Why did Jerry Manuel pull Johan Santana?

3 Comments

Johan Santana.jpgIn one of the better pitchers’ duels I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this season, Johan Santana and Yovani Gallardo swapped zeroes over the first eight innings of Friday’s game. The Brewers eventually won the game 2-0 on a walkoff two-run blast by Corey Hart off Ryota Igarashi in the bottom of the ninth inning, ending a 35-inning scoreless streak and an 86-inning homerless streak by Mets’ hurlers.

I’m still wondering why Santana, who was only at 105 pitches after eight innings, didn’t get a chance to decide his own fate.

Manuel explained his decision to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com:

“Once he had doubled, fought through the eighth, I didn’t think it would
be a good move,” Manuel said of Santana’s continuing. “And Fielder, I
think, was seeing him pretty good anyway. I didn’t want to chance him to
lose that ballgame out there after the way he had performed.

Anyway, Feliciano retired Fielder on a groundball to David Wright, but then Igarashi was brought in to face a series of right-handed hitters. Igarashi gave up a single to Ryan Braun, then retired Casey McGehee on a flyball to right, but them, boom, a two-out, two-run shot by Hart. Game over.

Santana told Rubin that he understood Manuel’s decision:

“At that point right there, Jerry decided to bring in Feliciano, but I
was fine. … He decided to go to the bullpen and that’s about it.

“The
way everything was going — the situation, the atmosphere, everything
— you don’t want to come out of the game, for sure,” Santana continued.
“At the same time, we were playing baseball and trying to win the
ballgame.”

That makes one of us.

*Note: Admittedly, I got the whole Santana ground-rule double thing wrong. Jerry isn’t that crazy. But I stand by my point that he should have been left in the game.

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.