For seven and a half innings last night’s game looked winnable. Even though the Rays were down, it was by only one run which always gives hope that one swing of the bat will change everything.
Then the bottom of the eighth inning happened, and all hope was let out of the sails in about 10 minutes time.
There’s been remarkably little to quibble with over the past seven seasons when it comes to Joe Maddon’s decision making. Even the most unorthodox moves seem to work out more often than not. Last night wasn’t one of those times.
Jamey Wright started the eighth inning and got David Ortiz to ground out to first, with right handers Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes to follow. Instead of leaving Wright in to face the same handed batters, Maddon brought in Kyle Farnsworth, another righty.
Farnsworth has been the Rays’ worst reliever this season with an ERA of 4.44 and K/9 of 5.47. Right handed batters were hitting .292/.343/.462 with a .352 wOBA against him entering the night. In contrast, righties are hitting .232/.288/.303 with a .256 wOBA against Wright.
You know what happened next. Napoli doubled to left. Jonny Gomes singled to left. After a Jarrod Saltalamacchia strikeout, Stephen Drew singled to right field on the first pitch he saw, scoring Napoli. Jose Iglesias then hit a high chopper over Longoria’s head at third, which Yunel Escobar was unable to field cleanly, allowing two runs to score.
Farnsworth is no longer the pitcher he was in 2011. Surgery and age have seemingly eroded his skills. He shouldn’t be pitching in any high or medium leverage situations.
Were this a game in late September Maddon would have obviously managed it differently. The decision irked me when Maddon first made it and it irks me now. The Rays went down meekly in the ninth, so it likely wouldn’t have made a difference, but that’s not the point.
For a team that prides itself on using the correct process this was a mistake. A game that had been inherently winnable only a few minutes earlier was now anything but.