October 12, 2012
NLDS Recap: Giants Defeat the Reds
If you put enough gas in your spaceship and just keep flying, you’ll eventually get to a planet that looks just like this one. There’s a guy just like you and one just like me, and every letter the guy like you is reading was written exactly like the letters that I am actually writing. The only difference is that, on the other planet, Hideki Matsui was looking for a changeup, but Pedro Martinez threw him a fastball, and Matsui took it for a called strike three. The Red Sox kept their three-run lead. And it took eight years before Grady Little was ultimately scapegoated for a Boston loss and pushed out.
On Thursday, Bruce Bochy had a Grady Little situation. It wasn’t perfectly comparable, because Cain wasn’t throwing his 125th pitch or anything, but he was presiding over the quick destruction of a six-run lead. He had allowed two runs in the fifth, then a solo homer to lead off the sixth, then a single, then a walk. Before the walk, he got a visit from the dugout, and you’d have thought he was on a short leash, but Bochy left him in for one more batter after the walk. Cain fell behind 2-0, but on the eighth pitch to Ryan Hanigan...
For good measure, Dusty Baker had sent both runners, and just like that the Giants’ odds of winning the game went from around 73 percent to around 86 percent. Maybe this planet is the “other” planet, the alternative planet where Cain gets out of it instead of allowing a two-run double to Hanigan. Maybe Bochy’s process was wrong. Maybe he was nuts to put his season to the test on Matt Cain’s fastball. Cain had no command of the pitch in the inning; he had thrown 23 pitches in the inning, just nine of them fastballs, and by the time Hanigan came up he started the Reds’ catcher with five sliders and a curve. Strike three was, for that matter, not even in the strike zone.
But process only matters when we’re trying to predict the future. As far as it goes for Bochy, there is only one planet, we only play that inning out once, and he got it right.