If there’s a worse hitter than Jose Constanza on a postseason roster, it’s safe to say the guy also dabbles in some mound work.
This is a guy who hit .276/.332/.314 with no homers and 17 RBI this year… in Triple-A! In the majors, he came in at .258 in 31 at-bats. He also had a .258 OBP, as well as a .258 slugging percentage. One third of his hits were bunt singles. The guy has so little power that 44 percent of his hits as a major leaguer have failed to leave the infield.
Still, there was Don Mattingly, unwilling to take the chance that Constanza would add on to the Braves’ 2-1 lead with two outs in the seventh tonight. The left-handed-hitting Constanza was Atlanta’s pinch-hitter with two outs and men on second and third. Right-hander Chris Withrow had gotten into the jam, but he had just struck out Elliot Johnson with a looping curve to give himself a chance to get out of it.
Mattingly had three options at that point:
1. Let Withrow face Jose Constanza
2. Bring in a lefty to face a right-handed pinch-hitter
3. Bring in a lefty to walk the right-handed pinch-hitter and face lefty Jason Heyward instead
Mattingly went with No. 3. He called on Paco Rodriguez, and the intentional walk came after the Braves countered with Reed Johnson. Heyward proceeded to single up the middle, scoring two runs, and the Braves ended up winning 4-3 to even up the NLDS at one game apiece.
Of course, things could have worked out differently. Rodriguez truly has been murder on left-handed hitters this year, limiting them to a .131 average. Heyward has actually been better against lefties than righties, but Rodriguez likely retires him at least 75 percent of the time there.
Really, though, it’s often true that the simplest solution is best. Left-handed hitters batted .217 against Withrow this year, and Constanza is as bad as any he faced. Plus, Heyward is the one of those options that could have turned this into a game over with one swing of the bat. A typically squib single from Conzstanza might not even have scored the second run. On the other hand, it something went wrong with Heyward, it could have been a 6-1 score.
It wasn’t a horrible decision from Mattingly. Odds are that he’ll make worse calls that work out better later in the series. Still, he’ll be reliving this one for months if the Dodgers lose the series, particularly since Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the eighth that brought the Dodgers to within 4-3.