Thursday, October 02, 2014

That Didn't Go Well

It turns out that good pitching does stop good hitting.

I don't recall being at such a one-sided game before, ever. Usually, even in the worst drubbings, there is one moment of ultimately false hope when you can rev yourself up with the possibility that if this happened and then that happened, the Bucs could get back into it. But after Crawford's response to the Volquez hanging curve in the third made its sickening trajectory in the direction of the right-field seats and plopped in with the finality and irrevocability of a cell phone plopping into a toilet...nothing. All hope, for this game and for the season, was lost, and things only got worse.

But that moment of the Crawford home run was remarkable. Before it happened and despite the troubling contrast between the methodical ease with which Bumgarner was slicing up the Pirates hitters and the well-directed line drives and long pitch counts that the increasingly comfortable and opportunistic Giants' hitters were taking vs. Eddie, it was still possible for us to delude ourselves into thinking that we were part of that magical PNC Park Wild Card crowd, last seen a year ago, that could will the game the Pirates' way with the sheer force of its collective psychic energy. The bases were loaded with no outs and things already looked grim, but when Volquez got two strikes on Crawford, everybody rose to their feet, black hand towels were waving all over the park, and the noise rose again to a deafening pitch. And then...plop...silence. The contrast was stunning. Suddenly, there we were in the quietest ballpark I have ever stood in. I just looked at Cal and said something like, "Oh my."

Clint, whom I have come to love after having been a frequent critic of his in-game management during his tenure, can now get that hip replacement he has courageously been deferring. He didn't manage this game particularly well. He wasn't Ned Yost bad, but there were troubling similarities. I like Joe Posnanski's comparison of Yost's formulaic management style to assembling Ikea furniture. Leave Eddie in, despite the obvious warning signs, and wait until his place in the lineup comes up and you can pinch hit for him. Man on base and a lefty reliever needed? First guy in line is Justin Wilson*. C'mon in, Justin, and just do what you always do with inherited runners--help him find his way home. Inherited runners? Jared Hughes is good with inherited runners. And after he does what he does and wiggles his way out of trouble, leave him in for another inning, because Jared is one of those relievers whom we have mysteriously determined to be able to go more than one inning. Locke? Worley? Sure, they are on the roster for the game, but did you see what happened to Yost last night when he put his starter Ventura into a Wild Card game in an unfamiliar role?

It was all kind of sickeningly inevitable, watching the Clint managing machine follow its pre-programmed formulas and move the game to its ultimate, inexorable conclusion. Bumgarner was good enough, of course, that none of this mattered a whit, but still, as we transition to the cold, depressing Season of the Up and Down Sports (Red Smith), you'd have liked to see a little creativity from the manager in the final game of the year.

Oh well. It was a hell of a season. More about that in a subsequent post.

* I would prefer never to see Justin Wilson pitch in a game ever again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Billy for breaking this down. As a fan watching the televised version of this debacle, I was kept aware of the hopeless nature of this contest. As the cameras panned the faces of dejected onlookers who had already passed through shock to acceptance of the random cruelty of life as fed to them via the game of baseball, I too felt all the machinations of the Hurdle system begin to play out. His system got us here, and his system failed last night, but ever onward.....

8:25 AM  

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