The situation: Tie game, 2-2, in the middle of the seventh inning. The 2-3-4 hitters in the Braves order coming to the plate, two of them left-handers (No. 2 hitter Jason Heyward and No. 4 hitter Brian McCann).
The decision: TLR lifts Jake Westbrook in favor of Dennys Reyes
The outcome: Reyes allows a homer to the first batter he faces before retiring the next two men.
The analysis: This looks like a platoon play, but there really weren’t a lot of platoon advantages to be gained here. Westbrook has very little left-right split this year. Same goes for the second lefty hitter in the inning, McCann. And Reyes actually has a reverse split this year, though that definitely hasn’t been the story for his career.
Heyward, though, does have quite a split. And while Westbrook had kept him under wraps for the most part, he’d had a tough time with No. 3 hitter Martin Prado and McCann. He was at 105 pitches, though he was also coming off a reasonably effective sixth inning.
Yet it’s worth noting that the momentum Westbrook had seemed to build in the third and fourth was perhaps waning in the fifth and sixth. He wasn’t cruising. He was pitching pretty well, but not really on a roll.
The comment, 1: “I thought he’d had enough. They pay you to evaluate what you’re seeing. And when a guy is done, you get him out of there before somebody makes him pay, makes us pay. He had done a terrific job.” – TLR
The comment, 2: “I felt good. that’s still a lot of pitches. the way I labored in the first two, it’s kind of tough to throw me back out there. after the first two, I told myself get through six.” – Westbrook
My verdict: I’m on the fence on it now, though at the time I thought it was an odd move. But the more I look, the more I see the argument. It’s the seventh, not the sixth, so chances are you won’t see those two lefties again before the ninth. So it’s not like you’re using your one left-handed bullet too soon.
And while Westbrook only allowed one baserunner in his last inning, it was against the bottom of the order. Through the full last time through the order, he had some trouble.
So this will come across as a bit of a reverse second guess. At the time, I thought I would have stayed with Westbrook. But in retrospect, I think the decision was entirely defensible, even given the outcome. I might not let Reyes face Heyward AGAIN, though.