The situation: Bottom of the eighth inning, no outs, runners on first and second, Cardinals lead 5-1. Middle of the Cubs order coming to bat against Kyle McClellan, who hit a batter and allowed a single in his first two batters faced.
The decision: TLR immediately goes to Jason Motte, letting McClellan face only the two batters.
The outcome: Motte mows them down, getting a fly out from Aramis Ramirez and strikeouts of Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd.
The analysis: This was a very aggressive move, especially in a four-run game. TLR made the assessment quickly that McClellan wasn’t right and wasn’t about to get right, and the 4-5-6 spots in the order were the wrong guys to try it against. This would have been a very, very bad game for the Cardinals to lose, with Carpenter having pitched so well and the offense having knocked out a good pitcher in the first inning.
It was too early to go to Ryan Franklin, and the Cubs had a run of right-handed hitters coming up. The only real alternative was Motte, who has been pitching very well — and who can get a strikeout even if he’s not your guy to get a double play.
The comment: “First of all, McClellan has been outstanding. The first two pitches he threw to get strike two [against Ryan Theriot] were both up — breaking ball, fastball. Then he tried to throw the sinker [and hit Theriot].”
“He got really bothered by that hit-by guy. You could tell. He kept looking over there. … So we saw he was not right, and he wasn’t going to get right.”
My verdict: I like it. I liked it at the time and I still do. One of my personal beliefs is that you should roll with a reliever who’s going well; I’m a big believer in the value of a 100-inning, 60-appearance reliever if you can find one. But the flipside of that is not riding a guy who doesn’t have it.
You have an alternative. You have enough of a lead that extra innings are not a concern. Your closer can come in within a couple of outs if you need him. And those are some dangerous hitters coming to the plate. So make the move. Get the outs.
TLR is often accused of overmanaging, but I don’t think this was a case of that. It wasn’t obsessively playing the percentages or matchups. He saw his guy was off, and he made the move.