The situation: End of the seventh inning. Cardinals lead, 3-1. 9-1-2 spots in Reds order coming to the plate.
The decision: TLR and Duncan elect to remove Kyle Lohse after 90 pitches and seven strong innings, going with Blake Hawksworth to start the eighth.
The outcome: It’s an adventurous eighth for the Cardinals, as they go through three pitchers and allow the Reds to tie the game. They rally in the bottom of the eighth to take the win, but what might have been a two-reliever game becomes a bit more complicated. Dennys Reyes pitched on a game when he might not have, and Ryan Franklin gets four outs (though on only 16 pitches).
The analysis: The coaching staff felt that Lohse was fading and wanted to get him out before he could get in trouble. Kyle McClellan was, ideally, not available, which complicated things a bit. Ideally that would have been a McClellan inning, and he could even have stayed in to face the lefties rather than Reyes being needed.
The Cardinals are in a stretch of 2 1/2 weeks without a day off, which means that none of the starters will get extra days’ rest any time soon, and they’ve made it clear they intend to avoid pushing the starters too hard. So it’s in line with recent thinking to err on the side of pulling Lohse early, rather than later.
The comment: “It’s a tough call when one of us disagrees. But Dave and I really felt like with a couple breaking balls he had lost a little bit of pop. He’d done a really good job. We had decided before the runs scored [in the bottom of the seventh].” — TLR
My verdict: As I mentioned, it’s consistent, which certainly increases the defensibility of the decision. The thought process is sound.
With that said, it was a close game, and to my eye, Lohse still looked strong. He struck out the last two batters of the seventh, and at least the first couple of batters of the eighth shouldn’t have been too taxing for him. The fact that McClellan was unavailable also argued against going to the ‘pen.
I think I would have stayed with Lohse, who was only at 90 pitches. But there’s a philosophy at play here, and it makes a lot of sense. This team will go as far, in the regular season and October, as the rotation takes it. So while I probably would have asked for another inning out of the starter, I definitely see the opposing argument and I definitely don’t think it was a slam dunk.
Bonus chess match:
Some of you also asked about the decision to leave Dennys Reyes in to face Scott Rolen in the 8th. I theorized that the matchup was a factor, with Rolen being 6-for-10 against Ryan Franklin. But TLR said that the plan all along was for Reyes to face three batters: lefty Joey Votto, right-hander Rolen and lefty Jay Bruce. Reyes was supposed to pitch Rolen “tough,” meaning hope he chases a bad pitch. Not quite the unintentional-intentional walk, but in that neighborhood.
Then Franklin was going to come on for Cabrera. It wasn’t a matter of the batter-vs-pitcher matchup.
The quote: “When Scott’s swinging good like he’s swinging, righty-lefty doesn’t make any difference. Then you have Bruce on deck. So [Reyes] was going to pitch Scott tough.” — TLR