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Bochy believes early leads are crucial

ATLANTA -- The Giants entered Sunday with a remarkable 14-1 record when they score first. This, manager Bruce Bochy said, is partly due to the bullpen's ability to fend off opponents.

But, Bochy added, bullpens throughout the National League have become more formidable. There's more urgency to forge ahead immediately, Bochy said, because once the other team's starter is done, the scoring might be finished also.

This influences the composition of a batting order and could reflect the increased prominence of the No. 2 batter, who often is no longer a hit-and-run specialist happy to settle for a single. Teams need to stack their better hitters to increase chances for quick production.

"Some people believe you set your lineup so the [opposing] bullpen can't get its matchup," Bochy said on Sunday. "Obviously, you have to try to score early. You put your guys there and you try to get that early lead."

Asked if he'd prefer a bullpen loaded with relievers who throw fastballs reaching and exceeding 95 mph or pitchers with control and command such as his, Bochy chose the latter.

"It's nice to have a power guy, a guy who can get you a strikeout, who can miss a bat," Bochy said, citing the presence of hard-throwing right-hander Juan Gutierrez in the Giants' bullpen. Jean Machi and Santiago Casilla also are capable of blowing away hitters.

"But if you're asking me what I'd rather have, I'd rather have a guy who can command the fastball as well as anything."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.
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