In the bottom of the second inning in yesterday’s Game 4, the Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs. Andre Ethier had singled, and Yasiel Puig & A.J. Ellis had each drawn walks, so there were three men on for pitcher Ricky Nolasco. At the time, I was watching the game at the MLB Fan Cave with some friends, and once I realized that it was Nolasco coming to the plate, I half-jokingly suggested that Don Mattingly should take his opportunities where he could find them, and pinch-hit for Nolasco despite the fact that his starter had retired six of the seven Cardinals he’d faced and generally was calming all of our questions about him.
I never really expected Mattingly to do it, and he didn’t. Nolasco struck out, and we moved on. I’m thinking about that this morning because I see now that it was the highest-leverage play of the game…
…and so I’m thinking: Should Mattingly have tried to make some noise in that situation? In the regular season, it’s not even a question, because you don’t pull your starter after two innings and ruin your bullpen for weeks. But in the playoffs, when you’re down 2-1 and having all sorts of trouble getting runs on the board, and you have your fourth starter who hasn’t gone in weeks, and the possibility of Clayton Kershaw being available for an inning or two or three to at least make it a reasonable bullpen game after that, well, you wonder if it should have been considered. (Yet another situation where Chris Capuano might have been useful rather than Carlos Marmol, but I digress.)
It probably wouldn’t have mattered, really, because Mattingly would have likely used Skip Schumaker, who grounded into a double play in a very similar situation in the fourth. And you certainly can’t bag on Mattingly for the fact that Nolasco fell apart in the third, because he had looked good in the first two innings, though it’s now fun to think about what might have happened had someone else been on the mound. But with some benefit — but not entirely, as I said above — of hindsight, you start to realize that the Dodgers are about to lose this NLCS because they simply can’t generate offense, and the opportunity to make something happen with the bases loaded is arguably more valuable than another inning or two out of Nolasco.
Like I said, I never really expected such a move, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Mattingly never even considered it. But I know I was thinking it at the time, and I wonder what the outcome might have been.