Obviously, last night’s loss can’t entirely be pinned on 9th-inning managerial decisions; it’s not Joe Torre’s fault that the team put up only one run and five hits last night. But I have to take some issue with how he used his pinch-hitters in the bottom of the 9th.
After James Loney struck out and the skies opened, causing an hour’s delay, Matt Kemp walked and stole second on Blake DeWitt’s strikeout. That brings to the plate the #8 hitter, Chin-Lung Hu, who’s been an offensive disappointment thus far but did have a single and a triple in his last two at-bats. Available on the Dodgers bench against righty Ryan Franklin were switch-hitter Delwyn Young and righties Luis Maza, Danny Ardoin, and Andruw Jones.
Now there’s lots of ways you can go here, with the tying run in scoring position and two outs. You can let Hu hit, hoping that his multihit game means he’s having a good night and still have plenty of options to hit for the pitcher at the #9 spot. You could let Luis Maza hit, who for all the complaints about his terribly weak arm in the field has still put up 5 hits in his 11 MLB at bats (.455) after hitting .402 in AAA. Or you could put Delwyn Young in, playing the lefty/righty game and using the hitter who’s probably the best of all the available options right now. Under no circumstances do you hit Andruw Jones, who’s been A) a bust of biblical proportions, B) nursing a bad knee which had kept him out of the lineup for the last 5 days, C) on an 0-7, 4K streak, and D) the only available Dodger who had faced Ryan Franklin before, but with a 0-5, 2K line. You especially don’t hit him in a 2-out situation when he’s having massive problems even making contact with the ball.
So Torre chooses to send out Young, which is fine by me. He walks, and Kemp advances on a wild pitch, putting the tying run 90 feet away. Now, Torre is faced with another decision: someone has to hit for the pitcher, but who? You can discount Danny Ardoin since he’s the backup catcher and not much of a hitter anyway. You’re left with Luis Maza or Andruw Jones. Both righty, so that doesn’t matter. Small name who’s accomplished nothing vs. a huge name with a big history, no doubt; but the small name has been hitting all season wherever he’s been, while the huge name has been beyond terrible.
Of course, Jones is Torre’s choice.
And to absolutely no one’s surprise, he strikes out weakly and looks bad doing so. Game over.
Yes, I am fully aware of the absurdity of the fact that I am arguing for Luis Maza over Andruw Jones in a two-out, bottom of the 9th situation. But the fact that I can even make this argument, and make it a pretty strong one, I believe, should be a pretty good indicator of what this has come to. Some of the blame has to go to Torre for even letting him be in such a situation last night; but something else has to be done. We can’t go all season with Jones eating up outs like this. It’s clear his knee just isn’t right. If he really only hurt it last week vs. Anaheim, and he was that horrible before that, what’s he going to be like trying to gut through a bad knee? Just get it taken care of, and hopefully come back with a clear head and healthy knee in two months.
Also: Jeff Kent as cleanup hitter deathwatch: Yet another 0-4 puts him at a 64 OPS+. He is now 8% worse of a hitter than the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years.