Piniella gets prickly

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Thumbnail image for Lou Piniella Cubs.jpgLou Piniella wasn’t in the mood to talk strategy with reporters after yesterday’s game.  The video is here. For those who can’t watch it for some reason, the reporter asked Lou whether he considered having Mike Fontenot bunt in the eighth inning when Marlon Byrd was on second base. Lou:

“Bunting what? With a left-hand hitter up? With a left-hand hitter
up, you want to bunt? What kind of baseball are you playing? Really, what kind of baseball
do you play?”

It’s hard to hear the reporter’s response, but he seems to say something about how getting Byrd over to third base would be a good idea. Lou again:

“How about getting ’em in? Or getting ’em over by
swinging? How ’bout that? Anything else?”

Another question was met with “I don’t know. Talk to the players. Talk to the players.
I don’t know. We should be able to get some people in. We’re getting
some people on–we should be able to get ’em in.”

I’m not a fan of managers pulling that “what, you think you know better than me?” shtick because they know damn well that it’s the reporter’s job to ask that kind of stuff. Unless the question is accompanied by an obvious attitude, it’s designed to get the manager to talk about the game, not to give the guy the third degree. When truly bonehead decisions are made reporters almost always ask about it in a softer way, like “Lou, can you tell us a bit about the sixth inning . . .” as opposed to saying “Lou, why did you pinch hit the batboy for Ramirez in the sixth inning?”

All that said, I’m with Lou on the tactics of it all. Lefty or not, you’ve got your centerfielder in scoring position! Why waste a precious out with a sacrifice there?  Jeez, what kind of baseball is that guy playing?

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.