Breaking down Thursday’s moves
With the hubbub about Thursday night’s offense — and after the previous three games in Seattle, why wouldn’t there be — Jim Leyland’s moves in the middle and late innings weren’t really part of the story. But they still drew some questions on the blog and on twitter, so I figured I’d double back with some postnotes:
The first and foremost thing to keep in mind: There might not be another manager in the Majors today who frets as much with a big lead as Leyland. He was the Pirates manager in 1989 when the Phillies made a 10-run comeback to win, making Pittsburgh the first team in big-league history to lose a game after scoring 10 runs in the first inning. As he has often said, those games are often the toughest for him to manage.
That said, with a 10-2 lead, he wasn’t going to do anything risky with Andy Dirks. And he didn’t like the way Dirks looked running on his single in the top of the seventh inning.
“I got him out of there once again because of his leg,” Leyland said, referring to Dirks’ left hamstring. “We’ve got to watch it. I could tell on one ball he hit tonight, he really wasn’t able to pick it up. We’ve got to watch that. He’s hot right now.”
Danny Worth entered the game in Dirks’ spot in the bottom of the inning, with Ryan Raburn moving from second base to left field.
As for the bullpen, Leyland opted for Phil Coke in the eighth inning with the A’s lineup essentially alternating left- and right-handed batters, starting with switch-hitting Jemile Weeks. Once two infield singles and a five-pitch walk to Seth Smith loaded the bases for Brandon Inge, Leyland decided to go righty against righty while still trying to get Collin Balester his first appearance since April 29.
Leyland took some of the flack for Inge’s grand slam, saying Balester was in a tough position having not pitched in so long. But he also made it clear he thought they should’ve mixed pitches and tried to get Inge to chase. In any case, once that home run leaves the yard, that game transitions from getting guys work to protecting the lead and finishing out the game, which means Leyland immediately turns to Joaquin Benoit while getting Jose Valverde ready once Benoit finally gets out of the eighth.
As for the squeeze bunt attempt in the ninth up four runs, it’s something Leyland has also done in the past with Ramon Santiago. He hasn’t done it much lately, but he thought that was an opportunity for them.
“I thought [Balfour would] probably throw him a high fastball,” Leyland said. “But once we put it on, he threw a breaking ball in the dirt. You can’t do anything about that. I don’t like the squeeze, but it was a good time for it. If he got a fastball, he’d have probably gotten it down. But he threw a breaking ball in the dirt. That’s the squeeze play. That can happen.”
Said Santiago: “He bounced it. Maybe he was thinking maybe we were going to do it. I don’t know. But he bounced it. I tried to put the bat on the ball and it bounced in front.”
That said, I’d be surprised if we don’t that again at some point with Santiago up this season.