Credit Where It’s Due
We’ve given Mike Hargrove a lot of crap this year, and honestly, he’s deserved almost all of it. His bullpen usage has been horrible, his lineups mindnumbing, and his dedication to managing by the book has been utterly predictable and hard to watch.
So tonight, I say kudos to Mike Hargrove – you earned it.
In the top of the seventh inning, you started warming Mark Lowe up, even though Washburn had only allowed 1 run through 6 innings and still had a pitch count below 90. When Ronnie Belliard doubled off the wall to put runners on second and third with one out, even though Washburn was just at 96 pitches for the night, you yanked the veteran and handed the ball to the kid with nine major league innings.
After he made you look like a genius by getting Jhonny Peralta out with a steady dose of nasty changeups, Eric Wedge sent left-hander Todd Hollandsworth to the plate. Hollandsworth can’t hit lefties to save his life, and you hadn’t used George Sherrill. You decided to leave Lowe in, and even though I wouldn’t have walked Hollandsworth to load the bases, you deserve credit for not going for the easy lefty-lefty matchup there.
Then, when Shin-Soo Choo popped out of the dugout to pinch hit, you again resisted going to Sherrill. This despite the fact that you knew Choo was useless against lefties, and you’d seen his haplessness first hand. You trusted the guy with ridiculous stuff, and it paid off.
Then, you sent Mark Lowe back out in the 8th inning, despite having the top of the order coming up, which included all-star lefties Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner. You got to watch Mark Lowe strike out the side in one of the most impressive performances you’ll ever hope to see.
You didn’t stick with a veteran. You didn’t get seduced into playing matchups. You let your newly crowned relief ace work multiple innings. You let him face perhaps the best hitter in the league, who swings from the left side, in a one run game.
I have no idea what got into you, but that was a well executed usage of the bullpen. Please, please keep it up.
Oh, and it’s good to be back.