Even if Manny Ramirez made the final out of the 6th inning in yesterday’s 4-3 Red Sox win over the Yankees, it still would have been the wrong decision to pitch to Manny. This is “first-guessing” [not “second-guessing”] on my part. It seems everyone, except Joe Girardi and Mike Mussina, would agree. In any league, in that situation, with a hitter as great as Manny coming to the plate, there is no question about what the move should be…MANNY HAS TO BE WALKED !!!
To set the scene again, it was the bottom of the 6th, runners on second and third, two outs, and the Yankees leading 2-1. The next batter up was Manny Ramirez, who in the 4th inning blasted a long homerun way over the Green Monster into one of the signs above the Monster, that stopped the ball from traveling through the streets of Boston. Mike Mussina just recorded a big strikeout of David Ortiz [with the same runners on second and third] for the second out of the inning. So now the key moment of the game was at hand…
Joe Girardi jogged from the dugout for a meeting on the mound with Mussina, Molina, and all the Yankee infielders. After the game, Girardi said, “Basically, I went out there to see how Mussina felt, and to ask him what he wanted to do. He had made good pitches to Ortiz, so the idea was to give Mussina a little wiggle room, and see if he could get Manny to chase something. If we got behind him in the count, we would then walk him”.
Of course, the strategy did not work out as planned, as Manny ripped a screaming line drive on the first pitch [which was up in the zone] to right-center for a two-run double, giving Boston a go-ahead 3-2 lead.
When asked about the decision to pitch to Manny, Mussina said, “when Joe [Girardi] asked me what I wanted to do, I said I didn’t feel any different about [on-deck hitter] Kevin Youkilis, or Manny. If I said, ‘let’s walk him’, that puts me in a bad situation. I was trying to go down and away, but the ball tailed back over the plate [and high]…Manny’s too good a hitter to miss a mistake like that”.
But, in that situation, why take any chance that will result in Manny Ramirez beating you? By making the “Baseball: 101” move [a decision that would be made 99.9% of the time – or, percentages close to that number], the bases would be loaded, setting-up a force at any base, with Mussina facing a less dangerous hitter, Kevin Youkilis. If Youkilis gets a hit…so be it.
As the 6th inning continued, after Mussina gave up the double to Manny, Joe Girardi brought in Brian Bruney, who gave up an RBI single to Youkilis – scoring Manny for Boston’s 4th run, extending their lead to 4-2. If Manny was walked, Mussina would have pitched to Kevin Youkilis, and maybe he makes the final out of the inning. The Yankees would have gone into the 7th still leading, 2-1, – setting the stage for Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera to close out the game, and save a Yankee win!
The damage was already done, though. A decision was made, and on this day it would cost the Yankees a possible win.
The Yankees did get another run in the top of the 7th, to make the score 4-3. And, after a two-out walk to Melky Cabrera, and a single by Bobby Abreu in the top of the 8th, Alex Rodriguez was coming up to hit. So, with their top RBI player up, the Yankees had a big chance to tie, or take the lead again, just as the Sox did with the big two-run double by Manny. But then the rain came! This AB was going to have to wait…..
After a two-hour and 11 minutes delay, the classic show-down was ready to take place…A-Rod batting against the Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon. This night the mighty A-Rod was not going to be a hero, as Papelbon threw three pitches, for three strikes, striking-out Alex for the third out of the inning – ending the Yankees rally.
Jason Varitek described the three pitches as “eye-popping”.
Rodriguez said, “no excuses”…”He got the better of me”.
And, Papelbon was not finished, as he also struck-out, Jason Giambi, and Jorge Posada for the first two outs in the 9th; and, closed it out by getting Robinson Cano to ground out for the final out of the game, saving a 4-3 Red Sox win.
Regarding not walking Manny, Joe Girardi said, [after the game], “It’s a decision I made, and I have to live with it. You have to live by your decisions. There are a lot of decisions you’ll make over the course of the year, and hopefully, 95% of them work out. That’s not the case in this game”.
Well, it was a bad day for Joe Girardi as his questionable decision lead to a tough Yankee loss. Hopefully, we will not see too many more of these decisions the rest of the season.