SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy has declined to alter his starting rotation for Game 4 of the World Series, even though the Giants trail Kansas City two games to one and a sense of urgency is at hand. Bochy is sticking with Ryan Vogelsong because of his faith in the veteran righty and his hesitancy to push staff ace Madison Bumgarner to pitch once and possibly twice more against the Royals on short rest.
That arrangement is perfectly fine with Bumgarner, who denied a social media report that he told teammates he would be pitching Game 4 and would "not take no for an answer."
Even before the Giants took the field for a 3-2 loss to the Royals on Friday night, Bochy was asked about the possibility of using Bumgarner three times should the Series go seven games. Bochy acknowledged that he has discussed the idea with pitching coach Dave Righetti before reiterating that Vogelsong was ticketed to be the Giants' Game 4 starter "right now."
But the idea of a flip-flop in the order and a quick turnaround for Bumgarner gained currency when Peter Gammons shared the following item on his Twitter account early in Game 3:
Before the game, Bumgarner told teammates, "my pitching tomorrow is not an issue. I am. I will not take no for an answer."
- Peter Gammons (@pgammo) October 25, 2014
That quote came as a surprise to Bumgarner, who emerged from the shower after the San Francisco clubhouse had cleared and told ESPN.com and several Giants beat reporters that he never lobbied Bochy to start Saturday on short rest. He also distanced himself from any of the comments in question.
"I didn't tell anybody that," Bumgarner said. "Nobody. I didn't say anything even remotely close to that. I want it to be straightened up, because I don't know where that came from.
"I've been here with [Vogelsong] since 2011, and obviously we've seen what he can do. There's nobody I'd rather have out there more than him."
It's only natural that Bochy and his staff would at least consider the idea of riding Bumgarner, who was his usual dominant self in San Francisco's 7-1 victory in the Series opener Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Bumgarner's World Series scoreless streak ended at 21⅓ innings on a solo homer by Salvador Perez, but he pitched out of some early jams and threw 71 of his 106 pitches for strikes over seven innings.
The performance strengthened Bumgarner's case as the preeminent money pitcher on the landscape in October. Going back to 2010, when he emerged as a precocious, 20-year-old rookie, Bumgarner is 6-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 12 postseason appearances.
But Bumgarner has thrown 256 innings between 2014's regular season and postseason, compared with 201⅓ innings in 2013, and Bochy, Righetti and the Giants' staff are wary of riding him into the ground. Bumgarner has never pitched on three days' rest in the big leagues, and the Giants would be asking him to potentially do it twice on the biggest stage at a time when he is undoubtedly fatigued.
"It's been a long postseason, and he's had a lot of starts," Bochy said. "So we're going to keep things in order and go with Vogey.
"[Bumgarner] is going to say he's available. That's who he is. But it's not like he pushed real hard. If Madison pitched tomorrow, we're still going to have to pitch somebody the next day."
Despite the romantic notion of the big-time ace gutting it out on short rest in October, it's simply not done very often these days. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, starting pitchers are 5-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 12 starts on three days' rest over the past 15 seasons.
Bochy's resistance to making such a big change reflects his even-tempered approach and faith in his players. There are adjustments based on circumstances -- such as Kansas City manager Ned Yost's decision to start Jarrod Dyson in center field and move Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas up in the batting order, as he did Friday night. And there are knee-jerk, panic moves in the postseason, and Bochy probably would be leaning in that direction if he moved up Bumgarner a day and then had to come back with Vogelsong on Sunday in Game 5.
Bochy will now place his faith in Vogelsong to pull the Giants even against Jason Vargas in Game 4, and the Giants can live with that scenario. Vogelsong has a career 3-0 record and a 2.16 ERA in six postseason starts, and he's especially comfortable at AT&T Park. The St. Louis Cardinals cuffed him around in a 6-4 victory at AT&T in the National League Championship Series, but it was an aberration for Vogelsong, who posted a 3.06 ERA in 16 home starts this season compared with a 5.10 ERA in 16 starts on the road.
In keeping with the Giants' staff demeanor, Vogelsong is soft-spoken, determined and all business on game day. If the Royals beat him, it won't be for a lack of will.
"He does his homework," reliever Jeremy Affeldt said, "and he competes. He's going to be ready. He's going to be focused. He'll be driven. He does well in these situations.
"Boche has always shown trust in a lot of us. He knows which guys have been through the fire with him, and he's very faithful to those guys. We trust Boche and the decisions he's making. A lot of us have had success in our careers since we've been here because of the trust he's shown towards us."
Sometimes the chess games take place in the sixth or seventh inning, and sometimes it happens between games when managers make out their lineup cards or determine who's pitching. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly started Clayton Kershaw on short rest in the NL Division Series against St. Louis, and Kershaw was sailing along with six shutout innings before Los Angeles' season imploded. Now the World Series has arrived, and Bochy is adhering to his original plan and staying the course.
When Bumgarner returns to pitch Sunday, it will either be to save the Giants' season or send them back to Kansas City with a 3-2 Series lead. Either way, the Royals will get the best he has to offer. Of that, there can be no doubt.