles, is stitched together and staring at a 2-1 series deficit against a fast, formidable opponent.
Arms. Legs. Feet. Someone should name a sneaker after these kids. The Royals don’t have an overpowering rotation, either, but their bullpen has been virtually unhittable and their combination of speed, defense and versatility has the Giants on their heels in a World Series for the first time in the Bochy era. They have been down 2-1 in the Series eight times, but not once, not even once, under their current longtime manager. And while Bochy won’t tell you what he was really thinking – how seriously he debated turning to his ace for Game 4 – he hinted at a sleepless night.
“It’s (Royals approach) more like a National League team,” he said. “They do the little things. Their defense played very well. (Lorenzo) Cain made a couple of nice plays out there. (But) I don’t care if you’re in the National League or American League. If you pitch well, you probably have a chance to win the game.”
The way the Giants are hitting – or the way the Royals are pitching – the starters have to be nearly perfect. Yet they only squeezed five innings and two batters out of Jake Peavy in Game 2, and in Game 3, watched Tim Hudson also last only into the sixth before allowing consecutive hits to Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon, and giving way to reliever Javier Lopez.
Hudson’s start was not unlike Peavy’s: Decent, but not dominant, and not long enough. The veteran righthander, who was making his World Series debut, opened the game with a belt-high fastball that Alcides Escobar drilled for a double into left. The Royals shortstop scored the first run on consecutive groundouts for an early 1-0 Kansas City lead.
“Normally pitchers don’t get swung at on the first pitch of the ballgame,” Hudson said afterward, “but it’s a pitch that can be hit. He got me in a jam right off the get-go.”
As Hudson settled down and began mixing his pitches and throwing his fastballs down and away, per the game plan, he matched Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie and cruised along.
At times it was if the game was scripted by the baseball gods. The weather was cool, but clear, the sky a brilliant blue until a bank of clouds shrouded the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance. Unlike the lopsided outings in Kansas City, Game 3 was fraught with deep breathing moments and spectacular plays by both clubs.
There was excellent relief pitching, an exceptional sliding catch in left by Travis Ishikawa, and running grabs by the usual characters. Catcher Salvador Perez bare-handed Gregor Blanco’s one-bounce bunt in the eighth and threw a perfect strike to nab him at first. Cain – who Bochy compared with former Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Garry Maddox – made two terrific catches in the deep part of the park, then was robbed of a double when Hunter Pence chased down a line drive that angled dangerously toward the corner.
More? Pablo Sandoval pulled an Eric Hosmer one-hopper out of the air and fired his own laser for the out at first, Perez threw out Pence trying to steal second, and one Royals reliever after another set down the Giants.
But Bochy isn’t budging. He isn’t changing. Vogelsong, another of his veteran-laden rotation, gets the start on Saturday.
“Sure, we’ve talked about other options,” he said, “but there is a confidence we have in Vogey. He’s set to go.”
Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin,