Last night, I witnessed easily the most infuriating loss of the Yankees’ dismal season. I mean, this was epically infuriating. Mere days after Torre cost the Yankees the game against the Giants by refusing to pitch Mariano Rivera in a tie game, Torre did the exact same thing against the Orioles.
It was 2-2 in the 9th, thus creating the dreaded scenario in which Torre manages a tie game on the road. Invariably in these games, Torre will resort to mediocre reliever after mediocre reliever in order to preserve the tie, so that the Yankees can score a run, so that Rivera can get a save. This, of course, means that the greatest reliever in baseball history is picking splinters out of his butt on the bench while inferior pitchers give up game-winning runs. Torre never seems to get that – in these situations – the game ends if the other team scores. But that’s cool with Torre. Scott Proctor, Luis Vizcaino, Kyle Farnsworth, and Mike Myers are all clearly better options than that Rivera guy.
Anyway, my beef is that Torre never puts his best reliever (Rivera) in tie games on the road, because he wants to save him for the save situation that may or may not come. Instead of using his best reliever in the most important of situations, he continually turns to worse options and Rivera rarely gets into the game. Also, the Yankees usually lose.
Why am I writing all this? Well, the Red Sox are playing the Mariners tonight in Seattle. It was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th. Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima opened the inning by allowing a single, a sacrifice bunt, and then another single. Therefore, there were runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Did Terry Francona leave Okajima in, even while knowing that if the Mariners score, the game ends? Nope. He brought in Jonathan Papelbon, his best reliever. Papelbon induced two flyballs, thus ending the inning. Papelbon then proceeded to pitch a perfect 10th inning. He was eventually replaced by Joel Piniero, who gave up a run and lost the game.
The moral of the story is this: it is okay and even preferable to bring in your closer in a tie game on the road. It is the smart tactical move. In this example, Papelbon pitched 1.2 perfect innings, which gave his team a chance to win. In the Torre situation, mediocre relievers pitch imperfect innings, which gives their team less of a chance to win.
Well played, Boston. Well played.