Just sitting here now looking over my scoresheet from last night’s game. One of the things I’ve always done is to cross players off the roster when they enter the game, just to have a sense what moves the managers can make.
Two names are jumping out: Tampa Bay LHPs Trever Miller and David Price.
If you are going to keep a pitcher like Price on the postseason roster, why not use him against David Ortiz in the seventh inning?
If you don’t want to use the rookie in that spot, use Miller. What is the point of having a LHP in the bullpen if not to use against a hitter like Ortiz? The Rays also had LHP J.P. Howell. Maybe manager Joe Maddon was saving him to close. But he still had two other lefties at his disposal.
Instead Maddon let RHP Grant Balfour face him and Ortiz awoke from his slumber and slugged a three-run homer that changed the tenor of the game. Next thing you know Gabe Gross is playing right field like Bobby Abreu and the series is going to Tampa.
“We’ve been doing that all year. Grant has been very good in that situation, actually,” Maddon said. “He just got him tonight.
If you had been watching us all season, that’s the situation where Grant has really done well. He’s been kind of like that middle closer guy, and I felt pretty good about it. Papi just got him.”
Ortiz hit .221 with five homers against LHPs this season. He is 1 for 11 against Miller in his career.
It was a very Joe Torre moment in that Maddon stuck with a guy in the circle of trust instead of going with the matchup that made sense.
Maybe it won’t matter. Maybe the Rays will score a bunch of runs off the ghost of Josh Beckett tomorrow and they’ll celebrate on the plastic grass of Tropicana Field. But if the Red Sox somehow figure out a way to win that game, Jon Lester will look very imposing in Game 7. And if you remember how the Yankees fared against Matt Garza this season, hitters can learn to sit on that fastball, read that late movement it has and have success.
As I was leaving Fenway, the Rays were trudging to their bus and I caught the eye of Cliff Floyd.
“Can you believe that stuff?” he said, only he didn’t say “stuff.”
I just nodded. Sometimes it’s better not to start a conversation at 1:15 a.m. after a game like that.