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SAN FRANCISCO -- Here's something you don't see every game. Both managers yanking their starting pitcher in the fifth inning. And both doing so with the lead in hand.
'Tis the season for bold thinking and second-guessing. Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel both exposed themselves to the possibility of the latter in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park. Bochy's move backfired, Manuel's proved magnificent.
You just wouldn't know that by the final score.
The Giants won this gem of a game, 6-5, in spite of Bochy's fifth-inning maneuvering, one of the few series of moves that hasn't gone his way this postseason. They had taken an early 2-0 lead on Joe Blanton, and Madison Bumgarner was in bend-but-don't-break mode on the mound through four.
With the Phillies offense continuing to lean toward anemic, especially with runners in scoring position, the rookie Bumgarner, the fourth-youngest pitcher to start an LCS game, appeared to be in prime position to earn the biggest win of the season, to date.
Bochy saw something else, though. He saw Bumgarner working his way out of trouble and working up his pitch count along the way. And in the fifth, he saw Bumgarner letting two on, then serving up what was nearly a game-tying single to Shane Victorino. Ben Francisco scored easily on the play, but center fielder Aaron Rowand's strike home, and Buster Posey's perfect play on the short-hop prevented Carlos Ruiz from doing the same.
When Chase Utley's line-drive single put two on once again, Bochy had seen enough. He pulled Bumgarner and turned to Santiago Casilla with the lead at 2-1 and two out.
"He wasn't as sharp with his command and gave up four pretty good line drives there, and he wasn't quite getting it where he wanted," Bochy said of Bumgarner. "So that's why I went out and got him."
Bumgarner was, well, bummed.
"I was definitely a little erratic there," he admitted. "They were starting to put some hits together. But obviously, I wanted to stay in. You never want to come out in a situation like that."
Bochy believed in his bullish bullpen and Casilla, specifically. Barring a major case of mistaken identity, this was the same Casilla who stranded 41 of 47 inherited runners this season and who posted a sparkling 1.95 ERA. The same Casilla who had worked two scoreless innings thus far this postseason.
It might have been the same Casilla, but it was a much different result.
This was a move that took just five pitches to go awry. Placido Polanco lined a two-run double to center to score the pair, and the Phillies took a 3-2 lead. Bochy then ordered an intentional walk of Ryan Howard -- a questionable decision, considering Howard had struck out in 11 of his previous 23 at-bats. He preferred Casilla face Jayson Werth with two on. As it turned out, Werth got a free bag, too, because the suddenly erratic Casilla plunked him with a pitch to load the bases.
It got worse. Casilla uncorked a wild pitch that wound up about 10 rows into the stands. Polanco scored, and Howard and Werth advanced. With that, the Phillies had not only erased a 2-0 deficit in the fifth but also taken a 4-2 lead.
Should Bochy have shown more faith in his starter in that situation? Well, some would argue the point. But not Manuel, for he also made a proactive pull in the bottom of the inning.
After Blanton issued a leadoff walk to Andres Torres, an Edgar Renteria groundout moved the runner over. Blanton retired Freddy Sanchez, but Aubrey Huff burned him with an RBI single to cut the lead down to 4-3.
This time, it was Manuel who had seen enough of this battle of No. 4s. He pulled the plug on Blanton and summoned Jose Contreras.
"It's a situation where we're down, 2-1 [in the series]," Blanton said. "Maybe in the regular season it's a different story or maybe if we're up 2-1, it's a different story. In a do-or-die situation, you have to do whatever you can to try and win."
Good move. Due up was Buster Posey, who was clearly clued into Blanton, having socked an RBI single in the first and an RBI double in the third. Best to avoid the trifecta, and Contreras disposed of the rookie on a nasty 3-2 slider that Posey swung at and missed.
Advantage, Phillies. And advantage, Manuel.
But briefly. Because of the early pulls, this pivotal game became a battle of the bullpens. The Giants proved slightly sturdier in that department, and Manuel's decision to use Roy Oswalt on two days' rest in the ninth led to another round of second-guessing and, most importantly, a loss.
This was a night that once again proved the unpredictability of the postseason, a time when the unconventional becomes the conventional and great games lead to great debates. And on this night, Bochy and the Giants survived a frightful fifth.