October 2, 2003

Has A Team Ever Fired Its Manager During The Playoffs? Gump made a gaggle of mistakes in Game 1 and Boston lost 5-4 on a bases-loaded suicide squeeze bunt in the 12th inning. I'm skeptical that this team, as good as it is, can overcome its manager's chronic brain farts.

1. Why was Pedro left out to throw a season-high 130 pitches? It was clear Martinez was not completely sharp last night. His velocity was down (although ESPN's radar readings were suspect throughout the game) and after allowing 3 hits, a walk and 3 runs in the 3rd, he started to nibble. Ten of his 19 pitches in the 4th inning were balls (for the game, he threw 80 strikes and 50 balls). Through 6 innings, Pedro had thrown 97 pitches and trailed 3-2. Having Martinez pitch Game 4 on short rest was contingent on not being overworked in Game 1. However, rather than go to the pen, Gump sent Pedro out for the 7th inning. Martinez allowed a leadoff single and (after a force play, an error and a fly out) walked Ellis to put 2 on with 2 outs. Grady came to the mound, and I was positive that was it, but Gump left Pedro in. He threw 11 pitches to Durazo and walked him to load the bases. Chavez then fouled out to Varitek to end the inning, but Martinez's 33 pitches that inning brought his total to 130, possibly hampering his effectiveness later in the series.

2. Gump has pinch-run for slower players like Ortiz late in games throughout the season. This has sometimes backfired and the Sox have been forced to have a weak bat in a crucial situation an inning or two later. Boston led 4-3 and Ortiz began the 8th inning with a walk. Grady did not pull him for a pinch-runner (that's why Adrian Brown is on the team). After Millar struck out, Mueller lined a double into the right field corner. Almost every player on the team would have scored on that hit, but not Ortiz. I wonder if Grady was cautious about having his lineup weakened in case of extra innings. Maybe. But this was the time to get an insurance run and win the game in 9 innings. ... So there was Ortiz at third, where he had a great view of perhaps Gump's dumbest move of the night.

3. After Mueller's double put runners at second and third with 1 out, Gump had McCarty pinch-hit for Nixon against Rincon. I didn't have a huge problem with hitting for Nixon, since he can't hit lefties and was probably still not 100%. As expected, Oakland countered with submariner Chad Bradford. Gump then burned McCarty and sent up Brown instead. I didn't see Macha high-fiving his coaches in the A's dugout when Brown was announced. I guess ESPN's cameras were focused elsewhere. Brown was completely overmatched and Bradford struck him out. Varitek was walked intentionally and Damon grounded into a force at third. Poof, rally over, no insurance run. ... There is no excuse for having Brown up in that situation. He is not on the team for his bat and should be hitting only as a last resort. Of all the possible choices (Nixon/Rincon, McCarty/Bradford or Kapler/Bradford (Kapler ended up PHing for Brown in the 11th and taking his spot in RF)), Gump chose the worst one.

4. Once Pedro wiggled out of the 7th, I expected Grady to use Timlin in the 8th and Kim in the 9th. Timlin pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning, getting Tejada to foul out and striking out Hatteberg and Long. In the 9th, Kim retired Hernandez on a shallow fly to center, but walked McMillon on 4 pitches. But they weren't horrible pitches (ball 3 was clearly a strike); plate umpire Randy Marsh's strike zone was a mess, morphing constantly like a lava lamp. With a 1-1 count on Singleton, Kim came inside, Singleton took a half-swing and the ball hit his mid-section. I don't think the pitch would have hit him if he hadn't swung. But Marsh ruled it a HBP and there were runners at first and second. Facing leadoff hitter Ellis, Kim's sinker was filthy and untouchable and Ellis struck out for the second out. Durazo was next ... and out came Gump. He pulled Kim and brought in Embree. Kim had put two guys on base, but the A's couldn't touch his fastball or sinker. Grady said he wanted LHP Embree to face LH Durazo. But:

Durazo v lefties: .284/.380/.457 (.837); v righties .247/.370/.418 (.788)
Embree v lefties: .262/.272/.424 (.696); v righties .221/.314/.317 (.631)
BHKim v lefties: .221/.319/.342 (.661); v righties .227/.259/.339 (.597)

Kim is better against lefties than Embree is and Durazo hits lefties much better than righties (almost 40 points of batting average). But Gump wanted the lefty-lefty matchup. Moron. Durazo whacked Embree's third pitch into left to tie the game at 4-4. I would have left Kim in to face Durazo and (if necessary) brought Embree in to face Chavez, who can't hit lefties. ... And as they have all year, the press criticized the bullpen without noting that it was mismanaged by Gump. Kevin Dupont wrote that Grady was "looking to play the odds." But the plain truth is that Grady went against the odds.

5. In addition to running the risk of a weaker Pedro in Game 4, Grady may have weakened Lowe for Game 3 by having him pitch two innings of relief. There is one reason Bronson "All I Do Is Get Guys Out" Arroyo is in the pen and that's to pitch multiple relief innings. If Gump doesn't use Arroyo last night, when in the world would he use him? I can only assume Gump was panicking at this point and figured Lowe was his best pitcher, he used to be a reliever and he was going to throw on the side Thursday anyway. (The refusal to use Arroyo told me that it was likely Theo and not Grady who put Arroyo on the roster.) ... Lowe was not sharp, walking the leadoff batter in both innings. Durazo walked to start the 12th and was forced by Chavez, who beat the relay and avoided a double play. (At this point, possible Game 4 starter Burkett was warming in the pen; again, no Arroyo.) Tejada grounded to third and Chavez (running on the pitch) went to second. Grady came out to talk with Lowe. Hatteberg (1-for-14 v Lowe) walked on a full count and Chavez stole third on ball 4. First and third with 2 outs. Long looked at strike one and Hatteberg went to second on the pitch. At this point, Gump decided to walk Long intentionally and pitch to Hernandez. This move made very little sense. While Long's run did not matter and it set up a force at any base, Hernandez is a much better hitter than Long, Lowe did not have good control and Long was already down 0-1. ... Hernandez took a strike, saw that Mueller was playing back, and dropped down a bunt down the third base line. Neither Mueller nor Lowe had a play and Chavez scored the winning run.

Gump's decisions either hampered Boston's chance to score additional runs and avoid extra innings or maximized Oakland's chances to tie and then win the game. Several Red Sox players did not do their jobs, but Gump must bear the blame for having players in spots they are not optimally suited for. ... There were other failures, such as Millar getting caught stealing in the 2nd and Ramirez ending five innings with outs (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th). Also, Manny's stance looked odd to me. He seemed a little further away from the plate (he was lunging at pitches in his first two AB) and was facing the pitcher in a more open stance. The announcers didn't mention it, which shouldn't be a surprise. God, they were awful. David Justice is an idiot; he makes Joe Morgan sound like Vin Scully.

There were some positives of course: Todd Walker is a freaking God, Nomar got more selective at the plate as the game went on, Millar made a great leap on Nomar's throw to end the 9th, and Varitek had a good game (a home run, a single and 2 walks (but he'll be on the bench today)).

This was a game the Red Sox should have won. Theo: "It's appropriate. If we're going to win this series, we've got to lose a game like this. It's us." ... Grady Gump is in waaaay over his head and I hate being reminded of that, especially at 2:30 am. If the Red Sox can score a quick 10-12 runs today, I'll feel much better. ... Wakefield/Zito at 4:00.

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