Managers show their mettle in dramatic NLCS Game 2

The Giants were the Giants, scoring a monster run late in the game in borderline ridiculous fashion. The Cardinals were the Cardinals, blasting ridiculous late home runs out of the blue.

Only because the St. Louis Cardinals were the home team did they end up victorious, sending the National League Championship Series to San Francisco deadlocked through two thrilling games.

Had the Giants gotten another crack at it, you just know they would've found another crazy way to score. But they didn't have what we all used to call “last licks,” so they'll have to wait for Tuesday's Game 3 at AT&T Park.

Meanwhile, now seems like as good a time as any to sit back and marvel at the managerial magic being performed in both dugouts. To watch the Giants' Bruce Bochy and the Cardinals' Mike Matheny work is to watch the very definition of subtle genius. The late drama in Game 2 obscured a series of events in the middle of the contest that you'll never see in a game run by, say, Matt Williams or Don Mattngly.

It started with Yadier Molina's first career sacrifice bunt, in the fourth inning. It put runners at second and third, sure, but it also represented a huge show of confidence in rookie Randal Grichuk, who laced an RBI single after the intentional walk that Matheny knew damn well was coming after Molina's bunt.

Your move, Bruce. Scary Matt Carpenter up with two out, bags juiced. Yank Jake Peavy? Nope. Bochy, as he always seems to do, stuck with his guy, and his faith in Peavy paid off.

It's no coincidence that Matheny spent some time in a Bruce Bochy dugout. He likely learned from Bochy the incredible value of such gestures, and as a result he has what Bochy has enjoyed for years: A clubhouse full of men who trust him absolutely, who'll run through the proverbial walls for him, who'd rather chew glass than disappoint their skipper.

Were Matheny not every bit as revered among his charges as is Bochy, Molina steps out of the batter's box upon seeing that bunt sign and says, “Dude, I'm Yadier Molina. I hit. I don't bunt. Even if I can't run, I can — and will — hit.”

But Matheny does have that kind of respect. Guys tend to buy what you're selling when you lead them to the NLCS in each of your first three years at the helm.

Bochy ended up pinch-hitting for Peavy the very next half-inning, getting an RBI groundout from Joaquin Arias, so in essence he got positive outcomes on three very important fronts. Peavy prevented further damage by retiring Carpenter to end the fourth, the lead was cut in half almost immediately thereafter, and everyone in the Giants' dugout got yet another glimpse of their manager's loyalty and wizardry working in wonderful, respect-enhancing concert.

That kind of thing is a spirit-lifter, a confidence-booster, and again no coincidence: Jeremy Affeldt blitzed through a 1-2-3 bottom of the frame, and the Giants tied it up with a two-out knock in the sixth. That the knock came from Hunter Pence, Bochy's favorite player whether he'll publicly admit it or not, was an added bonus.

And an inning later, after an insanely good sacrifice bunt by Juan Perez, Gregor Blanco made it 3-2 by finally justifying the seemingly unending faith Bochy has shown in him throughout a brutally unproductive postseason.

This stuff isn't happenstance, folks. It's why you're starting to read national stories from major media outlets about Bochy's Cooperstown credentials.

You might be seeing the same kind of thing in regards to Matheny someday. Bottom seven, he turns to — i.e., shows questionable-from-the-outside faith in — 22-year-old Oscar Taveras. Boom. Tie game.

Uncanny. Yet somehow far from shocking. Bochy and Matheny matching wits is modern baseball's version of Karpov vs. Kasparov, circa 1985.

Craziness came after the aforementioned series of moves, the Giants tying the game in the top of the ninth while down to their final strike by scoring a rookie pinch-runner from second base on a wild pitch, the Cardinals getting a stunner of a walk-off homer from Kolten Wong.

Bummer for the Giants, but pretty sweet for those of us clinging to the notion that baseball is the one pro sport in which the head man often has more impact on a game than the players.

St. Louis' victory means this bad boy is going at least three more games, and the more we get to watch Bochy and Matheny lock horns, the better.

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