The situation: Top of the sixth, Cardinals trail, 3-1. Two outs. Pitcher Dan Haren, pinch-hitting for pitcher Barry Enright, draws a two-out walk.
The decision: TLR stays with Suppan to face Stephen Drew and Rusty Ryal.
The outcome: Drew and Ryal both single and Arizona stretches its lead by a run.
The analysis: Suppan had been on a bit of a knife-edge all game long, so it might have been hard to tell when the game was starting to get away from him. But walking a pitcher, even a good-hitting pitcher like Haren, was probably a sign. Suppan’s pitch count at that point was already above what he’d thrown in his previous starts.
Still, the right-hander was one out away from getting out of the inning, and his spot was coming up in the bottom half of the frame. The Cardinals are playing with 13 pitchers, but that (combined with Ryan Ludwick’s nagging calf injury) means they have a very, very short bench.
This of course raises the separate issue of how wise it is to have 13 pitchers when one of your 12 players is injured. But that’s a question for another day.
Anyway, ideally, they would have liked to have squeezed the inning out of Suppan, maybe pinch-hit with a starting pitcher or even hope for a situation where Suppan could bunt in the bottom of the sixth and then go on with the rest of the game.
The flipside, though, is that Suppan appeared to have been heading in the wrong direction for a little while already at this point. After walking one of the first 20 batters he faced, he had walked two of the last eight, along with a home run and a single.
One other data point to consider: while Suppan doesn’t have much of a platoon split the past couple of years, Drew does. He’s a feeble hitter against left-handed pitchers, and the Cardinals have two good tactical lefties in their bullpen.
The comment: “Ryal was going to be the last hitter. We were just watching. He got a couple outs there. He had gotten Ryal out before, so we let him have Ryal. He missed him, Boggs gets the next guy.” — TLR
My verdict: I’m pretty sure I would have gone to the lefty for Drew. Suppan is still building up his stamina, and Drew is a completely different hitter against left-handers.