Down 1 run in the bottom of the ninth inning with Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis scheduled to bat – how many times are you going to win that game? Well, once is enough because it happened today, with a lot of help from first-year Marlins manager Mike Redmond who seems to be in way over his head through just 6 games into his managerial career.
Now we’ve said over and over again that managers get way too much credit when their teams win and way too much blame when they lose, but today’s 4-3 walk-off Mets win was head-scratching if you’re a Miami Marlin fan – and really just a fan of fundamental baseball in general.
Let’s start with the obvious: Marlin’s pitcher Jose Fernandez was making his first major league start, and of course if we look at Mets history, any pitcher making their first start against the Mets usually dominates them. And dominate them he did, going five strong innings, allowing just 3 hits, striking out 8 and walking just one. In typical “by the book” fashion that’s ruining the Major Leagues, Redmond pulls him after just five innings because he’s “done enough” and was afraid of the pitch-count.
Can you imagine pulling a 21 year old pitcher who’s dominating a game because of pitch count? Pitch count?! Pitch count!?!? (say that in a Jim Mora voice for emphasis). The Miami Marlins announcing team said it best: there isn’t a Mets hitter right now who’s not happy Fernandez left the game. And they were right. We’ve already PROVEN time and time again that the pitchcount is completely irrelevant and that it’s actually the prime cause of why so many pitchers get injured in today’s baseball world where percentage-wise, more pitchers get hurt now than ever before in the history of the game.
Then there’s the “go to the closer in the ninth regardless” mentality, which unless you have Mariano Rivera on your team, many times is a flawed strategy as well. But that’s not where Redmond’s boneheaded management came into play. Lucas Duda had a decent at-bat where he actually hit the ball for a soft centerfield popout (we were amazed he didn’t strike out in that situation). Then Tejada took one for the team and got hit by a pitch to bring up Capt. Kirk who was pinch-hitting for the pitcher. Nieuwenhuis delivered a single and took second when Tejada alertly slid into third safely challenging the weak arm and overall dumbness of Marlin centerfielder Juan Pierre (one of the more overrated players in the game).
The next batter was pinch hitter Marlon Byrd, who any another manager would have walked intentionally to create a force at any base or even a game-ending double play to the hitter after Byrd, the 0-for-4 and double play waiting to happen Collin Cowgill, who if you took away his 2 homeruns is 1-14 on the season. Come on folks, you have to walk Byrd intentionally in that situation to set up the force. My softball team knows that!
Now, I understand why Redmond didn’t do this: he’s not comfortable with his reliever’s ability to throw strikes and may walk in the tying run to the next batter. I get it, but it’s a sad state of affairs when a major league manager defies logic and can’t trust his closer to just not walk a batter! That has to be what was going through his mind – nothing else makes sense.
But instead the Mets were the recipient of a drawn-in infield where Byrd delivered the clutch hit and started the walk-off celebration worthy of a Game 7 World Series victory. Hey, we Mets fans will take it. We deserve some good karma coming our way for a change!
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