Photo: Wikimedia Commons
There were two points in Game 6 at which I seriously questioned Ron Washington’s judgment.Before going over those two moments, let me say this: the Texas Rangers did not lose Game 6 because Ron Washington managed poorly. There were dozens of moments, dozens of decisions that determined the outcome of Game 6, and to pick two of them and point to Washington’s actions and say they determined the game … Well, it’s just not fair. It’s not fair to Washington, or to all the St. Louis Cardinals who did brilliant things.
Still, when a team loses like the Rangers lost … actually, nobody’s ever lost a World Series game like the Rangers lost Game 6. Still, it’s appropriate to review the events because … well, because that’s what we do. Our National Game has many charms, and one of them is questioning a manager’s judgement after a close loss, whether it’s a small game in May or a massive game in October.
Let’s take these two moments in reverse order.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Game 4 hero Derek Holland entered the contest with the bases loaded. The score was 4-4 and Alexi Ogando had just walked the bases loaded. Even though right-handed hitter Jon Jay was due next, Washington summoned Holland, a left-hander. And it worked, as Holland retired Jay on a little ground ball.
It worked in the bottom of the seventh inning, too. The Rangers had just taken a 7-4 lead with three runs in the top of the inning, and Holland made that lead stick by retiring the Cardinals in order.
The Cardinals’ next four hitters were Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, David Freese, and Yadier Molina. Holland throws left-handed. Berkman, a switch-hitter, is significantly better against righties than lefties, so letting Holland pitch to Berkman made sense. Indeed, Holland retired Berkman on a fly ball.
After that, though? The Cardinals had three right-handed hitters coming up, and Washington had Mike Adams, one of baseball’s best right-handed relief pitchers, warming up in the bullpen. It was the eighth inning. Mike Adams makes his living in the eighth inning. Against right-handed hitters, especially.
Washington didn’t leave the dugout, but Craig left the yard with a solo homer that trimmed the Rangers’ lead by a run. Eventually, Adams did enter the game and killed an incipient St. Louis rally. One wonders, though … Would Allen Craig have hit a home run against Mike Adams?
Oddly, nobody’s really talking about Adams’ late entrance, perhaps because everybody still seems to think that Derek Holland walks on water. Hint: He doesn’t. He’s a good pitcher who pitched great in Game 4, and might be slightly more effective coming out of the bullpen than starting. But he’s not Mike Adams.
Then there’s the moment that everyone was talking about.
Top of the fifth inning. Right-hander Fernando Salas is pitching for the Cardinals, and he’s already given up a run, pushing the Rangers to a 4-3 lead. There were two outs, with a runner on third base and Mike Napoli up next.
That’s when Tony La Russa did something really foolish, which (fortunately for him) was quickly forgotten: La Russa ordered Salas to walk Napoli. This was foolish because La Russa had the platoon advantage (Salas vs. Napoli) and lost it when Washington tabbed David Murphy to pinch-hit for Craig Gentry.
La Russa didn’t have a counter, and Salas accidentally walked Murphy.
At that point, Washington had a number of options. His pitcher, Colby Lewis, was due next. But Washington still had left-handed-hitting Endy Chavez on his bench. He still had left-handed-hitting Mitch Moreland on his bench. He still had switch-hitting Esteban German on his bench. I’m not sure, but I think I might have seen Oddibe McDowell and Pete O’Brien hanging around, too.
Washington had a different idea. He let Colby Lewis bat for himself. Twitter did not approve …
Joe Sheehan: You have a completely fresh bullpen and a chance to break the game open. Tell me more about his “gut,” folks. He’s blowing this
Dave Cameron: That was one of the worst managerial decisions in World Series history.
Curt Schilling: What in the hell is happening… Can’t decide the worse move, Lewis hitting or Holland warming????
Old Hoss Radbourn: The Cardinals nicely dodged R. Washington’s Dumb Grenade.
Sheehan: Wash took out his defence with a lead, burnt a player and let the worst hitter in the sequence bat in a massively high-leverage spot.
Jim and Joe are referencing the “burning” of Craig Gentry, removed in favour of Murphy. Why would Washington pinch-hit for an outfielder, but not a pitcher? Obviously because he felt that his chances were better with Colby Lewis pitching than without Colby Lewis pitching. Granted, Lewis had pitched pretty well except for Lance Berkman’s first-inning home run. Still: Colby Lewis. You’re going to forego a decent shot at blowing a hole in the game because Colby Lewis might give you another inning or two?
Old Hoss didn’t get it. Old Rob still doesn’t.
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