Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Maddon, Farrell in a chess match
By Buster Olney
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As Dustin Pedroia walked into Tropicana Field early Monday afternoon, a young Rays fan said to him, with all good humor, that he was hopeful that Tampa Bay might win a game, and that there would be a Game 4 Tuesday night.
"No chance," Pedroia said bluntly, or, in other words, the way he says everything.
But the Rays did survive, when the most unlikely of heroes came off the Tampa Bay bench and blasted a long home run off a pitcher who hadn’t allowed a homer in more than three months. When it was over, Jose Lobaton stood on the field with the celebratory ice cream cone he is always provided by teammates and explained how he had managed to hit a ball off Koji Uehara to a place where almost no one hits a home run in Tropicana Field, and the managers took their turns in the interview room.
Interestingly, Boston manager John Farrell and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon both seemed exhilarated by the 4-hour, 18-minute game, in the way that a math savant might be after solving an equation. The game involved many decisions, tense moments and pivotal choices that the two of them might review as an academic exercise for years to come, if not for the fact that they have to move on to Game 4 Tuesday night.
"There was so much stuff that happened," Maddon said.
Said Farrell: "I can't say enough [about] the way we came back after giving up the lead, we come back against their closer in [Fernando] Rodney. Just that was an exciting game. Well played game. We played a very good game tonight."
Some of the decisions worked out and others didn’t, and Maddon and Farrell spoke without any hint of defensiveness, and with the belief that in those moments, they had made what they believed to be the best choices based on the information at hand, with complete respect for an opponent they know well.
Such as in the fifth inning, when Evan Longoria came to the plate with Boston leading 3-0, two runners on base and first base open. In theory, Farrell could’ve walked Longoria, who is among the very few Tampa Bay players swinging well now, with a long history of dramatic home runs behind him. But Farrell elected to have Clay Buchholz pitch to him, rather than pitch around him and go after struggling rookie Wil Myers.
Farrell said he didn’t want to put the tying run on base.
"Clay had struck him out, popped him up on two other changeups, and he got ahead in the count 0-1," Farrell said. "The changeup was near the spot that he tried to throw one down and in on him, just didn't get to the bottom of the zone as much. But, no, no consideration on walking him."
Longoria hit a changeup, and drove it over the left-field wall, changing the game completely; as Lobaton explained afterward, the energy level had been down before that swing.
In the eighth inning, the score was still tied 3-3, and David Ortiz drew a leadoff walk. Farrell replaced him with pinch runner Quintin Berry. Farrell acknowledged that it was a decision he wrestled with, because if the run didn’t score, Boston would have to play on without Ortiz.
"And in that situation in the eighth inning, [not knowing if Ortiz's] spot is going to come back around, I didn't want to miss an opportunity," Farrell said. "Berry does his job, gets the stolen base, unfortunately we got a man in scoring position with one out, a strikeout and a pop-up against Jake McGee. But, no, I don't second-guess that pinch run move there."
Berry stole second, but a few batters later, Stephen Drew came to the plate, having an established history of struggling against left-handers like McGee. Farrell had the option of using right-handed hitting rookie Xander Bogaerts as a pinch hitter. He stayed with Drew, who made an out.
"McGee has been dominant against right-handed hitters," Farrell explained. "He's almost a right-handed reliever in some ways because of the strong reverse splits he has. Stephen is a good fastball hitter. We know McGee is going to come at us with 95 percent fastballs, if not more. There was no hesitation to leave Stephen at the plate."
The Rays scored in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a 4-3 lead, but the Red Sox rallied in the top of the ninth inning against sometimes erratic closer Fernando Rodney: Will Middlebrooks walked, Bogaerts pinch ran for him, and then Jacoby Ellsbury singled. After Shane Victorino sacrificed, Maddon had a couple of choices to make:
1. Should he walk Pedroia intentionally?
2. Should he play the infield back and concede a run?
He decided not to load the bases because Rodney has an inconsistent relationship with the strike zone, and even though Ortiz was out of the game and he knew that Mike Carp probably would be the next hitter, he decided to have Rodney pitch to Pedroia rather than reduce his margin for error by loading the bases.
And Maddon decided to play the infield back and concede the run on a ground ball, and that is exactly what happened when Pedroia hit a chopper to shortstop to tie the score.
"That was a difficult choice right there," Maddon said. "Normally we side on the side of aggressiveness or boldness, but I thought right there under those circumstances, it was best to concede one run and live for the bottom of the ninth inning."
When Lobaton stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the two managers had combined to use 11 pitchers and 26 position players, and there had been more than 300 pitches thrown, each of them seemingly a crossroads in this particular playoff game. For Maddon and Farrell, it was excruciating, it was intense, it was food for the brain, and as Uehara prepared to throw an 0-1 pitch to Lobaton, Maddon looked down at his lineup card to anticipate more decisions to come, and that’s when he heard the noise, the sound of Uehara allowing his first home run in 142 plate appearances, a streak dating back to June 30.
There will be a Game 4 Tuesday night, Jeremy Hellickson against Jake Peavy, Maddon against Farrell, and if anybody thinks there won’t be more crossroads, more decisions, well, Dustin Pedroia’s words apply:
Lobaton was an unlikely hero, writes Gary Shelton.
By the way, the ice cream he got after Monday’s win: caramel.
The Rays’ bullpen got the job done.
The Rays came back from the dead, writes Scott Lauber. John Farrell’s moves were called into question, writes Steve Buckley.
It was a tough loss for the Red Sox, writes Dan Shaughnessy.
Before the game, David Price apologized for comments he made about David Ortiz and nerds everywhere.
This was a great game, in its drama: Juan Uribe delivered a huge hit, after failing to get a bunt down, as Dylan Hernandez writes. Yasiel Puig is giving his best. Carl Crawford outhomered the Braves.
Atlanta’s season ended without Craig Kimbrel throwing a pitch in Game 4.
Showtime has moved to Dodger Stadium, writes Harvey Araton.
This could be the end of the line for Brian McCann with the Braves. It was a sports night to forget in Atlanta, writes Mark Bradley.
Michael Wacha was "the man" for the Cardinals, as Derrick Goold writes. He had incredible poise, as Bernie Miklasz writes.
ESPN Stats & Info has more on how Wacha almost threw a no-hitter.
Clint Hurdle has made the right call in picking Gerrit Cole to start Game 5, writes Ron Cook. The top of the Pittsburgh lineup has been unproductive so far.
Here are a fistful of reasons for the Pirates to keep faith, from Dejan Kovacevic.
Tempers flared in the ninth inning of Oakland’s victory. The Athletics did what they do, in hitting a lot of homers.
The spat was more amusing than meaningful, writes Lynn Henning.
Seth Smith is no longer a forgotten man, writes John Shea. Smith continues to haunt Anibal Sanchez.
For Doug Fister, today’s must-win game is just another game. The Tigers are on the brink of elimination, writes Mitch Albom.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti talked about the changes with the coaching staff and the starting rotation. From Paul Hoynes’s piece:
Ubaldo Jimenez's $8 million option really haven't changed, but Antonetti cleared up some elements. Right now the option is still a club option. Jimenez, however, maintains the right to void it because of a clause in the contract that was activated when he was traded. Jimenez, said Antonetti, has the right to void the deal at any time, but as of yet has not done so.
Decisions on options are made three days after the last game of the World Series.
"We had a great visit with Ubaldo at the end of the year," said Antonetti. "He was very complimentary of Tito and Mickey Callaway (pitching coach) and how much he valued his time here. We certainly would be happy to have him back."
Jimenez is eligible for free agency.
When the Francona talked about the rotation, he did not mention Jimenez or Scott Kazmir, both potential free agents. He did mention Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister.
2. As the Yankees consider options at catcher, a name to watch for: Ryan Hanigan, who has become surplus for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have to decide whether to tender a contract to Hanigan, at the same time New York is looking for catching options for 2014.
3. Larry Bowa is close to rejoining the Phillies’ staff, writes Jim Salisbury.
4. The Yankees will be patient in waiting for the decision from Joe Girardi.
5. The Cubs are moving ahead with the managerial search, as they wait for Girardi to make his decision. They are talking with candidates.
6. Eric Hosmer could qualify for arbitration.
7. Wally Backman could be the Lou Piniella-type candidate the Reds need, writes John Erardi.
8. The Jays fired their hitting coach, and announced another coach is retiring.
By the numbers:
3 -- Home runs allowed by Anibal Sanchez Monday, two more than he’d allowed in any other start this year.
4 -- Players to hit a postseason walk-off homer against the Red Sox after Jose Lobaton did it Monday. That’s tied with the Yankees, Dodgers and Astros for most postseason walk-off homers allowed all time.
7 1/3 -- No-hit innings by Michael Wacha Monday, the longest no-hit bid by a rookie in postseason history. The previous long was 5 1/3 innings by Jeff Tesreau of the New York Giants against the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the 1912 World Series.
8 -- Consecutive postseason rounds lost by the Braves, second most in MLB history behind the Cubs (10 from 1910-98).
23 -- Trevor Rosenthal’s age, the oldest of the three pitchers the Cardinals used Monday. They’re the first team in postseason history to use three pitchers in a game, all of whom were 23 or younger.
25 -- Years since Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Juan Uribe joined him Monday as the only other player in Dodgers postseason history with a go-ahead homer with his team trailing in the eighth inning or later.
• Reggie Jackson’s latest denial is the last straw for an author.
• The Astros filed a lawsuit.
• Major League Baseball filed suit.
And today will be better than yesterday.