Games » Texas RangersMay8
I’ve had enough post-game dinners with players, coaches and managers to learn that second-guessing game decisions is dangerous. An outsider rarely knows all the relevant factors, so I’m not going to pretend I’m sure about what should’ve been done. I’ll just point out a couple of key decisions and talk about what might have gone into them.
I was surprised to see Meche come back to the mound in the eighth inning. He’d thrown 103 pitches. It was his fourth trip through the order. The first two innings were rougher than recycled toilet paper, but Meche made adjustments and put up five shutout innings in a row. There were a lot of reasons to let him finish on a good note.
On the other hand: the bullpen has been Nightmare on Elm Street scary. Meche and the Royals needed a win and there haven’t been a lot of opportunities. Trey must have felt Gil pitching the eighth was the best option. It wasn’t what I would’ve done, but there’s a reason I manage amateurs for free and Trey manages professionals for money.
Meche started the eighth by walking the leadoff batter, Andrus. To me, that meant he was definitely done. He’d scuffled his way through seven innings, shown a lot of heart and he was now been in danger of being the losing pitcher.
When I decided I didn’t know how to handle pitching and went to professionals for help, one of the rules of thumb I heard was, never let the starter struggle after five. When I asked why, I was told struggling late means the starter’s pitch count is up, he’s tired and will have problems adjusting.
When it comes to pitching changes I was told: better an inning too soon than an inning too late, better a batter too soon than a batter too late, better a pitch too soon than a pitch too late.
Apparently, Trey didn’t get the same speech, or didn’t like his other options. Meche stayed and gave up another walk, two more hits and the ballgame.
The Royals got a chance to go ahead in the top of the seventh. DeJesus and Podsednik led off the inning with singles and Butler came to the plate. On the second pitch he grounded into a double play. Hitting the ball hard and being slow is a deadly combination. The infielders get the ball quickly and have plenty of time. (Of course, as I’ve shown in my career, hitting the ball weakly and being slow is no day at the beach either.) Two down, the winning run was on third and things got a bit goofy.
Trey had Aviles, Pena, Bloomquist and Guillen on the bench. He used Guillen to hit for Ka’aihue who didn’t look so hot in his three at-bats. Jose grounded weakly back to the pitcher, inning over. Now the Royals take the field, but who’s playing first? Butler was the DH, so if he went to first base, the Royals would lose the designated hitter. The pitcher or a pinch hitter would have to hit in the four-hole. So Hillman brought Maier in from the outfield to play first and sent Guillen to right. DeJesus moved to left and Podsednik moved to center. Late in a tie ball game, the Royals just got worse defensively.
The gods of baseball, always up for a good laugh, make sure the Rangers’ winning run is driven in by a sinking line drive at the feet of…you guessed it…Jose Guillen. I really couldn’t say if DeJesus would’ve been able to make that catch, but I feel comfortable saying he would’ve had a better chance.
So was pinch-hitting Guillen a mistake? I think pinch-hitting somebody was the right move. It was a chance to plate the winning run and it was time to pull the trigger. The problem was defense afterward. Trey could’ve sent Bloomquist to first and kept his outfield intact, but that meant he was burning through his bench quickly in a game that might go extra innings.
No matter what moves he made, people like me (who have nothing on the line) can criticize him later if those moves don’t work out. Unfortunately for managers, they have to make decisions before they know the outcome.
As I said earlier: Trey manages for money, I do it for free and I might be overpaid. I’m not positive what the right moves would’ve been, but thinking along with the manager is one of baseball’s pleasures.
Was it good for you, too?