To those unfamiliar with the managerial genius of the Giants’ Bruce Bochy, the decision to turn to Tim Lincecum with two outs in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night might have seemed a tad overzealous.
Sure, Lincecum has been dynamite out of the bullpen this fall, but it’s not like the wheels were falling off for Ryan Vogelsong. He likely could have gotten the same fly ball to right field and at least started the seventh.
Vogelsong, though, is like the rest of us who have been marveling at Bochy’s knack for the right move at the right time for a few years now when it comes to the Giants’ bullpen.
Vogey didn’t say boo when Bochy came out to get him. He took his spot in the dugout, intently watched Lincecum do what he’s been doing as a reliever throughout this magical postseason run, and knowingly nodded his head when it was all over.
Lincecum did much the same thing when Bochy decided 2¹?³ innings of brilliance was quite enough, turning the ninth inning over to Sergio Romo.
Could Lincecum have closed things out? The way he was killing the Detroit Tigers with his assortment of diving darts? Absolutely. And it would have been a pretty cool addendum to an already immensely cool story: former Cy Young starter earns World Series save.
But Bochy doesn’t consider the cool factor when he pushes buttons, pulls triggers and strolls to and from the mound. He considers two things and two only.
1. What’s going to lead to winning this game?
2. What’s the right thing to do as it applies to his guys?
That the first requirement was satisfied in both of the aforementioned instances was obvious. The Giants won the game, moving to within a triumphant Sunday night in Detroit from capping what will, without question, go down as the most improbable, remarkable and inspiring playoff run in the game’s incredible history.
That the second requirement was satisfied in both instances takes a bit of explaining, but it tells you all you need to about why every man in a Giants uniform will happily take 30 minutes out of any given day to wax admirable about Bochy and what he means to this team’s success on the field and in the clubhouse.
“Bochy,” Barry Zito has told me on more than several occasions, “is perfect for this team. … He’s so easy to respect, and when you respect your manager, you want to work your ass off for him. And when you work your ass off, and you have big-league talent, good things usually happen.”
“He’s incredible,” Marco Scutaro told me two weeks after he got to San Francisco. “Everyone I know who’s played for him told me, after I got traded here, that I’m gonna love this guy. And I do. Everyone does.”
Handing the ball to Lincecum was the right thing to do by both Lincecum and Vogelsong. Mostly Vogelsong.
It was doing right by Lincecum and that it showed confidence, and I think we’re all pretty clear on how much the 2012 version of Lincecum feeds off confidence. It was the right thing to do by Vogelsong because by lifting him at that moment, the worst thing that could happen — Lincecum gives up a homer — was that Vogelsong would be charged with one earned run and take a no-decision. Had he left Vogelsong in, he would have exposed him to getting tagged for two runs and a blown lead.
Still just a no-decision, but quite a different feel to it.
The decision to lift Lincecum? Worst case again, it protected him from a blown save — and suddenly crushed confidence. But more than anything, it was doing right by Romo.
He’d have understood if Lincecum had been allowed to finish, of course. Romo is the ultimate team guy. But even ultimate team guys have egos, and Romo has earned the ninth inning, the World Series saves. And you can bet the house he appreciated that Bochy gave him what he’s earned.
Mychael Urban, host of “Inside The Bigs” (9 a.m. to noon Saturdays) on 95.7 FM The Game, can be followed on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.