It’s easy and quite cliché to second guess a manager after a loss, so I plan on doing it anyway. My dad and I were in attendance for last night’s game at CitiField. Upon being given a 3-run lead in the top of the first inning, I told my dad that I thought the game was pretty much wrapped up. A veteran pitcher like Scott Olsen should be able to hold the Mets offense to less than three runs. To Olsen’s credit, he pretty much did his job. He did not quite make it through 6 innings, but Tyler Walker relieved him and escaped danger by retiring the two batters he faced. After a quick top of the 7th inning, Walker returned to the mound, poised to begin his second inning of work. With a 6-2 lead, it seemed like a good time to give overworked relievers Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps the night off. Instead, Riggleman proceeded to over-manage the situation, something he does quite often.
Alex Cora, a weak, left-handed hitting middle infielder led off the bottom of the 7th inning pinch hitting for the Mets’ pitcher, Hisanori Takahashi. In case you are wondering, because I certainly was, Alex Cora has a .656 career OPS. Cora has actually hit better against left-handed pitchers than right-handed pitchers throughout his career (.701 OPS, .313 wOBA vs. righties, .672 OPS, .298 wOBA vs. lefties). Instead of using facts to support his decision, Riggleman went by the book. Lefty-lefty matchup. In jogged left-hander Doug Slaten from the bullpen. Slaten walked Cora, and then gave up a single to switch-hitting outfielder Angel Pagan. Only the help of a double play allowed Slaten to escape unscathed.
Why is this significant, you ask? After all, he did not give up any runs and got the Nationals three outs closer to their 19th win of the season. This is why the move was significant: Riggleman wasted a relief pitcher. Instead of allowing Walker to pitch another inning, he brought in Slaten. Essentially, the move forced Riggleman to have to use Brian Bruney and Miguel Batista.
The poor managing did not end there. This move I truly do not understand. Just days after Riggleman told the media that Clippard and Capps are being overused, it seemed as though Riggleman had decided to give them the day off. Brian Bruney started the 8th inning by facing three batters and letting all three reach base (with the help of an Ian Desmond error). With the score 6-3, Riggleman brought in Tyler Clippard. I am still confused by this move. Is a four-run lead really that much better than three? A 6-3 lead is close enough to use Clippard but not 6-2? If Clippard was available last night, he should have started the 8th inning. If he was unavailable, he should not have pitched at all. There is absolutely no logical reason why he did not start the inning but was able to pitch after the team ran into trouble. The only possibility I can think of is that a four-run lead is not a save situation, so, naturally, a setup man or closer should not pitch. What a load of crap.
Take my rant with a grain of salt. There is no way of knowing that Tyler Walker would have pitched a scoreless 7th inning. There is really no way of knowing how all of the events would have played out. What we do all know is that what Riggleman did last night was flat out wrong. He hurt his team’s chances of winning.
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Written by Sam Diament