Marco Scutaro just exacted a bit of a revenge en route to giving the Giants a 5-1 lead over the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLCS.
After being taken out at second base by Matt Holliday in the top of the first inning, Scutaro pulled a bases-loaded, two-out single into left field in the bottom of the fourth to bring home three runs. And wouldn’t you know it, Holliday booted the ball to allow Angel Pagan to score all the way from first base. That’s some delicious baseball justice right there. Scutaro was credited with two RBI while Holliday was given an error.
The Giants broke the 1-1 tie earlier in the inning when Brandon Crawford reached first base on a throwing error by Chris Carpenter which allowed Brandon Belt to score.
Mike Matheny sent Skip Schumaker up as a pinch-hitter to begin the fifth inning, so Carpenter is done for the night. Only two of the five runs he gave up were earned. Ryan Vogelsong worked around a two-out double by Carlos Beltran to work a scoreless fifth. He’s three outs away from becoming the first Giants’ pitcher to last six innings this postseason.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.