When the Braves took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 7th inning of Game 4 Monday night, Freddy Garcia’s night was finished. He did an admirable job – staying with Clayton Kershaw through six innings. Jose Constanza pinch hit for him and was able to drive in Elliot Johnson for the go-ahead run in the 7th. So on to the bottom half where the Dodgers had a pinch hitter and then the top of their order up.
I’m of the mindset that the postseason is a totally different animal than the regular season and if you are in a critical situation you need to bring out all the stops. So in my crazy world that doesn’t exist in Major League Baseball I probably would have brought out Kimbrel in the 7th – but Luis Avilan was the right choice – one that can’t be second guessed really. He got into some hot water with runners on 1st & 2nd with 2 out but was able to retire Adrian Gonzalez on a deep fly to right.
On to the 8th, still 3-2.
Enter David Carpenter who has been really good all year. Really, the question isn’t is this the right guy for the 8th inning, it’s how do you play it considering it’s your elimination game.
Carpenter’s last appearance in the series was in the 8th inning of Game 2 when the Braves were up 4-1. He gave up a 2-run homer to Hanley Ramirez which trimmed the margin to 4-3, which was the final score. Considering the fact he gave up that HR, Fredi would certainly have reason to skip Carpenter and go straight to the best closer in the game. But Carpenter has been money all year, so back-to-back outings giving up a home run would seem really unlikely, especially considering he is facing the 5, 6, 7 men in the Dodger order.
The real question to me is how do you manage the 8th inning of your elimination game with a one run lead?
Mariano Rivera recorded 42 career postseason saves. 14 of them were two or more innings. He even went three innings one time in a ALCS game. I wouldn’t dare compare anyone to Rivera unless they are the best closer in the game of baseball, which Craig Kimbrel is.
When you have someone so good, why couldn’t he go two innings? He had two days of rest, and Tuesday was an off day in the series.
As it turned out, Carpenter gave up a double to the Bo-Jackson like Puig and then a hung a breaking ball that was blasted into the night by Juan Uribe. 4-3 Dodgers, end of the road for the Braves.
It wasn’t just an awful move by Fredi Gonzalez like walking Reed Johnson to get to Jason Heyward was by Don Mattingly, but it can certainly be called into question. Postseason games can’t be managed the exact same way as regular season games. Especially elimination games. With just two innings left, they should have had to beat our best, the best. Fredi should have released the Kimbrel. Instead he was left to sit in the bullpen with his arms crossed, wondering what could have been.