Fourth inning of NLCS Game 2 full of questionable managerial decisions

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The Cardinals added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth inning against Giants starter Jake Peavy, but that wasn’t the most interesting part of the frame. Matt Adams led off with a walk and Jhonny Peralta followed up with a single, which set the strategy in motion.

Decision 1: Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has Yadier Molina drop down a sacrifice bunt.

According to Baseball Prospectus, one’s run expectancy is lowered slightly going from runners on first and second with no outs to runners on second and third with one out. It’s defensible if you have the pitcher batting or an otherwise very weak hitter in front of a much better hitter. In this case, it’s Yadier Molina batting sixth in front of Kolten Wong.

Decision 2: Giants manager Bruce Bochy has starter Jake Peavy intentionally walk Wong to face right-handed hitter Randal Grichuk.

Ostensibly, Bochy called for the intentional walk to set up a force at every base as well as several inning-ending double play opportunities. Furthermore, Peavy has the platoon advantage against the same-handed Grichuk. On the other hand, putting a runner on base for free sets up the possibility of an irredeemably big inning. Fortunately for the Giants, Grichuk only singled to push across one run.

Decision 3: Matheny allowed starter Lance Lynn to hit for himself with runners on second and third with one out.

Yes, Lynn has had a fantastic season. Yes, Lynn was only at 62 pitches through four innings. But sending up a pinch-hitter (perhaps left-handed-hitting top prospect Oscar Taveras) opens up the possibility for the Cardinals to break the game open. Lynn, to his credit, hit a fly ball to right field, but it wasn’t deep enough to bring another run home.

Decision 4: Bochy allowed Jake Peavy to pitch to Matt Carpenter with runners on second and third and two outs with left-handed reliever Javier Lopez warming up in the bullpen.

Both teams have a day off on Monday, so reaching into the bullpen a little early isn’t as detrimental as it might have been in Game 1. Still, Bochy let the struggling Peavy pitch to the left-handed-hitting Carpenter — who slugged a home run against him in the previous inning — in a key moment in the game. Peavy was at 73 pitches and was laboring, and he wouldn’t have the platoon advantage against Carpenter. Fortunately for the Giants, Carpenter flied out to center field to end the game.

It will be interesting to see if these decisions wind up having an effect later on in the game. We’re now in the bottom of the fifth inning with the Cardinals ahead 2-1.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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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.