Matthew Pouliot

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves - Game One

Dodgers taking an unnecessary risk starting Clayton Kershaw in Game 4

29 Comments

Clayton Kershaw has never started on three days’ rest. Now the Dodgers are asking him to do just that in Monday’s Game 4 against the Braves. Rather than trust Ricky Nolasco to close out the series, they’re going to bank on their ace who is about to win his second Cy Young Award.

In a vacuum, I’m down with that. I like the Dodgers’ chances a little better tonight with Kershaw going. But, then, I liked their chances just fine anyway.

One big complication here: Kershaw threw 126 pitches over seven innings in his Game 1 victory. That’s his second highest total ever as a pro. It wasn’t the most strenuous of 126-pitch outings — the Dodgers won 6-1 — but I’d feel better about things if he had thrown 100-110 pitches instead.

All things considered, this might be the most fatigued start of Kershaw’s life. He’s already thrown 243 innings this year, and now he’s on three days’ rest after an unusually lengthy outing. And with that fatigue has to come an increased risk of injury. Whether that increase is one percent, 10 percent or 100 percent, I won’t claim to know, but it’s there. The safer play would be to let Kershaw pitch on extra rest in a possible Game 5.

By making the switch mere hours before the game, the Dodgers are also showing just how little faith they have in Nolasco. And that’s dangerous with the hope of two potential seven-game series coming up. They’re going to need Nolasco if they intend to win the World Series. Now, if he ever does get the chance to start in the NLDS, it’ll come nearly three weeks after his last start on Sept. 25.

There are also question marks about Hyun-Jin Ryu’s health that could make Nolasco doubly important.

One plus for the Dodgers here is that moving up Kershaw doesn’t tax the rotation further. That Zack Greinke can start Game 5 on normal rest was likely a factor in the choice. It’s not like they need multiple guys to start on short rest.

Still, I don’t like it. With Atlanta starting Freddy Garcia, I think the Dodgers would have won tonight with Nolasco, leaving them much better set up for the NLCS. They just don’t gain enough in making the switch to justify the risk.

Cardinals’ injuries taking a toll with elimination near

Justin Morneau, Matt Adams
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In some ways, the Cardinals are better off than most. They don’t lose much at first base with Matt Adams filling in for Allen Craig, and they’re still fine in the ninth since Trevor Rosenthal replaced the sore-shouldered Edward Mujica in the closer’s role. But the truth is that both injuries played huge roles in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Pirates.

With Adams filling in for Craig, here’s the Cardinals’ current bench: Adron Chambers, Tony Cruz, Daniel Descalso/Pete Kozma, Shane Robinson and Kolten Wong. There isn’t even one decent pinch-hitting option there. Wong, a rookie second baseman, is the talent in the bunch, but he hit just .153 in 59 at-bats after arriving in the majors. The Cardinals are down enough on him that he was left on the bench while both Kozma and Descalso hit against Jason Grilli in the ninth today.

Chambers is in the roster spot that would have gone to Craig. He went 4-for-26 in the majors this year.

And, of course, while Adams is probably a better hitter than Craig against righties, he was a far lesser option today against Francisco Liriano. He’s also the weaker defender, which played a role in Kozma’s throwing error in the two-run first inning today.

As for Mujica, well, he’s on the roster and available, but the Cardinals don’t trust him right now. That’s why Rosenthal wasn’t out there in a tie game in the eighth when the Pirates scored two runs today. That almost certainly would have been Rosenthal’s assignment a few weeks ago. Since he’s now the closer, he was held in reserve.

The Cardinals are also going it without Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jason Motte and Rafael Furcal, but those are injuries from several months ago. Had they known they’d be without Craig, they probably would have brought in some bench help prior to Aug. 31.

That did not work out as Jim Leyland hoped

ALDS Tigers Athletics Baseball
13 Comments

Presented with a tough first-and-third with no outs situation in the bottom of the ninth Saturday in a scoreless Game 2 against the A’s, Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

1. Chose to forgo using his best reliever
2. Chose to walk the bases loaded
3. Chose not to use a five-man infield

Obviously, none of that worked out. With Rick Porcello on the mound, Stephen Vogt hit a line drive single past shortstop Jose Iglesias to end the game and even up the ALDS at one game apiece. Let’s look at those calls one a time.

1. Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit has a lengthy history of pitching in non-save situations and pitching more than one inning at a time. He’s one of two rocks in the TIgers pen, along with lefty Drew Smyly (who had already worked in the eighth tonight). Curiously, it didn’t appear that he even got up in the pen, which could suggest there was a physical issue at play. Benoit did get four outs on Friday, but since he needed just 17 pitches to do it, he would have been available tonight under normal circumstances. If there was no physical issue, it’s safe to say that Leyland was reserving him in the hopes of a save situation.

It was also a bit curious that Jose Veras was nowhere to be found in the ninth.

2. Right-hander Al Alburquerque was the reliever who gave up the singles to put runners on the corners. Ready in the bullpen to replace him were left-hander Jose Alvarez and Porcello, another right-hander. Leyland had four realistic options at that point with left-handed hitter Josh Reddick due up and fellow lefty Vogt on deck.

  • Allow Albuquerque to face Reddick with runners at first and third.
  • Bring in Alvarez to face Reddick or whomever might pinch-hit for him.
  • Walk Reddick, bring in Alvarez to face a pinch-hitter, almost surely Derek Norris
  • Walk Reddick, bring in Porcello to face Vogt

Letting Albuquerque face Reddick was almost surely Leyland’s best bet for a strikeout. Alburquerque had already fanned two batters tonight. He struck out 70 in 49 innings during the regular season. Reddick just fanned three times in Game 1 and 86 times in 385 at-bats for the season.

On the other hand, Porcello versus Vogt was the best bet to induce a grounder.

Really, it should have come down to how Leyland felt about how well Alburquerque was throwing. Albuquerque had already made 22 pitches, which is a typical outing for him. He might have had one more strikeout in him, but the fact that he had just allowed two hits certainly worked against his cause.

I thought they should have gone after Reddick, as poorly as Reddick has performed. Still, the walk wasn’t such a bad idea. The odds were against them either way.

3. What I don’t get: Porcello was brought in to get the grounder, so why not help him out with the fifth infielder? That Don Kelly, an experienced infielder, was already playing left field meant the Tigers wouldn’t have even needed to go to the bench to make the move. The Tigers infield has very limited range at the corners — which is what got them into the mess in the first place tonight — and Kelly’s presence could have made a difference.

Alas, in this case, it probably wouldn’t have. Vogt hits left-handed, so Kelly likely would have been stationed to the first base side of the diamond. Vogt’s liner ended up whizzing right past shortstop Jose Iglesias to his left. Iglesias probably wouldn’t have been in any better position to snare it with the extra man.

So, no, I’m not going to trash Leyland for all that went on tonight. I would like to hear why neither Benoit nor Veras was up in the pen, though.