I have a good friend, Matt, who is a die-hard Giants fan. He invited me to the game at AT&T Monday night. I had a lot of fun as the Oakland Athletics won 8-3. I decided to reciprocate by inviting him to the Coliseum Thursday night to watch the A’s try to complete the sweep. Alas, Matt enjoyed this game far more than I did.
Oakland Athletics rookie starter Dillon Overton pitched pretty well in the first two innings, but he got bombed by the Giants as he tried to make his way through the lineup a second time. It was especially galling that the opposing pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, got the Giants’ six run rally started with a ringing double to center. Billy Burns almost made a spectacular play to rob Bumgarner of extra bases.
The A’s bullpen held the Giants down pretty well, but in the top of the ninth, Fernando Rodriguez gave up four runs on five walks and a hit. Matt and I stayed until the bitter end (bitter for me!) as the Giants won 12-6.
Even though it worked out, I still believe the decision to let Bumgarner hit for himself was a big mistake. First off, there is the overwhelming risk of injury. I do not mean just a “hit-by-pitch” though that is always a danger. I have seen too many players hit a slow roller to shortstop and try to bust it down the line to beat out an infield single.
All too often, the hitter gets halfway to first and then grabs his hamstring or a hitter can come to the plate with the bases loaded. If he grounds a ball down to second, he has to hustle down the line to avoid a double play. Bumgarner actually did ground into an inning-ending double-play in the top of the sixth. He did not run hard to beat it out. The Giants had a six run lead so Bumgarner could afford to slowly jog down the first base line. So, one could argue that Bumgarner is smart, and he is not going to take an unnecessary risk so there is little fear of injury.
I would argue, however, that it might be better to have a back up infielder at DH even if he cannot hit as well as Bumgarner. A young, hungry “just up from the minors” hitter, like Ramiro Pena, is going to be playing all out. On Wednesday night, Marcus Semien hit a pop up to short right field and a long fly ball to left. The Giants botched both plays and both times Semien ended up on third base. Semien hustles all the time! He even hustled when he hit his 16th home run of the season.
Bruce Bochy could have given Buster Posey half a day off by letting him DH while Chris Brown caught. Posey tends to get worn down by the the end of the season. A little extra rest never hurt anyone. Heck, Bochy could have put Posey on first base and let Brandon Belt DH. I wonder how Conor Gillaspie felt watch Bumgarner hit after going 6 for 12 in the first three games of the series.
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Here’s another reason why letting the ace of your staff hit is a bad idea. The A’s and the Giants have a pretty friendly rivalry, but what if the game got out of hand and an A’s pitcher plunked a Giants hitter? Could Bumgarner retaliate knowing that he would have to face an angry pitcher?
Finally, as my friend Matt likes to remind me, this is an even year and the Giants seem to have that “even year” magic going. I think a softball team from the “Little Sisters of the Poor” could win the NL West. The Giants will win the division easily. If the Giants survive the playoffs and get to the World Series, is Bumgarner going to hit for himself at the AL park?
As an A’s fan, naturally I am hoping that the next Bay Area World Championship comes home to Oakland. But if the Giants are in the World Series, I suspect Bochy will use the DH. That tells me this was just a midseason stunt to mollify a prima donna.
Unfortunately, if the Giants do make it to the World Series, A’s fans will have to explain over and over again that a genuine dynasty team makes the playoffs every year.