The morning after Santiago Casilla blew his ninth save — tied for most in baseball — Bruce Bochy spent much of his pregame press conference discussing his plans for the ninth inning.
While the San Francisco Giants’ famously supportive manager had plenty of nice things to say about Casilla, the takeaway was clear: Derek Law and Hunter Strickland will be his guys in the ninth for now.
“I know it’s been rough for Casilla,” Bochy said of the right-hander, who has allowed 9 ER in his last 10 innings. “In fairness to him, that’s some pretty bad luck. He made a great pitch there [against Randal Grichuk] and another couple of feet and we’d all be smiling right now, but it’s time to tweak it a little bit.”
After Law retired the final two outs of the eighth inning on Saturday night — with his curveball looking sharp as ever — Bochy praised the work of the rookie.
“He got outs. He gave us what we needed there,” Bochy said. “He faced a tough lefty and got him out, so that was huge in a one-run ballgame.”
“I think he’s getting more comfortable,” the manager added. “So I’m comfortable pitching him in the eighth or ninth now that he’s got a couple of outings under his belt.”
Strickland will also get his looks in the ninth — even if he’s been part of the team-wide struggle in that late frames. Since Aug. 13, the pen has racked up a 6.19 ERA in the ninth inning and later, while compiling a 1.45 ERA in all other innings.
“I’m not saying Law’s the closer,” Bochy said. “But with and Strick, they’re going to be more in the mix in the eighth and ninth.”
Recognizing that he’ll still need to call on Casilla to get big outs at some point between now and the end of the season, Bochy made a point to pump up his maligned reliever.
“Well, you’ve got to stay behind these guys,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where we’re at in the ninth inning — who’s available, but I’ve still got to use him to help win ballgames. He’s got the stuff. Last night he had good stuff and the night before he threw very well. That was encouraging. He looked like he was back on track.”
Unprompted, Bochy also brought up the boos that rained down in the ninth.
“With that said, it’s probably time to give him a little break here,” Bochy said. “Of course, he went out there and heard some of the hooting on him. And I’m sure it affected him a little bit — I’m thinking. But with the stuff that he has and his experience, he’s still in the mix.”
—Bochy also backed up Angel Pagan, who’s become an increasing liability with his glove. In the top of the ninth on Saturday night, Pagan was nowhere to be found when Stephen Piscotty sent a popup into shallow left field. Brandon Crawford had to scramble to bail out the left fielder with a sliding over-the-shoulder catch.
The manager hedged when asked if he’d be more aggressive in calling in Gregor Blanco or Gorkys Hernandez to replace Pagan in late-game situations.
“Really, the game will depend on it or not,” Bochy explained. “You don’t want to take out a guy that’s in the flow of the game. I don’t like to do that very often. Blanco is a guy that can help give an outfielder a break or Hernandez.”