Chess Match: Game 53
Breaking down a key moment in Monday’s 3-2 win over the Rays…
The situation: The Blue Jays are clinging to a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning. Left-hander Scott Downs has just allowed a run-scoring triple to B.J. Upton and Rays manager Joe Maddon is turning to Willy Aybar as a pinch hitter with one out.
The decision: Manager Cito Gaston turns to the bullpen and brings in Shawn Camp.
The outcome: Camp induces a groundout to second base off the bat of Aybar, scoring Upton to pull the Rays within one run. Camp then yields a single to Sean Rodriguez before escaping the inning with a groundout from Ben Zobrist. Jays closer Kevin Gregg survives a shaky ninth inning to seal the win.
The analysis: The eighth inning provided a classic manager vs. manager situation. First, Gaston pulled Brandon Morrow after the starter allowed a leadoff single to John Jaso, turning to Downs with Hank Blalock due up next. Maddon then turned to Gabe Kapler as a pinch hitter.
The managerial dance continued two batters later, when Maddon chose to go with Aybar over Reid Brignac and Gaston went with Camp over Downs. It was all about the percentages. Aybar was 2-for-3 with a home run in his career against the left-handed Downs and 0-for-2 lifetime against Camp.
My verdict: I thought Gaston handled the situation perfectly and Camp managed to play damage control in setting up the save situation for Gregg. Now, the bigger question might have been, “Why did Gaston pull Morrow after he’d only thrown 91 pitches in a game that saw the righty carry a no-hitter into the sixth?” Well, that answer rests in the fact that Hank Blalock (pulled in favor of Kapler as a pinch hitter vs. Downs) had gone 4-for-6 with one double and two home runs in his career against Morrow.
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