Bochy's faith in Ishikawa paying dividends
ST. LOUIS -- Travis Ishikawa did a double take at the lineup card Giants manager Bruce Bochy posted for a Sept. 25 game against the Padres. He was hitting seventh, which was no big deal, but the number "7," denoting left field, was listed beside his name.
"I had to look at the lineup card three, four times, and make sure I saw it right," said Ishikawa, a first baseman by trade who had never started a big league game in the outfield. "If [Bochy] thought I could play there, I figured I must be able to play there."
Not only did Ishikawa start three of the Giants' final four regular-season games in left field, but he has started in left field in five of the first six games of the postseason, including the Giants' 3-0 National League Championship Series Game 1 victory against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Saturday night.
And Ishikawa was a key factor in helping the Giants get control of the game early. He singled twice in three at-bats, including fighting off what he called a good pitch from Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright to bloop a single down the left-field line, just out of the reach of the infielders, to put the Giants up, 1-0. He also made a diving catch of a Yadier Molina sinking line drive to end the fourth inning with a runner on first.
Ishikawa and the Giants aren't. It is Bochy's method of madness. When things go astray, he doesn't moan and groan. He doesn't take time to feel sorry for himself. Nope, he figures out a way to put a square peg in a round hole, and somehow makes it fit.
Second baseman Marco Scutaro went down early in the season with a lower back strain, and after a handful of others didn't satisfy the needs at second, the Giants called up Joe Panik, and Panik has provided calmness in the middle infield in addition to hitting .305 in 73 regular-season games.
Center fielder Angel Pagan developed a bulging disk in his back, which eventually required surgery, forcing Bochy to put Gregor Blanco, the utility outfielder, into the lineup on a daily basis. And the Giants didn't miss a beat.
In September, when left fielder Michael Morse strained an oblique muscle, Bochy tried several alternatives in left field before turning to Ishikawa, who was an outfielder his sophomore year in high school but has played first base most of the time since.
Call it blind faith.
Nobody even questions Bochy's mixing and matching anymore.
"We trust Bochy 100 percent," said Ishikawa. "He knows what it takes to win games. If he has confidence in me to go out there, I have confidence I can do it. I'm not going to question him. He has proven he knows what he is doing."
A big league manager for 20 seasons, the last eight with the Giants, Bochy has compiled an all-time record of 1,618-1,604, a .502 winning percentage. He has had a winning record in eight of the last 11 seasons.
And he is in search of his third World Series championship in the last five years, having won the Series with the Giants in 2010 and '12.
"There is something about Bochy's gut or instincts or knowledge," said Ishikawa. "He finds a way to put you in a game in the best possible scenario."
Ishikawa knew that long before this season. He began his career with the Giants, but after spending parts of four seasons in the big leagues, he was at Triple-A Fresno for the entire 2011 season and then left the organization as a Minor League free agent. He spent time during the 2012-13 seasons with the Brewers, Orioles, White Sox and Yankees, at the big league and Minor League levels, and then opened this season with the Pirates.
Released by the Pirates on April 23, Ishikawa passed on interest from other organizations, and signed two days later with the Giants, playing in Fresno until getting a July 29 callup to the big leagues.
"It was an easy decision," Ishikawa said. "I knew the organization, and I trusted [the Giants]. I felt it was my best opportunity, because they knew me and they were light on left-handed bats off the bench. That is a role I handled in 2010. I felt I could do it again."
By season's end, Ishikawa's role was bigger than he could have expected.
He, however, never questioned he could handle it.
Bochy, after all, believed Ishikawa could handle it, and Ishikawa knew better than to question the manager.