Should Moore have started the 9th inning in game 4?
It’s been just a little over 48 hours since the Giants’ season came to an end in one of the most gut-punching, low-blow, torturous ways possible. Pouring salt on the fresh and open wound was the fact that the Dodgers somehow, although in the exact same position as the Giants, being down 2-1 at home, won games 4 and 5 by one stinking run, and are now facing the Cubs in the NLCS.
The even-year magic is officially dead.
As a lifelong 42-year old fan of the Giants, this one hurt. It hurt a lot. Ok, not quite as much as 2002, but I’d rank this at #2 on my personal pain index of postseason failures. Sure, they lost in 2000 to the Mets (I was there, by the way), after J.T. Snow hit a game-tying HR off of Armando Benitez in the 9th, but lost it and the series in the 10th. (Why did we ever sign Benitez, anyway). Then there was J.T. Snow getting thrown out at the plate in Florida to end the 2003 NLDS. The 1989 World Series sweep by the A’s, the 1987 collapse against the Cardinals in the NLCS (CANDY MALDONADO!). The 103 wins in 1993.
I’ve been a conscious, breathing, sentient being for all of these failures. However, the magical even years of 2010, 2012 and 2014 essentially erased all of that pain and sorrow, and then some. How many fans have this much surplus in championship gold in baseball? Certainly the turn-of-the century Yankees, and maybe the Red Sox are somewhat close with three in 10 years. Three in five is amazing. Four in seven would have even been more amazing. But, it wasn’t meant to be.
The 9th inning collapse on Tuesday hurt so much, that I literally didn’t sleep. And I tried. I went to bed immediately. Was under the covers by 9:45 pm. I was still awake at 7 am, never having left the bed. Is that okay? Does that mean I have a problem? I broke out in cold sweats imagining how Bochy could’ve altered the outcome, or how perhaps, I could conjure a time machine and literally alter time by planting suggestions in Bochy’s ear or taking a bat to Zobrist’s ankles. I imagined an alternate universe where the Giants won games 4 and 5 (yes, they would have won game 5) and beat the Dodgers in the NLCS and somehow beat the Indians for retribution for the Warriors and their 4th ring.
I love this team too much.
Here’s a question that will never be answered, really: Why not let Moore start the 9th?
Now, many are on board with this idea, and many are not and are fine with the conventional wisdom plan of baseball.
Personally, I was begging for Moore to start the 9th. Implored the baseball gods. But, when I saw that Derek Law was on the bump, I was partly horrified, but also vexed. Bochy said he was going to close with Romo/Smith. Ok, Romo pitched two innings the night prior, but so did Law, so that can’t be the reason why Romo didn’t start the 9th.
Before I get too deep in the “conga line of doom” that Bochy rolled out, let me get back to the Moore hypothesis:
- Moore was CRUISING! He allowed 2 hits through 8 IP, and had struck out 10, while only walking 2. More importantly, he retired the last 8 batters in order! The Giants were out-hitting the Cubs 11-2 after 8 innings!
- The bullpen sucks. Ok, we all know that, and yes, at some point, Bochy would have to have relied on his bullpen in the NLCS and/or World Series. But did he HAVE to in this elimination game? NO!
- If pitch count was a concern, Moore threw 133 pitches in a no-hitter attempt in LA. Of course this game is more important than a no-hitter, it’s an elimination game! Moore could have faced at least one batter, as he was at 120 pitches. He gets on, they go to the pen. He gets him out, he faces another guy. Butterfly effect and shit.
- Moore had not pitched in 9 days since the regular-season closing win against the Dodgers, where Moore had a masterful 8 IP. Of course Romo closed it out, but it was a 6 run lead.
- Moore would probably not have pitched until game 4 of the NLCS on 10/18, meaning he would have had 7 days of rest. Basically, the few extra pitches wouldn’t have mattered much.
- Moore’s OPS against after pitching 101 or more pitches is better than when he pitches less. Basically, in 18 of his 34 starts in 2016 when he went over 101 pitches, he was money.
- DID I MENTION THE BULLPEN SUCKS AND ALSO BLEW THE SAVE THE NIGHT BEFORE?!
Look, it was an elimination game. The type of game where Bochy has brought in Bumgarner to pitch 5 innings (yes, that was game 7 of the World Series). But, you can’t get there if you don’t trust your bullpen, which presents the paradox for Bochy. If he continues to push starters to the brink (Bochy led the league in pitches thrown by starters), it may have a counter-effect on the confidence of the pen. Reality is, the pen failed over and over and over in the second half, and it almost cost them the postseason, and surely cost them the division (and of course, the NLDS), so I don’t think there would have been any psychological effect. I mean, the Giants lost the west by 4 games, but lost 9 games after leading going into the 9th and blew 30 saves overall, far more than the Dodgers.
So, I was surprised to see Law in. Then Kris Bryant hits, what normally would have been an easy ground out to Crawford, but it went in between the shift that the Giants were employing. Then, the quick hook to Lopez. He’s been a saint, a savior, a deft specialist to get that key left hander out. Alas, his age showed as he walked Rizzo, something YOU CAN NEVER DO! Bochy immediately goes to Romo, and he turns Zobrist to the left side, and he hit the only really solid contact of the inning, a double down the right field line that made the score 5-3 and put the tying run at second. This is when my sphincter was in full clinch mode.
Bochy, again!, went to another reliever, Will Smith. Maddon countered with Contreras, who hit a 25 hopper up the middle to score both runs and tie the game. Smith stayed in the game and Heyward had a horrible bunt right back to Smith, who promptly fired to Crawford for the out, but Crawford sailed his throw to Belt for an error, which allowed Heyward to take second, a crucial play. Crawford also had an error earlier in the game which cost the Giants a run, something not to be forgotten.
At this point, the new Giant-killer Baez was coming up, so Bochy went to his fifth and final reliever of the inning, Hunter Strickland. Once again, a not-so-hard-hit-grounder found its way up the middle, delivering Heyward to the plate in what would eventually be the deciding run as Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
We saw it happen so many times this year, including two losses when having three run leads in the ninth. With all the magic that Bochy pulls, he appeared to be the frantic kindergartener in the 9th, playing matchups, something that he stopped doing in mid-September, which seemed to stabilize the bullpen.
No one could be trusted. No one could find a rhythm, no one knew their role.
The ninth inning is special territory, reserved for those who have the mental fortitude or possession of a crazy gene to inherit and thrive under that pressure.
Giants’ brass made it clear that they will pursue a closer this offseason in today’s end of year press conference. How can they not?
There’s a reason we call this site and podcast “TortureCast.”