The Texas Rangers swept the Phillies on Sunday night and start 3-0 for the 2023 season. It was a dominant weekend from the Rangers offense and pitching staff. It also was a great weekend in the dugout from manager Bruce Bochy. Time after time he made the right moves when it mattered and put his players in a position to succeed and win the game that day.
The modern era of baseball the role of manager has been minimized to just doing what the front office says. Analytics has played such an important role that in the last ten years many of the decisions made by a manager have already been made by the front office and relayed to the manager. Managers have been reduced to playing the percentages rather than managing with their gut. It does seem like the pendulum is swinging back toward experienced managers. Buck Showalter led the Mets back to the playoffs last season, Dusty Baker led the Astros to the World Series title last season. Now Bruce Bochy is back and has the Rangers playing their best baseball since 2019.
Bochy this weekend showed an innate ability to make the right call at the right time. He made defensive substitutions at the right time on Opening Day to help secure that win. Sunday night was just a managerial masterclass to help the Rangers hold onto a 2-1 win. Here are a few key moves he made.
Managerial Masterclass Moves
He brought Perez back out for the 6th even with an elevated pitch count. Perez got two outs and was one out away from a quality start. Previous managers might have let him go for the individual accomplishment at the risk of the team winning. Bochy went out and got him and brought in Brock Burke. Burke got out of the inning on the tremendous play made by Nathaniel Lowe in foul territory.
Burke was brought back for the 7th. He got Trea Turner to fly out, then Schwarber got his first hit of the series. That brought up J.T. Realmuto. Burke was at seven pitches and had only pitched to 3 batters. Bochy could have saved Hernandez for the eighth inning. Instead he brought in Jonathan Hernandez who has a hard sinker. Hernandez proceeded to force Realmuto into a double play grounder to end the top of the 7th inning.
The top of the 8th comes and that is when Bochy decides to bring in his defensive replacements. He moves Garcia to right field, brings in Travis Jankowski to play center field, and moves Robbie Grossman to left field. The Phillies have spent this entire series attacking the right field corner. Garcia immediately makes a basket catch on a ball that was near the wall in the right field corner. It is play that is not likely to be made by Grossman.
Then in the ninth the Rangers were up 2-1 and faced a save situation. Bochy has refused to name a closer opting instead to go with the dreaded "closer by committee". Leclerc pitched the ninth on Opening Day in a non-save situation. Today was the first official save for the Rangers and Bochy called on his former closer with the Giants, Will Smith. Smith had saved 34 games in 2019 in Bochy's last season with San Francisco.
Tonight Bochy called on him once again. Smith closed the door by going 3 up and 3 down. He threw 15 pitches and 12 strikes. It was the perfect move as Leclerc does often struggle with command. In a one-run game he chose Smith because he has a better command of his pitches. Smith was able to avoid Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber with runners on base. The Rangers won the game 2-1.
The Rangers hired Bochy because of his knowledge of the game and the credibility he possessed based on the three World Series titles. He has brought all of that and then some to Arlington. The rules have changed this season, and Bochy has been able to find a way to slow the game down. Rangers players are taking advantage of timeouts and calling them at the right time.
Garver called a timeout on Saturday to gather himself and then hit a three-run home run to push the Rangers lead to 7-3 in a game the Rangers would win 16-3. Today, Jonah Heim called a defensive timeout with one on the pitch clock. Turner was about to steal second with two outs in the inning. Heim noticed it, called timeout and Turner was forced to go back to first. Perez ended the 5th inning with a strikeout a couple of pitches later. Both instances were brilliant uses of a timeout. I have to think this is coming from Bochy and the coaching staff telling players to use timeouts to their advantage.
Bochy was a great manager for the Giants and will one day be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for the work he did in San Francisco. He is still a great manager that is trying to deliver a World Series title to the Rangers franchise for the first time in their history. The last time the Rangers started 3-0 was 2011, a year that ended with the Rangers falling agonizingly short of a World Series title. These three games can serve as indicators that Bochy can absolutely deliver a title to this championship-starved franchise.