Bochy: Giants' bullpen provides 'sense of comfort'
ST. LOUIS -- The current Giants bullpen may not be the best Bruce Bochy has managed.
"But it's right up there," he said after Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla recorded the final four outs without incident to support 7 2/3 innings of four-hit ball from Madison Bumgarner in a 3-0 win over the Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night at Busch Stadium.
This Giants bullpen is the sum of all of its parts, rather than built behind one key man.
Casilla and Romo -- who flipped back and forth in the closer's role this season -- are the main righties, and Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt are the two potent lefties. Hard-throwing right-hander Hunter Strickland came up from the Minors in September and is now filling a seventh-inning role.
"We complement each other very well," said Romo, who faced one batter, replacing Bumgarner with two outs and no one on in the eighth and induced Matt Holliday to fly out. "There isn't a guy who stands here and tries to shine brighter than the next one, to be the star, get more limelight. We all are components of a bigger cause. We pitch together. If I can pick up so and so, then so and so can pick me up the next day. It is what it is. We're very unified. I'm just trying to be that complement I know I am."
Romo has been here before. He was Brian Wilson's setup guy back in 2010 as the Giants roared through the postseason, defeating Texas in five games to win the World Series for the first time since 1954. Two years ago, with Wilson out after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Bochy turned to Romo at midseason. When the Giants went on to sweep the Tigers in that World Series, Romo was the closer, and Casilla -- who earned his third save of this postseason on Saturday -- was the setup man.
This season, it all changed again. Even as Bochy tried to find the right mix, the Giants' bullpen was fifth overall in the Majors and third in the NL with a 3.01 ERA. They were fifth in the NL with 46 saves, 23 from Romo and 19 from Casilla. Wilson alone had 48 saves during the 2010 season, six more that postseason.
For five years, through the good times and bad, there has been one common thread binding all these teams together.
"The unselfish way in which they play the game," Bochy said. "Over those years, we've asked guys to assume different roles. I'll start with Barry Zito, we took him off the [postseason] roster [in 2010], and he never complained. Timmy [Lincecum], we took him out of the rotation and put him in the bullpen [both in 2010 and this season], and he never complained. Romo, going to the setup role from closing, not once did he ever come in and complain.
"And there are a lot of other times when we moved guys in the order or changed guys' roles in the bullpen, skipped a guy in the rotation. You know, they have been very unselfish about the moves we had to make. They just thought about winning. That's the only way I think a team can have success, is guys set aside their own agenda and do what's best for the club."
Bochy has had great bullpens before. As manager of the Padres from 1995 to 2006, he spent almost every season with Trevor Hoffman as his closer. Hoffman, the all-time NL leader with 601 saves, had good pitchers setting him up: Scott Linebrink for four seasons, Heath Bell near the end, and Brian Boehringer on the 1998 team that was swept by the Yankees in the World Series.
Bochy has had teams without a lefty reliever and ones that were stacked with specific role players for the seventh, eighth and ninth. But he might not have had the diversity of this year's 'pen.
"They have a lot of experience at doing their jobs, and in the postseason, too," Bochy said. "They really give me a sense of comfort, knowing I can lighten the load on Bumgarner tonight, because he had a pretty stressful [seventh] inning. He was going to start that [eighth] inning, but I knew Romo would come in at some point. And it's nice to have that, where you can maybe give the starter a little break. Because Bum, he gave us all we needed there, and it's nice to have two guys who are comfortable pitching late in the ballgame and in a tight ballgame.
"We're fortunate to have these guys, along with Affeldt and Lopez. Anytime you have those guys who thrive on being out there in a tight game, in a late situation, they certainly help me make my decisions a lot easier."