Second-Guessing Game 3: Grading Decisions Made By John Farrell, Joe Maddon In Red Sox-Rays Monday Matchup
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BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox lost Game 3 in dramatic fashion on Monday night, but unlike many sporting events in this town, there is no need for overreaction.
Game 3 was a bad loss for Boston only in the sense that it was a loss. They played well, fought back from a deficit, fell behind only through infield hits and bunts, forced Fernando Rodney to blow a save, and they simply got beat in the unlikeliest fashion — Koji Uehara serving up a home run with the same splitter that the entirety of Major League Baseball could not hit at all from June through September.
It was a painful loss that should leave a little sting, yet if the Red Sox last week had been offered this scenario — up 2-1 with a chance to close out the series against Jeremy Hellickson — they all would have gladly taken it.
And the best part of the Game 3 loss? We don’t have to wait long at all for Game 4, which will begin tonight at 8:37 p.m. (get yourself an extra coffee this afternoon, this should be a late one). Every word you read right here and elsewhere today brings you one split-second closer to first pitch, at which point all the hubbub about Game 3 will instantly become ancient history.
Still, many in Boston will spend Tuesday hooting and hollering, arguing about which managerial decisions were wrong, stupid, idiotic or a joke. This is baseball, and debating decisions is always a part of it.
So with little time to spare, let’s run through some of the decisions from both managers — John Farrell and Joe Maddon — as well as some wild cards. I’ll score them on a Grady scale, in honor of Boston’s least favorite manager, Grady Little. You don’t want a high Grady grade, which will go from one (Good call) to 10 (WHY IS PEDRO STILL IN THE GAME?!?!).
The Decision: Letting Stephen Drew Bat Instead Of Inserting Xander Bogaerts As A Pinch Hitter In The 8th Inning
Grady Grade: 1 out of 10
Twitter exploded with fantasy baseball owners who were irate that John Farrell somehow made the abominable decision to keep his starting shortstop in the game instead of inserting Xander Bogaerts as a pinch hitter. According to these people, Bogaerts is a certified, bona fide superstar who would definitely get a hit in that situation. These fantasy managers used Bogaerts splits against lefties — with stats mostly compiled at the minor league level — to make their case.
Numbers are all well and good (Bogaerts hit .467 against lefties this year … in 15 at-bats) but there are also real-life factors that were very much in play here. Bogaerts had not dug in for a live at-bat since Sept. 29, a full eight days prior to Game 3. To take him off the bench, ice cold, with two on and two out on the road in a raucous, indoor environment and ask him to lace a single off Jake McGee, who was throwing 97 mph, is asking quite a lot from a kid six days removed from his 21st birthday who has just 50 big league plate appearances. (Plus, when you’re using minor league stats to prove your point, I kindly ask you to get out of my face.)
Drew, for all his struggles against lefties this year (he hit .196 against them with a .585 OPS) has still come up with some big hits for the Red Sox in the past two months. He’s 30 years old, he has been a pro for seven years, and he was playing in his 15th postseason game. The moment didn’t consume him.
Drew popped out to end the inning, further fueling those upset over the lack of Bogaerts to believe they were incontrovertibly correct. Yet believing beyond a reasonable doubt that a rookie with almost no big league experience would get a hit in that situation is nuts. No fault for Farrell on that one.
The Decision: Taking David Ortiz Out Of The Game In The 8th Inning For Pinch Runner Quintin Berry
Grady Grade: 4 out of 10
The game was tied 3-3 in the eighth, and the Red Sox needed a run. At that point, Quintin Berry was summonsed from the bench to run for David Ortiz, who had walked to lead off the inning.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad decision, as if the Red Sox get the job done, there are no complaints. But taking Ortiz out of a game is never an easy call — he led the team in average, homers and RBIs this year, even though he missed the first three weeks of the season, and he was 4-for-9 with two homers, a double, three RBIs and four walks already in the series
Working against Farrell on this move was the lineup. With Mike Napoli following Ortiz in the order, there was no chance of Berry stealing second and then getting moved over to third with a sacrifice bunt. Napoli has two career sacrifice bunts, the most recent coming in 2008. Getting a runner into scoring position is good, but losing Ortiz from the lineup is a hefty price to pay to get it. (The fact that Berry was very clearly out in his stolen base but was somehow called safe did a lot to take the heat off Farrell for this move.) (Instant replay is going to turn this entire sport on its head next year.) (I’m digressing via parenthetical phrase.) (I’ll stop now.)
And sure enough, Ortiz’s spot came up in a big situation in the top of the ninth. With a runner on second — and then third, after Ellsbury stole it — and two outs, Mike Carp stepped to the plate. He swung away at 3-0 but then took two pitches on the black to strike out looking. Carp has had some big hits for Boston this year, but he’s no David Ortiz. There’s no chance Ortiz strikes out looking in that situation, though at the same time, Rodney probably would have pitched around him, so that may be a moot point.
Nevertheless, the move did come back to hurt the Red Sox. The criticism can’t come only in retrospect, but at the time when I saw Ortiz jogging to the dugout, I thought it to be a move not necessarily worth the risk, and with the way that the game played out, it proved to be true.
The Decision: Shane Victorino Sacrifice Bunt In The Top Of The 9th
Grady Grade: 1 out of 10
With nobody out and runners on first and second, the Red Sox needed a run or else they’d lose. The fact that Victorino was hitless in four at-bats against Rodney doesn’t even factor into the equation — the Red Sox needed to get the tying run to third. Gotta have it. And it worked.
The Decision: Rays Keep Infield Back In Top 9th With Tying Run On Third
Grady Grade: 1 out of 10
There seemed to be a lot of people out there who were shocked that Joe Maddon, he of the zany defensive alignments, kept his infielders back with runners on second and third and one out in the ninth, but that was a no-brainer. If the infield is drawn in, a routine grounder or sharply hit ball has a much better chance of getting through, which would have scored two runs and turned a one-run lead into a one-run deficit. With the infield back, your infielders have their normal range. If you get a ground ball, you see if you can keep the runner at third, but if not, you let the run score but you get the out and live to see another day. You saw how well it worked out for Tampa.
The Decision: Putting Koji Uehara Into A Tie Game In The 9th
Grady Grade: 0 out of 10
This one’s not even a 1 out of 10. It’s a 0 out of 10. Uehara was historically good this season as the Red Sox’ closer. He needed just 11 pitches to get through an inning over the weekend, and he was well on his way to doing even better on Monday, getting two outs on just three pitches. Yet somehow, Jose Lobaton hit the unhittable pitch. Their backup catcher beat your best guy. Tip your cap, shake your head in bewilderment, and move on.
The Decision: Letting Clay Buchholz Pitch To Evan Longoria In The 5th Inning
Grady Grade: 6.5 out of 10
With runners on second and third and two outs, the Red Sox had a choice: pitch to Evan Longoria and risk a game-tying, three-run homer, or pitch around him with an unintentional intentional walk and take their chances against Wil Myers (0-for-the series) with the bases loaded.
You never want to willingly load the bases when you’re leading by three, but it never hurts to nibble, maybe try to get the batter to fall behind by chasing, and then bounce a few pitches to get him to get himself out. The Rays’ lineup consists, really, of one dangerous hitter, and it’s Longoria. Buchholz got ahead 0-1, but he decided to give Longoria the same pitch that struck him out earlier in the game, only this one caught more of the plate and sat up on a tee for Longoria. It was a bad move, and Longoria crushed it for a three-run homer, the worst possible outcome of that scenario.
Maybe Buchholz was trying to pitch around Longoria but just missed, but that can’t happen. In such a situation, if you’re going to err, you need to err out of the zone, not on the inside half of the plate at the belt.
The Decision: Joe Maddon’s Insistence That The Rays Got “Out-Fenway’d” In Games 1 And 2
Grady Grade: 10 out of 10
Joe Maddon and the Rays seemed convinced that the Green Monster and its proximity to home plate gave the Red Sox a bunch of extra hits in the first two games of the series, to the point where Maddon says his team got out-Fenway’d. That is idiotic.
I wonder if Joe noticed that Longoria’s three-run homer would have only been an RBI single if the hit came in Boston. People seem to only notice the Fenway wall scrapers that transform fly outs into doubles, but they always forget that it just as often turns surefire homers into long singles.
The Decision: Farrell Sending Buchholz Back To The Mound For The 6th
Grady Grade: 2 out of 10
There was some risk in sending Buchholz back out for the sixth after his long fifth inning, but not that much risk. Buchholz was only at 97 pitches, so he had some room to work with. He only needed seven pitches to get through the inning in about three minutes, making the decision look even better.
But I saw you all on Twitter, freaking out about it. I saw you.
The Decision: Blaming The Catwalk For Forcing Buchholz To Throw 15 Extra Pitches In The 4th
Grady Grade: 9 out of 10
This wasn’t a decision by any manager; it was the claim of many writers, analysts and fans. Ben Zobrist popped one straight up to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Jarrod Saltalamacchia camped out under the ball as it made contact with a catwalk, and he was able to make the catch after the redirect. The ball was ruled dead, and Zobrist got a second life with a 2-2 count. He worked a walk, leading many to say this catwalk forced Buchholz to throw 15 extra pitches in the inning, but that’s wrong.
The catwalk rules are black and white. The umps didn’t screw up the call; they got it right. What they didn’t get right was Buchholz’s next pitch, which painted the corner and should have been called strike three. Instead, Dana DeMuth called it a ball, and Buchholz missed with his next pitch, leading to the walk.
If you want to be mad about the catwalk, be mad about the catwalk, because that is a ridiculous factor to affect a meaningful baseball game (if the same play happens in the shallow outfield, the ball is live, further adding to the stupidity of that “ballpark”). But the catwalk didn’t force Buchholz to work extra. A blown call by the home plate ump and a missed pitch for ball four cost Buchholz.
The Decision: The Rays’ Dugout Celebrating When Zobrist’s Pop-Up Hit The Catwalk
Grady Grade: 10 out of 10
That’s embarrassing, guys. Have some pride. Don’t celebrate your mini golf course of a stadium, OK?
The Decision: Jarrod Saltalamacchia To Have That Hairstyle
Grady Grade: Undetermined
Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s hair can only be described as gorgeously disgusting. There’s a certain level of majesty with the way that hair looks, but at the same time, it can just as easily serve to gross out viewers who are watching in HD. The man deserves credit for the bold look. Whether it’s a good or bad decision just cannot be determined.
The Decision: Red Sox Fan Reportedly Reaches Into Fish Tank, Throws Live Ray Onto Field, Though It’s Later Confirmed As A Lie
Grady Grade: 0 out of 10
So someone named Thomas Beisner tweeted that his friend told him a Red Sox fan grabbed a live ray out of the touch tank and threw it onto the field, though MassLive asked a Rays official, who said it never happened. But you know what? If it had happened, then more power to that psycho fan. What better way to protest the absurdity of that fake baseball building than to throw a member of their petting zoo onto the field of play? There is no line in “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” about petting zoos at baseball games, you know?
(This is just a joke. We don’t condone animal abuse here.)
The Decision: Joe Maddon Using The Word ‘Solvent’ To Describe His Team’s Status
Grady Grade: 10 out of 10
This is why people think Joe Maddon is a bit ridiculous. How many baseball managers utter this line after a playoff win?
“What an interesting, wonderful game to stay solvent with.”
What is that? Who talks like that? Probably the same guy who has said in an interview, “I would definitely go for a Ribera del Duero Spanish wine with all of the above because the Spanish diet is very similar with the meats and the cheeses.”
Maddon also said multiple times after Monday’s game that “we went National League” on the Red Sox, taking a lot of credit for the win with his moves instead of chalking it up to the simple fact that Lobaton crushed a pitch and sent it over the wall. Maddon is never hesitant to tout his own brilliance, so he gets a perfect 10 out of 10 Grady grade for that.
The bottom line is that managers have a lot of decisions to make before, during and after baseball games. Typically, one decision never wins or loses a baseball game, as it’s always a combination of moves and what the players on the field do themselves. Many fans were vocally displeased with Farrell for one or several of his decisions in Game 3, but the Red Sox lost the game because the Rays finally caught some breaks of their own, and then Lobaton did the impossible. Sometimes, it’s just that simple.
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