Chess Match: Game 45
Breaking down a key moment in Saturday’s 8-5 loss to the D-backs…
The situation: Blue Jays are trailing 8-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning with D-backs right-hander Edwin Jackson in the midst of fashioning a gem.
The decision: Manager Cito Gaston uses the developing blowout as an opportunity to provide a couple of his players with rest. Center fielder Vernon Wells is pulled out of the cleanup spot and replaced by Fred Lewis. Jose Bautista is pulled as part of a double switch.
The outcome: The Blue Jays did what they’ve done consistently all season, mounting a late comeback attempt fueled by home runs. Toronto pieced together a four-run eighth inning to cut Arizona’s lead to three runs. During the eighth, Jeremy Reed struck out hitting out of Bautista’s spot in the order. In the ninth, Lewis grounded out hitting out of Wells’ spot in the order.
The analysis: Gaston rarely uses his bench players, meaning his starters get a ton of playing time throughout a season. With a day game on Sunday, and a blowout in the works, it seemed like an opportune time to give Wells and Bautista — players who have been in there every day — some rest.
Gaston also pulled shortstop Alex Gonzalez in the seventh and put John McDonald in the lineup. McDonald wound up collecting a single to jump-start Toronto’s four-spot in the eighth inning. It is Gaston’s way of trying to keep players fresh without giving them a full game off and in that respect it made sense.
The risk, though, is that Toronto starts to rally and the game is suddenly thrust into the hands of guys like McDonald, Reed or Mike McCoy (moved to right field when Bautista was pulled). Lewis has been enjoying a hot spell at the plate as well, but missing Wells as the cleanup man late is a risky move as well.
Also needing to be factored in is the fact that the D-backs were going to stick with Jackson as long as possible in light of the team’s bullpen. Arizona’s relief corps entered Saturday with a MLB-worst 7.79 ERA. So, the chances of a late comeback are increased when considering Jackson might wear down and the D-backs’ bullpen has a habit of imploding.
“I wanted to get some guys some rest.” –Manager Cito Gaston
My verdict: I understand Gaston’s line of thinking, but the sixth inning seems a bit early to start pulling key guys out of the lineup in my opinion. A seven-run lead is tough to overcome, but the Jays’ bullpen was performing well and Toronto’s offense has shown all season long that it can put up a pile of runs in a hurry. The D-backs’ bullpen has also shown all season long that it can give up a pile of runs in a hurry.
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