Tough Night for Don Mattingly As Dodgers Lose to Braves in 11

A few weeks ago, Russell Carleton wrote about the real-world challenges of being a big-league manager over at Baseball Prospectus. Amongst other interesting points, he presented this bullpen scenario:

It’s the ninth inning, and you’re up by one. Your top two relievers are Smith and Jones, and both are fresh and available, which is great, because you’re in the thick of a tight pennant race and need this game. Smith is generally better than Jones and usually gets the call here. But there’s a complication today. Smith has a daughter who has a chronic medical issue. He’s a private man and doesn’t discuss this with the press, because he wants to keep his family out of the limelight. (Can you blame him?) He got some bad news about his daughter earlier and has been walking around with his head down all day. You’ve seen him like this before. He’ll say he’s okay, but he can’t concentrate, and his performance suffers to the point where Jones would actually be the better pitcher tonight to nail down that lead.

It’s easy to say that you’d go with Jones in this situation. But if you do, there will be 12 reporters in your office after the game. All of them will ask why it is that you didn’t go with Smith. Is there a closer controversy? Is Smith injured? When you mumble some made-up BS about “better matchups,” they’ll go to Smith to ask him how he feels about losing his job as closer to Jones. And Smith definitely does not want to answer those questions tonight. If you tell the truth, but kindly ask the reporters to leave that out of the game story, some idiot will put it on Twitter anyway, because he… gets… to… break… a story! Because America has a right to know!

This is what I was thinking about in the eighth inning, when Ronald Belisario was allowed to face Jason Heyward with the tying run on third and two out. I’m sure there must have been a good reason why the struggling Belisario remained in the game rather than allow the deadly-on-lefties Randy Choate (who had thrown just four pitches in six days) to face Heyward, who has a massive platoon split (.973 vs .651) this season.

There must have been a reason Choate didn’t enter there, some unexplained situation that we’d never know about, some personal issue or hidden injury that was preventing his usage, because that’s the only way it’d make sense – or at least this is what I was trying to talk myself into believing when Belisario allowed Heyward to shoot a laser up the middle to tie the game. But then Choate later came on to start the tenth inning, so it seemed he’d been available all along… and so I have no idea what exactly Don Mattingly’s thought process was there. (Choate, of course, struck out a righty and allowed a hit to a lefty when he finally did get in. I hate baseball sometimes.)

Honestly, I defend Mattingly a lot, and generally I like his work, but tonight was a series of bizarre decisions by the Dodger manager. Once the game made it into extras, the Dodgers threatened in the tenth when Elian Herrera reached on an error by first baseman Freddie Freeman, but the opportunity was quickly lost when Shane Victorino gave up an out to bunt Herrera to second. Mark Ellis was unable to move Herrera over, and when the Braves predictably walked Matt Kemp – love it when your best hitter doesn’t get a chance to swing – Andre Ethier grounded out against lefty Eric O’Flaherty.

After Choate retired one of two Braves in the tenth, it wasn’t Kenley Jansen, who hadn’t pitched since Monday, who entered to extinguish the threat, but Brandon League, who’s been an absolute disaster as a Dodger. Michael Bourn, who had singled against Choate, stole second and advanced to third on a poor throw from Matt Treanor, followed by League striking out Martin Prado (thanks in large part to Prado, who swung at ball four and possibly ball five). Chipper Jones drove the ball solidly to center, but fortunately right at Kemp; a few feet in any direction, and the Dodgers would have lost with their worst reliever as their best one sat unused in the bullpen. And don’t we all love when that happens?

In the eleventh, League allowed runners on the corners with two outs thanks to hits from David Ross & Paul Janish. Mattingly strode to the mound to make a double-switch, bringing in A.J. Ellis for Treanor (just the second time all year both catchers have played in the same game) and his ace reliever to put out the fire with the winning run 90 feet away… Jamey Wright. Wright immediately allowed Juan Francisco to knock a single into left field for an Atlanta win; meanwhile, Jansen – who’s thrown six pitches in a week (!) as the Dodgers have generally been winning by large margins – never got a chance. Because CLOSERS GONNA CLOSE, don’t you know. And Jansen will stay up waiting all night for that save opportunity which will never come.

All of this overshadowed the positives of the game for the Dodgers, and there were several. Chris Capuano was excellent once again, striking out eight while pitching into the eighth inning, and even then the two hits he allowed in that frame were hardly well-struck. Ethier, for the first time since July 17 and only the second time in more than two months, went deep – and it was absolutely crushed. Hanley Ramirez had two more hits, continuing his productivity since joining the Dodgers. And Luis Cruz, that inexplicable, wonderful, fantastic Luis Cruz, reached base in each of the five times he was up on three hits and two walks.

Still, this was a game the Dodgers could have and perhaps should have won; with San Francisco crushing the Padres 9-0 after just three innings, it’s probably going to cost them first place, at least for a night.

210 comments
WBBsAs
WBBsAs

A little off topic, but I think Melkygate offers an outstanding opportunity for ending the preposterous policy of granting "home field advantage" to the league that wins a meaningless exhibition.

Tired Math Cat
Tired Math Cat

I thought you were going to say to the rumors that Jansen doesn't know how to save non-save situations. 

 

I was going to read this last night, but I decided to pass out and catch up on sleep instead. 

ThtsaPaddlin
ThtsaPaddlin

Community psychology time: Why don't I like Derek Jeter?

WBBsAs
WBBsAs

How did Fox know we all wanted to watch the Yankees and Red Sox this afternoon?

Dang88
Dang88

@BillShaikin: Source confirms Matt Kemp will not be suspended, as @kengurnick said first. #Dodgers

LA_Woman
LA_Woman

No discipline has been announced for Matt Kemp, and apparently will get none. There had been speculation that MLB was holding off punishing Kemp until after this weekend’s Civil Rights Game festivities (see photos), at which Kemp was presenting Don Newcombe with an award. But it appears that the fact that Kemp was ejected while cheering for Andre Ethier has been considered a mitigating circumstance.

 

http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/2012/08/18/mattingly-suspended-two-games/

WBBsAs
WBBsAs

The Dodgers should win the division by at least five games, but Donnie could make it closer than that if he continues to execute the Full Torre.

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

So Donnie's been suspended for 2 games, wont manage until the homestand. Too bad he didnt start the suspension last night. He really put the team in a tough spot to win with several poor decisions down the stretch.

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@JohnM I dont expect Don to buck tradition and do the right baseball move, but I do expect him to read stats. Belli has not had a good second half, and furthermore, is a lot less effective vs lh. I actually have no complaints with going with Cap to start the 8th, and he pulled him at the right time.

Dang88
Dang88

@JohnM Also what Is complaining about it going to do? I leave the site when it just sounds like little kids going at it

ThtsaPaddlin
ThtsaPaddlin

 @JohnM Yeah, I'm not so concerned about reserving Jansen...I'm actually pretty okay with it.  But the misuse of relievers earlier in the game and bringing in Wright with Tolleson (and to a much lesser extent, Guerra) on the bench has me scratching my head.

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@WBBsAs Speaking of Melky, I found it laughable that the sports shows here in the bay area were all taking the tack that Melky's numbers were dubious and they werent surprised at all that he was caught on something...yeah, right, a week ago they loved him and not a single person would dare question his numbers

ThtsaPaddlin
ThtsaPaddlin

That's a bit of a stretch.  All-Star MVPs aren't supposed to be cheaters.  Well, at least since 1998, anyway.

Tired Math Cat
Tired Math Cat

You mean... we might want to consider alternatives like league performance?

Deuce (is loose)
Deuce (is loose)

 @ThtsaPaddlin   With you there.  Why I don't like him.  A Yankee, overhyped, defensive crappiness overlooked by media, lauded for being a great teammate but refused to move off SS for A-Rod ( who was better there at the time).

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@WBBsAs Fuck those teams, they were on last night too

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@Dang88 He was already effectively suspended for a game. Also, it was Torre who made the call...he gave us Mattingly in the first place.

WBBsAs
WBBsAs

 @Frank J Lapidus  @WBBsAs They've always been dubious numbers, but until recently we didn't know why. Andrew Baggarly had it right the first time, but then had to apologize to a stone-walling Melky.

 

Where in the Bay Area are you?

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@WBBsAs Dodgers least effective relievers lately, if I had to rank them, are League, Wright, and since the break, Belli...of course all 3 were used last night in the most crucial situations...what could go wrong?

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@JohnM @ThtsaPaddlin So basically Kemp is currently hitting dingers at half the expected rate? Makes sense, the Big 3 all have been in a power drought of late

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@phattonez7 @ThtsaPaddlin @Deuce @JohnM i hate the archaic logic, the game was on line in the 8th, th ats when Jansen was needed

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@JohnM @Deuce I go with the Oakland - SF road trip as the low point of the season, but last nights game was a pisser, because 1) we should have won 2) our manager kept making moves that made jt more likely to lose and 3) every game we have lost to the Braves this year has been thanks to the pen. Is it too much to ask that they do their fucking jobs at least half the time against the Braves?

ThtsaPaddlin
ThtsaPaddlin

 @Deuce  @JohnM The pen is getting fatigued.  They were so solid earlier this year, and now I've got almost no faith in them.

Deuce (is loose)
Deuce (is loose)

 @JohnM   No doubt.  Interesting how Don gets flayed for misusing the pen, bu Ned gets a pass.  And he put said pen together.

Frank J Lapidus
Frank J Lapidus

@WBBsAs Belli gets lit up in almost half his appearances since the break, and when he does melt down, its usually good for 2 runs. I definitely didnt trust him with the tying runs already on base - let him come in and start the inning instead. Or, even better, bring in Kenley to close out that inning...he IS the closer, and the 8th inning was when the game needed to be saved...but no managers think like that, unfortunately.

WBBsAs
WBBsAs

 @Frank J Lapidus  @WBBsAs I still think highly of Belisario, but Choate should have been available to pitch to Heyward and Kenley would have wrapped it up in the ninth. League should be a Gnat, and Wright a middle-innings guy.