Game 28: Dissecting the eighth inning
Brad Ausmus’ summation of the eighth inning was succinct for the television cameras.
“In the eighth inning, they swung the bats well enough to beat us,” he said.
He went into a little more detail on the decisions that led up to it.
“It really was lining up fairly well, considering the starter goes five,” Ausmus said of the bullpen. “You’re somewhat piecing it together. But on any given night, someone can have an off night.”
Because Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny and Angel Nesbitt worked two outs apiece to cover the sixth and seventh, Ausmus had little backup if Joba Chamberlain struggled in the eighth. Alex Wilson wasn’t available after tossing 3 1/3 innings the night before, and Joakim Soria was on call for the ninth, leaving Blaine Hardy as the only backup.
“Hardy’s the only guy that can pitch multiple innings at that point down there,” Ausmus said.
So Ausmus went with Chamberlain with a three-run lead. But the rally that extended the lead to three runs also extended the lineup to the point that Nick Castellanos was due up in the ninth. That played into Ausmus’ decision not to use Andrew Romine as a defensive replacement in the eighth.
“It was a consideration,” Ausmus said, “but then we came around to the point where his bat was going to be up the following inning.”
Once Chamberlain retired his first two batters, it didn’t look like it would matter. Then Micah Johnson’s single reset the lineup, and Adam Eaton hit a hard liner to third.
Castellanos was playing in to defend against the bunt. It left him less reaction time for the liner that followed.
“It’s a line drive bullet right at the guy,” Ausmus said. “It’s not like it’s an easy play. It’s a line drive off a left-handed bat, which you generally don’t see.”
Said Castellanos: “It was just a hard-hit line drive, but catchable. Should’ve caught it.”
Up came Melky Cabrera, 2-for-27 against left-handed pitchers on the season after Gorzelanny had come on to retire him his last time up. Ausmus had Hardy available to try it again, but opted against it.
Ausmus did not mention matchups, though Cabrera was 0-for-2 against Chamberlain, and 2-for-4 against Hardy.
“The one that pitch we’d like to change would be the three-run home run to Melky,” James McCann said, “but other than that, they just put good swings on it.”
The slider was on a 2-1 pitch.
“I don’t know whether he was sitting on it or reacting to it,” McCann said. “Whatever it may be, he put a good swing on a pitch that a lot of hitters don’t hit out. Just gotta tip your cap to him and move on to the next pitch.”
Said Chamberlain: “Obviously I didn’t execute the pitch that I wanted to in the right spot. He did his job.”
At this point, Ausmus could’ve gone to Hardy in a tie game. Again, the lack of depth leads him to stick with Chamberlain, thinking about extra innings.
“Because it’s tied, you have to be more aware,” Ausmus said. “But even if it’s 7-6 or 6-5, you’ve gotta be conscious of the fact that this game is not over and it could go extra innings. You don’t want to end up with nobody left down there. If you were to bring in Blaine Hardy to face a lefty and they tie it anyway, now you’re really up a creek without a paddle.”
In the end, McCann might have had the best summation when asked about the opportunities to add on runs.
“They played a good game to come back,” McCann said, “but at the same time, it’s hard not to feel like we beat ourselves.”