From a Fan's standpoint, two games tonight really fried this old writer's bacon. The first was the Orioles game against the Red Sox and the second was the Royals versus the Twins. Both games were basically decided by the manager and in the Royals' case, by the manager and the General Manager. Here's what happened, first in the Orioles - Red Sox game.
The Orioles basically had the Red Sox pinned down on a fine performance by young sensation, Matusz. And it was 4-1 Orioles going into the seventh inning. Matusz was up to 90+ pitches at that point. You're only going to allow him 100 or so, so the decision was to either start him the seventh inning and let him get an out or two or take him out after six. Personally, the move seemed to be to take him out after the sixth. But, okay, he started the seventh.
Matusz walked Bill Hall. That would have prompted a hook right there. But Matusz faced another batter and Hermida singled and then it was first and third with no outs. Matusz was at 102 pitches and the manager had no choice but to lift him. Granted, the Orioles don't have much of a bullpen. There aren't a lot of good choices out there. But the choice was made and this Fan immediately starts screaming, "NOT ALBERS!" But incredibly, that's the choice. There are four basic problems with this choice: First, he's right handed which gave Ortiz the opportunity to pinch hit. Second, he walks a lot of people. Not just a few, a LOT. Is that what you want with the bases already two thirds full? Third, he gives up a lot of hits. Lastly, the guy has nothing in his arsenal to put anybody away.
So, yes, Ortiz came up, but he struck out. The manager is a genius, right? Wrong. Scuturo came up and blasted a three run homer and the game was tied. Does the manager realize his mistake at that point while the game is still manageable? Nope. He left lame-duck Albers out there. Pedroia doubled. Martinez walked. THEN he pulled Albers. Mickolio then came in and gave up a three run homer to Youkilis. Ballgame. Sure, the Orioles scored a couple to make it a squeaker, but the Red Sox won a game they had no business winning.
What should the manager have done? Why not Hendrickson? He's a lefty, he strikes people out. He throws strikes. Sure Hendrickson pitched a third of an inning the night before, but still. Castillo would have been a better choice. Albers was the last person in the world that should have been in that game. The Orioles have now won two games all year. It's time to put that manager to rest if this is the best game strategy he can come up with.
Now let's move to the Kansas City - Minnesota game. The basic problem here starts from the Royals' roster. They have decided that they need thirteen pitchers. Thirteen! Because of that, there are only four position players on the bench. One is the extra catcher. You can't use him. So that leaves three. This roster inequity completely led to the downfall of the Royals in this game. Let's recap it.
The Royals built an early lead but the Twins are a good hitting club and though young Hochever pitched admirably, the Twins kept pecking away at the lead. By the start of the seventh inning, it's 6-4. Hochever started the seventh and got two quick outs but then Mauer hit a double to bring up Morneau. Hochever is now at 100 pitches and his manager decided to pull him in favor of LOOGY Parrish. Understandable. First, you try to save your pitcher's young arm and secondly, you don't want the young guy to put the tying run on and jeopardize his win that he's worked hard for. Plus, a lefty/lefty matchup is desirable and Parrish has been pretty good so far this year. Except it didn't work out.
Morneau blasted a homer and the score was tied. Parrish walked the next two guys but Rupe came in and got the last out to keep it tied. The game went into extra innings and Soria pitched two brilliant innings but the Royals, who had last ups, can't score. Then in the top of the eleventh, the Royals brought in Bruce Chen, just called up from the minors. Chen was not effective and put some guys on base. Tejada, who has had a terrible year thus far came in and kept the Twins to just a sac fly to put the Twins up by a run.
The Twins have been getting fine closing work by Rauch with Nathan on the shelf. He'd been perfect so far this year. But he wasn't perfect on this night. Butler started off the bottom of the eleventh with a single. The Royals put in Bloomquist to run for him. Sounds reasonable, but remember, there aren't very many people left in the dugout. More on that in a minute. Guillen doubled and the pinch runner paid off as Bloomquist scored all the way from first. Tie game. Pena then ran for Guillen. Down another guy. Gallaspo just missed his pitch and flew out to deep center and Pena easily made it to third. So you have a guy 90 feet from home with one out. 90 feet from winning the game. The only problem was the guy coming up to hit.
The next batter's name was Mitch Maier. Why is he in the game? Because he ran for Ankiel way back in the fifth inning. When you have a short roster of batters, why do you replace a guy like Ankiel in the fifth inning? Because he had a quad strain, that's why. So literally, there is nobody to hit for Maier who was already one for fifteen for the year. Bloomquist was already used. Pena was already used. There is nobody but the catcher and you can't use him. Predictably, Maier popped up and there were two outs. Kendell walked, which is a surprise, and Gordon was the last hope. But he grounded weakly to second and the inning, and the chance was done. But the Royals weren't done being stupid.
The Fan has mentioned that Tejada has been terrible this year. The Royals were lucky enough that he pitched two uneventful thirds of an inning in the eleventh. Seriously, if you are a manager, what are the chances that Tejada is going to have two good innings in a row? Exactly. None. Tejada didn't get anyone out in the 12th. By the time they got Hughes in there to safely get three outs, the Twins had scored two runs and that was that. Oh, the Royals got a runner on in the bottom half of the 12th and then there was a horrible call at second on a force out that wasn't, but it's all moot, the game was over.
The Orioles and Royals both had managers that mishandled the situations of the game and the Royals fell into a squeeze of their own making by misshaping their roster that left them with no bench. Losing teams lose most of the time because they don't have the horses they need to win. That's certainly true of both the Royals and the Orioles. But you can't blame the horses in this case. The blame falls squarely on the jockeys.