I had to listen the game today on XM because Fox Sports decided the folks here in Abilene wanted to see the Rays/Angels game presumably because we’re closer to Arlington than Houston. Those guys aren’t very smart really, they were running Fantastic Four on FX this afternoon and all of their sports networks were going unused. They could increase their ratings by simply giving viewers a choice except of course for blackouts – don’t get me started on that. ANYWAY. . . .
Today’s game, like the one last night, was a close, well pitched affair. Jake Westbrook kept the Braves off the board until the 5th when a hit, a walk and a bunt from the bottom of the order and a double from Prado plated two runs; then nothing. Brandon Beachy was even better against this potent Cardinal crew, going seven scoreless and taking the mound to start the eighth. Eight pitches later there were two on and no one out and Beachy was headed to the showers. The question is, why was he out there in the first place?
Yes, I know he had thrown only 89 pitches but they were thrown against the league’s best hitting team in the afternoon sun in Atlanta. And we forget that as good as he’s been, this was only his eighth major league start. Shouldn’t skipper Fredi Gonzales have said “Good job kid, have a seat while we finish this up for you?” Don’t we usually try to remove a rookie and allow him to win when he’s done that well? Isn’t that what we have that two-headed monster in the bullpen for? Wasn’t the plan this year to get seven strong when possible then let Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel finish it off? That Kimbrel blew the save yesterday and took the loss today is unimportant and here’s why.
Everybody blows a save and blowing it to the hottest offense in baseball is no shame. I know the walk was his undoing but those screaming for him to be fired have short memories. Billy Wagner walked 2.9 batters every name innings last year. Jonny Venters walked 4.2/9 last year is walking 2.6/9 this year . Kimbrel’s number is 2.4. So yesterday’s game is a nonissue. Closers blow saves and go out the next day to save the game; even Rivera. Besides, today’s game wasn’t a save chance – though it should have been – it was a hold them where they are spot. Closers just aren’t as effective in those situations as they are in save opportunities. So here’s how it should have gone.
Venters starts the eight inning facing Daniel Descalio. Descalio has less than 100 major league at bats, is hitting 200 this year and 1 for 5 against lefties this year and none of them was Jonny Venters; 1 out. Tyler Greene is 0-1 and a walk against Venters but I still think the odds are favor Venters in the daylight. Nick Punto doesn’t try to bunt Venters and we saw Venters punch out Lance Berkman. Venters has a 1-2-3 eighth and leave Kimbrel a 2 run lead to start the ninth. Then, with a two run lead, Kimbrel closes out the ninth; or not. Even if it doesn’t go as I would have predicted, sending Beachy out fore the eighth was another instance of Fredi Gonzales mismanaging the pitchers. Don’t misunderstand me, I always, always, always thought Bobby Cox was not a good manager of pitching staffs. It’s just that I think Fredi is worse; much worse. The sad incident with Roger McDowell almost certainly means his departure. If Dave Wallace stays perhaps he can teach Fredi something; somebody has to and quickly.