SAN FRANCISCO -- So you want to be a manager? Well, put yourself in Bud Black’s shoes and give yourself a few seconds -- because that’s all the time you’re given to make most critical moves -- before settling on your decision.
Black, who manages the Colorado Rockies, faced an intriguing option in the fifth inning of his ballclub’s 4-2 loss Tuesday night to the San Francisco Giants. With two outs, runners on the corners and the Giants leading, 3-1, Black chose not to use a pinch-hitter for starting pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez. It was a purely defensible call. No manager wants to begin draining his bullpen that early. Gonzalez, Black believed, could be counted on for at least two more effective innings.
Noting that he had a reliever warming up in case he did use a pinch-hitter, Black said, “If there would have been bases loaded ... maybe with guys on second and third, we might have approached it a little different.”
But Black had no way of knowing that the Rockies would go hitless after David Dahl’s two-out bloop double in the sixth inning scored Charlie Blackmon. In no way did declining to pinch-hit for Gonzalez propel the Rockies to a defeat. Still, it was one of those roads not taken that nag managers at day’s end.
“Those are the tough calls at times,” Black said, acknowledging that “there was thought” to batting for Gonzalez.
As it turned out, the Rockies’ fate was already sealed. Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner delivered a vintage performance, striking out a season-high 11 in six innings while limiting the Rockies to three hits and both of their runs. Bumgarner improved his lifetime record to 16-8 against Colorado, his highest victory total against any opponent.
“Just doing his thing,” said Black, who expressed admiration for Bumgarner’s competitiveness before the game. “A little different style than early MadBum. But [he] still [had] life to the fastball [and a] slider-cutter that comes into play against the lefties. Pitches in well, can get the ball away. Keeps the ball down overall. There’s some deception. Big guy [throwing] across his body, big arm action. There’s a lot of reasons why he has success.”
Colorado’s lineup included three left-handed batters, who faced a challenge against Bumgarner.
“He’s very funky, left-on-left,” Dahl said. “He’s not a comfortable at-bat. He looks like he’s kind of throwing behind you. So it’s not easy. You gotta stay in there.”
Making his first big league appearance since July 7, 2016, due to a rocky recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery, Gonzalez stayed in there nicely. He absorbed the decision but kept the Rockies competitive, surrendering three runs and six hits in five innings. Two-out RBI singles by Donovan Solano and Bumgarner in the fourth inning proved to be the most telling hits off Gonzalez, who did himself no favors by issuing four walks.
“That’s not going to cut it at any level,” Black said. ”But the ball-strike ratio earlier in the game was great. He came out throwing strikes with all his pitches. Then as the game went on, he got a little scattered with all his pitches and got behind in the count. Some pitches were in the middle of the plate when he had to come in and throw strikes. Overall his stuff, his assortment of pitches, were as we expected, the velocity and the movement. The slider was actually pretty good tonight. There were some encouraging signs.”
Among them was the first inning, when he struck out the side.
“It feels good in my stomach, coming out hot like that,” Gonzalez said. “That’s something I have to maintain throughout my outing -- locating the ball, putting it down in the zone and throwing it where I want it.”