The situation: Bottom of the sixth inning, Cardinals leading, 5-2. Two outs, runners on the corners. Pitchers spot in the order.
The decision: The Cardinals remove Chris Carpenter in favor of pinch-hitter Jon Jay
The outcomes: Jay grounds out to end the inning. Reliever Blake Hawksworth gets in trouble in the top of the seventh, and the Cardinals go through four relievers before their out of the inning.
The analysis: Once again, the argument in favor is pretty simple and direct. If Jay gets a hit, the game is broken open. It becomes a four-run lead and the lineup turns over.
The argument against is that Carpenter was only at 89 pitches, and appeared to be getting stronger. Of the last six hitters to face him, four grounded out, one struck out and one reached on an infield single.
The Cardinals went in knowing they didn’t want to use Ryan Franklin to close out the game, meaning they were down one man. However, it would have been hard to envision that being as big an issue as it turned out to be. Six relievers should be more than enough, and if Hawksworth had just gotten a little luck, it wouldn’t have taken four pitchers to finish the seventh.
The comment: “We were not feeling great about sending him out there [for the seventh]. We felt like he had really worked hard, so he was going to go out there [if his spot in the order hadn’t come up] — but go out there with a very short leash.”
My verdict: I’d have stayed with Carpenter, given the low pitch count and the fact that he seemed to be gaining steam. The strongest argument is the break-the-game-open argument, but that’s more of a factor if the pinch-hitter is a power hitter, someone who could deliver two or three runs on one swing. Jay is not that kind of hitter.
Still, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being protective of your starter, especially a starter like Carpenter who will be key to any hopes in October. Like last night’s move, I probably would have done it the other way but I can certainly see the argument for what was done.