October 24, 2015

Jays whiff on chance to force Game 7 against Royals

Jose Bautista:
Would-be hero,
possible goat
Don't blame Jose Bautista, of course.

Two homers, both of the non-bat flipping variety (I'll have another post up tomorrow about that and "old school" baseball), and he did his best.

But, he had handicaps.

They included a struggling pitcher, possibly a fielding decision by the normally good right fielder Bautista, and worst, in my opinion, bad management at the end of the game.

The first and third of those are no surprises.

David Price:
More struggles
Most notably, David Price struggles again. He's not just Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs; he's the new Don Newcombe.

But, let's go to the top of the ninth inning.

How does Jays manager John Gibbons not call for a squeeze after Dalton Pompey steals second, then third, with, not just less than 2 outs, but less than 1 out! Plate that tying run, especially if you do this after the Kevin Pillar walk, with the sacrifice also presumably moving him to second.

I know, I know, Gibbons is an AL manager. But, rightly, wrongly, or just weirdly at times, his counterpart, Ned Yost, thinks in NL ways, or at least not in typical AL ways. And, given that Gibbons was an NL catcher in the 1980s, watching Whiteyball with Whitey Herzog and his jackrabbits in St. Louis, he knows what a squeeze play is.

John Gibbons,
actual goat
Add in that you've got a team of whiffers, and you should have considered the squeeze.

First option was with Pillar, who's not totally horrible on K'ing.

After the Pillar walk, you have Dioner Navarro, who definitely is not a bad strikeout person, pinch-hitting for Ryan Goins, who is a K guy. But, Navarro isn't a high-power hitter, so the infield can play fairly shallow, which means relying on "contact" isn't good. Of course, he wound up K'ing.

But, still just one out. And Pillar stealing second.

Ben Revere of defensive heroics up next. And K's. Yes, he's a relatively low-K batter, and there's no force at second. But, you have to, IMO, plate that tying run.

Lorenzo Cain,
actual hero
That, in turn, takes us back to Lorenzo Cain's mad dash home in the bottom of the eighth.

Technically, it's not exactly like Enos Slaughter in the 1946 World Series, as Harry Walker was credited with a double there (many casual fans may be unaware), and we may overly malign Johnny Pesky.

Eric Hosmer had only a single, due to (take your choice)
1. A dumb throwing play by Joey Bats;
2. A smart throwing play by Joey Bats:
3. A knowledge-hindered throwing play by Joey Bats;
4. The best realistic throwing play by Joey Bats, shades of "best realistic running play" by Yost, Mike Jirschele and Alex Gordon in the ninth inning of last year's World Series.

I'm somewhere between 1 and 3.

Cain was running with the pitch, and, as a right fielder, surely Bautista sees that. With Hosmer hitting the ball where he did, shouldn't he assume that Cain might be trying for home? On the other hand, was he getting enough help from teammates on that play? On the third hand, how much of a shot does Joey Bats have at Cain? He would have to spin even harder on that pivot throw, if he goes to first baseman Chris Colabello rather than Goins at second.

Looking at the video of what actually happened, I think Bautista had a 50-50 shot at Cain, no more. Given that this was the start of an inning, keeping Hosmer on first was important. Besides that, his momentum had carried him close enough to the wall that I'm not sure he had space to complete a spin to make an accurate throw to Colabello.

And, credit Cain's speed. (He wasn't actually running on the pitch.) Credit Jirschele for having a good eye, and knowing this situation, with winning run, instead of tying, Game 6, instead of Game 7, and home instead of road, were all different factors than in last year's World Series, too.

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