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July 24, 2013
Bochy joins an exclusive club as Giants split doubleheader

SAN FRANCISCO -- At the end of a really long day of baseball, Giants manager Bruce Bochy shared a hug and a smile with closer Sergio Romo. Romo has closed some of the biggest wins for Bochy's club over the past year, and late Tuesday night he put the final touches on a 5-3 victory over the Reds that was Bochy's 1,500th win as a manager.

Bochy is the 21st manager to reach that milestone. Of the previous 20 who did so, 12 are in the Hall of Fame. Only two active managers have more wins -- the manager Bochy's Giants beat in the World Series last season, Jim Leyland (1,731), and the manager who was across the way in the first-base dugout Tuesday night, Dusty Baker (1,638).

"I'll be honest, I don't know what that number means except the fact I'm fortunate to have been doing this as long as I have," Bochy said. "I'm thankful, grateful. Wish we were in a better situation right now, but still you're blessed I think in this game to be playing it."

Surely, longevity has played a part. Bochy is in his 19th season as a manager and pretty soon he'll be marking his 1,500th career loss too -- his overall record currently stands at 1,500-1,497. But you don't stick around that long by being bad at your job, and Bochy has packed some serious credentials with his two World Series titles, two N.L. Manager of the Year awards, six postseason appearances and a round number like 1,500 wins.

"It's huge," said pitcher Barry Zito. "He's been in this game on both sides, player and coach, and he's done so many things already. I think he's a very underrated manager, maybe because he's kind of a quiet guy, doesn't toot his own horn. It's a very special accomplishment and we're all really happy for him."

Said Romo, who was drafted into the Giants organization: "I don't know any other big-league managers, but from what I see I have no room to complain. He puts us in positions where he feels we can succeed, and I think that's huge for us."

The Giants had three earlier chances to secure the milestone win, including the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader. But a day after being blown out 11-0 in the series opener, the Giants again found themselves trailing the Reds early, this time 7-1 in the third inning as Eric Surkamp couldn't get out of the third in his first big-league start since Tommy John surgery last July.

The Giants lost the opener 9-3, making them winless in five games against the Reds on the season in which they were outscored 34-6. But a 30-minute break and a change of uniforms -- making up a July 4 rainout in Cincinnati, the Giants wore their road uniforms and batted first in the nightcap -- seemed to invigorate them. They scored three times in the first inning against Reds right-hander Greg Reynolds and never trailed.

Bochy, who often praises his players' resiliency, said they were "a little embarrassed" by the first game but had a good energy in the dugout at the start of the second. The result, he said, was "a much-needed win" -- and not for its milestone significance. It snapped a three-game losing streak for the Giants, who finally showed they could hang with a real playoff contender in the Reds, and have a chance at a series split tonight behind Chad Gaudin before they finish this crucial 10-game homestand with three against the Cubs.

"We've had a tough time against this club," Bochy said. "They're a good ballclub and they've beat on us pretty good. ... It was a gutty effort by the whole club, bullpen did a great job. They fought hard, and that's a long day. You get beat up pretty good the first game, and the way they bounced back, I'm proud of them."

* "Gutty," in this case, could have stood for unconventional and a bit stressful for all involved. Zito started but didn't make it out of the fifth inning before giving way to a bullpen that had pitched 11 2/3 innings in the previous two games. The Reds left 14 runners on base. Romo needed to get four outs for his 24th save, including the final three with each batter representing the tying run.

Thanks in large part to the relief efforts of George Kontos (3 1/3 innings in Monday's 11-0 loss) and Yusmeiro Petit (5 1/3 innings in game one Tuesday), though, Bochy was able to use basically his full bullpen arsenal to match up over the final five innings. Crazy as it seems, Bochy said that when he elected to take Zito out with two on and two outs in the fifth and the Reds pinch-hitting right-hander Chris Heisey, he felt comfortable doing so because: "I had a fresh 'pen at that point."

Zito said he was frustrated leaving the game, not with Bochy but with himself for giving up a single to Jay Bruce and an RBI double to Todd Frazier, both with two outs. Bochy said he wanted to get Zito a chance at the win, since he was one out away, but felt the circumstances and Zito's 86 pitches at that point necessitated the change.

"He had some stressful innings there and I just thought I had to make a move," Bochy said. "Sometimes you've got to put your emotions or what you want to happen aside and take what's best for the club."

* Romo nailed down the win with four outs, all on strikeouts. He recorded the final three after allowing a leadoff single to Jay Bruce in the ninth. Asked if he flashed back at all to his epic battle with Bruce in Game 5 of last year's NLDS, Romo laughed and said no. But ...

"When he got the hit I looked at him and was like, all right, nice hit," Romo said. "Glad he got that hit tonight and not - how many months ago?"

* Hunter Pence made a highlight-reel catch in the fourth, diving to his backhand in the gap to take away a hit from Reds catcher Corky Miller. A hit would have given the Reds two runners on with nobody out in a two-run game. Instead, Pence came up with a catch that rivaled the one that preserved Tim Lincecum's no-hitter in San Diego. But that wasn't what Pence was thinking about.

"I made such a terrible play earlier that I was hoping for an opportunity to do something good for Z," Pence said.

The earlier play was a catchable fly off the bat of Brandon Phillips in the third that Pence dropped. Zito pitched out of the two-on, one-out jam without allowing a run.

"He picked me up," Pence said. "It felt good to be able to make that play for him."

Pence was asked to compare the catch with the one from the Lincecum game and said: "I have no idea. It happens kind of fast, those kinds of plays. I think they were both about as far as I can extend."

* Bochy and a few players said it was weird taking the field at AT&T Park in their road uniforms. Though for the superstitious, Romo pointed out, 'We're undefeated in grays at home."

A more serious point Romo made -- after getting handled in the first game, in front of a partial crowd because of the 4:05 p.m. start that gradually filled in throughout the game, batting first in the nightcap gave the Giants a chance to seize some early momentum if they could score first, which they did.

"They were upbeat that first inning, you could feel it," Bochy said. "I think it did a lot for the club to get some runs early."

Little wonder -- it was only the third time this season the Giants have scored three runs in the first inning and the first time since May 4.

* Tomorrow's print story focuses on Surkamp's return to the majors, which admittedly did not go as Surkamp would have liked. The lefty was tagged for seven runs on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings in the first game of the doubleheader and was lifted after 56 pitches.

Afterward Surkamp, who had surgery last July 24 and has made nine minor-league starts this year, made it pretty clear he's not 100 percent back to normal.

"I feel like I'm close," said Surkamp, who made six starts for the Giants late in the 2011 season. "For me right now, it's just I feel a little herky-jerky. I'm just not as fluid, I guess, as I was before. I don't have that whip-back in my arm on my off-speed pitches and stuff like that."

Surkamp said he had trouble locating pitches to the corners after the first inning Tuesday and the Reds made him pay. Brought in as the Giants' 26th player for the doubleheader, Surkamp is headed right back to Fresno, something Bochy confirmed after the second game. Still, Surkamp said, "It was awesome to be back out there.

"Surprisingly I wasn't really that nervous," he said. "The last year's been a long year for me, so it was just exciting to be back out there. ... Unfortunately it didn't turn out better. But if I get a chance to throw up here again, hopefully it goes better."

* A couple housekeeping notes: The Giants announced Joaquin Arias (appendicitis) will begin a rehab assignment on Wednesday with Triple-A Fresno. Also, right-hander Chris Heston, who was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Jeff Francoeur, cleared release waivers and is a free agent.

* Speaking of Francoeur, he started both games in left field Tuesday -- including the nightcap against the right-hander Greg Reynolds. The Giants will need to send somebody down when Arias is ready to return, and if they feel comfortable with Francoeur against righties, it could well be Kensuke Tanaka returning to Fresno. Francoeur did go 0-for-4, though, with four groundouts.

* With how badly the first two games went, Zito said of the doubleheader: "It's good to split." The Giants would feel even better if they could salvage a split of the series behind Gaudin (4-1, 2.15) tomorrow night, with the Reds throwing right-hander Mike Leake (9-4, 2.79). They're currently 3-3 on the homestand, and have a day off Thursday before the Cubs arrive.

Tuesday night was the 100th game of the season, and the Giants arrived at that landmark 46-54. Time is getting short to make a move.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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