Chess Match: Game 54
Breaking down a key moment in Tuesday’s 7-6 loss to the Rays…
The situation: The Blue Jays are holding a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded. Closer Kevin Gregg has already walked four batters, forcing in one run. Sean Rodriguez is at the plate for the Rays.
The decision: Manager Cito Gaston sticks with Gregg.
The outcome: Gregg gives up a bases-clearing double to Rodriguez to hand the Rays a 7-5 lead. The right-hander then issues a fifth walk in the inning, convincing Gaston to pull Gregg from the game. On his way to the clubhouse, Gregg argues with home-plate ump Angel Hernandez and is ejected from the game. Toronto loses, 7-6. Gregg’s final line: two-thirds of an inning, one hit, four runs, five walks, one error, one wild pitch, two strikeouts, 40 pitches, 14 strikes.
The analysis: This was hardly Gregg’s first rough showing of the season. Entering the game, the veteran righty had actually allowed seven runs on 13 hits with eight walks over his past 9 1/3 innings, stretching over his last 10 appearances. Gregg had six saves and two blown saves over that stretch.
One problem was that Jays starter Brian Tallet was on a pitch count of around 85 for this game — his first off the disabled list. After 82 pitches, Tallet was pulled. Before Gaston even got to Gregg, he had burned through Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and Scott Downs. That left David Purcey and Rommie Lewis as the only alternatives.
Gaston had Lewis warming up in the bullpen, but the manager will always stick with his veteran guys over bringing in a rookie in a tight situation. Gregg is Toronto’s closer and that means Gaston will lean toward a show of faith rather than managing in a reactionary fashion. Gregg had one out to get and a force at every base.
“You know what, he’s the guy. You have to go with him. You’ve got two kids in the bullpen out there left — Lewis and Purcey. You’re going to stick with your veteran there. The situation didn’t really come up. He got the left-hander out. Sometimes you have to go with your guy until you either win it or lose it. That was the case tonight.” — Gaston
My verdict: It is easy to second guess a manager after a player has an awful showing like Gregg had tonight. Gaston could have stuck with Downs, but that shows a lack of faith in the guy dubbed “the closer.” Gaston could’ve pulled Gregg earlier, but what message does it send by turning to one of the young pitchers? There are still four months left and it is as much about managing players as it is managing games.
Gregg had performed better in his past three appearances, too. Were they perfect? No. But he had shown improvement. Gaston said Gregg will likely get a few days off — Wednesday for sure, followed by a team off-day on Thursday and maybe he’ll have Friday off as well — so maybe that can give him time to work through some of his issues of late.
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