Before we get into the Houston series, a public service announcement (h/t Brian Anderbot):
reminder that every single fan base collectively thinks their favorite team sucks— Matt Snyder (@MattSnyderCBS) April 22, 2017
1. hitting with RISP
2. at bullpen management
"but my team really does!"— Matt Snyder (@MattSnyderCBS) April 22, 2017
Now, on to the second guessing!
There was wine, a nice merlot. Kevin Cash is always smarter when there is wine, even when we lose. But still:
Alex Cobb in the Seventh
Cobb was past 90 pitches when he went back out for the seventh, but he was coming off his best inning of the night: a six-pitch, one-two-three sixth. There were also times throughout the game when he flashed his old change up.
With a one run lead, should Cash have patted him on the butt and called it a successful night? It’s easy to say that in hindsight; it’s harder when you look down at the pen and see who’s down there. There does seem to be a strategy of pressing our starters to stay in longer in tight games.
Now, it is true that Cash could have pulled the trigger faster when things started to go sideways. Honestly, I’m not sure if he was slow on the draw because the pen wasn’t up and ready to start the inning or if Cash just liked the Cobb/Aoki matchup better (as I said, there was wine so I’m a little fuzzy). But he should have had a reliever ready in any case, so I’m not buying the “it happened so fast” excuse I heard floated on the post-game from Doug Waechter.
So I’m not complaining that Cobb was extended. I am saying that Danny Farquhar, who would be used later in this game, probably should have been up and ready for the Aoki matchup just in case. That was a fairly high 2.15 LI at bat. Aoki was the third hitter due up; it shouldn’t have been a surprise that if Cobb did get in trouble, you might need your “lefty” specialist. That Farq wasn’t even up seems like poor planning.
Jumbo was great, though, and made the pitches that should have gotten us out of that spot. So in the end, the walk was (probably) inconsequential, and I wasted a lot of words arguing about nothing.
Verdict: Try the Riesling next time
April 22: Rays 6, Astros 3
Not Your Father’s Root Beer was on tap for the Saturday game. Kevin Cash is freaking brilliant when there is Not Your Father’s. We only scratched our head once, and decided he was right all along. How often does that happen?
Austin 3:16 says Sit Your Ass Down
It’s been fun watching the turn around of Austin Pruitt from joke to major league reliever. But after he sat for half an hour between pitches while the offense In Play:Ran(‘d), we were nervous for him, and for us.
And sure, he pitched fine that seventh inning. But when Cash ran him back out for another inning in the eighth? Well, then we were really nervous. So we had a Slack chat with JT Morgan, an activity I highly recommend. Almost as highly as Not Your Father’s, and a significant win over Captain Morgan.
JT pointed out the Farq & Jumbo Diaz, the two obvious choices, had both thrown over 20 pitches the night before, and had both worked three of the last four games. So given the way things went down with Hunter, this was the right call.
Besides, Austin Pruitt got this. Where’s your faith, people?
Verdict: Always Carry a Towel.
April 23: Astros 6, Rays 4
Butterfinger Blizzard from DQ. Kevin Cash is moderately intelligent when accompanied by a Blizzard. I however am an idiot, as I have a milk allergy. Not the kind you die from, just the kind where you feel miserable afterward. Which is why it’s important to pick your battles and make sure what you’re eating is worth it.
Butterfinger Blizzards are sooo worth it.
Honestly, we aren’t a big fan of defensive substitutions in close games, generally speaking. I’d like for someone smarter than me to take a look at this sometime, but my confirmation bias tells me that the bad hitter you just subbed in always comes up to bat in a huge situation after your reliever gives up the lead you were trying to protect.
So like a Butterfinger Blizzard, you need to weigh the cost and make sure it’s worth it. Subbing in Peter Bourjos to get Steven Souza out of center? That makes sense, as the upgrade for having a real centerfielder out there is pretty massive. But the move the next inning to put Kevin Kiermaier in center and shift Bourjos to left (thus removing Corey Dickerson from the game) felt like overkill. Especially the way whatever weather KK has been under has caused him to swing the bat.
And it came back to bite us, as KK had a weak at bat with Beckham in scoring position and the game tied in the ninth.
Verdict: Bias: Confirmed
Colome in the Eighth
On the other hand, we absolutely loved this move. The top of the order was up. Alex Colome has shown that he can go extended outings. He is exactly who you want pitching here.
And while it’s too bad it didn’t work out, the reason for the failure wasn’t a bad decision or bad pitching. If not for a bad passed ball by the Sucrose Messiah, we are all giving Cash huge props today.
It also puts the Kiermaier move into context. Cash was clearly going for broke in regulation. His usable pen is tired, and his rested pen is poor and/or inexperienced. So why not go for broke?
Verdict: Smart moves don’t always work
Garton in the Tenth
So what happens when you go for broke, and things break? You end up with Ryan Garton in the tenth.
With an eye on tomorrow, Cash pretty clearly didn’t want to go to Jumbo Diaz. So that left Garton or the newest callup, Chih-Wei Hu.
And yes, I get it. I think we all wanted to see Hu.
I know I did. But if you’re arguing that a kid who has a grand total of five AAA games under his belt and rarely pitches in relief, and Hu — or is it Hu’m? — would be making his first major league appearance against a great hitting club like the Astros, if you’re arguing that guy gives you the best chance to win this particular game, you are delusional.
Given the way injuries have piled up in the pen, the best options yesterday in the tenth were “Ryan Garton” or “Get Better Pitchers.”
Verdict: I vote for door #2