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.

The comment:

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.

~JB

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3 Comments

As AL fans seeing few NL games, the double switch is kinda neat. But I couldn’t understand why Wells, in particular, and then Gonzalez were swapped out for “no apparent in-game reason”. I wondered if Wells had suffered a small injury (ala Travis Snyder). What if they needed a PH for a pitcher later in the game? After two innings I had said to our friends that the Jays have a habit of staying in the game to the end. But Cito’s move seemed to be denying them that chance.

Steve

I would imagine it was because at the time they were down 8-1, showed little offense, and are in the middle of a long stretch of games. McCoy and McDonald don’t get a lot of playing time so it was a way to get them in and keep them fresh should they be needed later on in the trip. As for Lewis it was purely numbers keeping him out of the lineup so giving Wells a ‘rest’ works both to keep him fresh and get an extra at bat or two for Lewis.

Personally I love the Lewis pickup and can see him as the LF that the Jays have been looking for the last few years. Nothing against Lind because w eknow what he can do with his bat but he is average at best in the field and if we have the chance to put a really good fielder out there it just makes sense. Snider has looked so far as good in right as he has in left and Bautista has been good as well. As many others have said I can see JB being dangled as trade bait sooner rather than later if he keeps up at this pace. So the lineup for Sept. and next year should be : Lewis, Wells, Snider in the OF, EE or a pickup at 3B, Gonzalez or a pickup at SS, Hill 2B, Wallace 1B, Buck or a pickup at C. Clearly there are still some holes to fill but EE, Gonzalez, and Buck are all showing that they can hit well and play average or better D so for the time being they are serviceable fillers until some of the prospects are ready to move up.

Bit of a coin toss, here. 6th inning, down 8-1. Jackson is mowing them down and shows no signs of giving up. Bautista is 0fer, and nobody else can put much together. Do you play the long shot and try for the win, or get your bench guys some at bats so they can stay sharp and help you later?

Some other things to consider: Lewis is actually hitting for a bit better average than Well over the last 10, you need base runners, and he hits left. They are resting Wells more this year, and Lewis needs some playing time in CF.. Both McCoy and Reed pinch hit for pitchers, and they both play good D. McCoy got the only extra AB there, and late in the game at that.

Of course, with my 20-20 hindsight, I can see that Vernon didn’t play Sunday either, so I hope he’s not dinged up.

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