Bochy Ball No Match for Power Ball

The ALCS and the NLCS shared a common theme……. scrappy underdog knocks off power-hitting behemoth in six games. But while the Rangers whipped the Yankees in every facet – pitching, hitting, base-running – the Giants nipped the Phillies with a large dose of intangibles, headed by the strategems of their manager, Bruce Bochy.

Not since Joe Torre pulled rabbits out of a hat for the Yankees in 1996 have a manager’s decisions figured so prominently in the outcome of a playoff series. From the three double-switches he employed to pull out a gut-wrenching game four to his yanking of starter Jonathan Sanchez in the third inning of game six, Bochy could do no wrong. The four left-handers he employed in succession to follow Sanchez shut out the Phillies; and Juan Uribe, a replacement for Pedro Sandoval at third, clinched the series with an eighth inning homer.

Bochy stacked his playoff roster with four lefthanders in the bullpen, a strategy designed to stifle the primarily left-handed hitting Phillies. And it worked. Lefty Javier Lopez retired Phillies Utley and Howard in 11 of 12 late-inning at bats. He rotated the left side of his infield among Renteria, Sandoval, and Uribe as if he were Carnak. When for the first time in the series a Bochy experiment failed, he lifted starter Tim Lincecum just in time from his eighth inning relief role in game six in favor of closer Brian Wilson for a five-out save.

The Rangers needed no managerial histrionics to batter the Yankees, whom they outscored 38-19, out-hit (.304 vs. .201) and out-pitched (3.06 era vs. 6.58 era). Quietly, without fanfare, they have crept up on the rest of the league to become the best team in baseball. They’ve got all the qualities.

The Rangers’ regular starting lineup, one through seven, has no weaknesses. Elvis Andrus, leading off, is an on-base machine and a terror on the basepaths. Second place hitter Michael Young is a former batting champion. Three through five, Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero, and Nelson Cruz are the toughest mid-section in baseball. Cruz, 30, and earning a mere $440,000.00 this year, is the most under-valued player in the game. He may be next year’s home-run champion.

The Rangers field their position well, take the extra base, and feature the best post-season pitcher of modern times, Cliff Lee. They are a team without weaknesses, if you will forgive the occasional lapse in their bullpen. But if the Yankees (aside from game 1) could not exploit the Rangers’ pen, how can we expect the light-hitting Giants to inflict any damage?

With the DH in effect in games three through five, Bochy will have less opportunities to display his managerial magic. The Giants’s lefty-stacked bullpen may be less effective against the primarily right-handed Texans. With all due respect to rabbits foots and lucky charms, I’ll take home run power over mystical power any day.

Rangers in six.

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