Paying a lot of money for closers used to be ridiculed in sabermetric circles because replacement closers could usually be found, at least when save percentage was the determining metric. But then teams got better at identifying the Capital-C Closers, and managers got a little better at using them outside of traditional save situations, which kinda met the conversation halfway. Paying through the nose for a closer is a terrible use of resources if he’s only used for ninth innings with a lead, but high-leverage relievers who can preserve ties or record six outs can be a lethal weapon for a team that needs to squeeze out marginal wins in a low-scoring environment.
Alas, Tony La Russa came into this job with the express purpose of turning back the clock. When he’s not publicly criticizing his showman rookie for a breach of unwritten rules, he’s keeping his closer out of a tie game on the road, saving him for a situation that will never arrive.
Instead of going to Liam Hendriks in a 1-1 game in the ninth inning, he stuck with Evan Marshall, who had already lucked into three high-leverage outs the inning before. The Yankees tagged Marshall for one soft single and two solid ones with their first three batters to briskly, unceremoniously end what could’ve been a classic game, even in defeat.
OK, it was a classic game for the Yankees. Any game you walk off in the bottom of the ninth after turning a triple play in the top of the ninth qualifies as such. The game had a bunch of other crazy features that we’ll get to, but La Russa has a knack for making the conversation about him.
Because had Hendriks allowed three singles instead of Marshall, his inability to get the job would’ve been the focus, just like a good process bore bad results when La Russa replaced Carlos Rodón with Michael Kopech, who immediately gave up a home run that only qualifies as such in Yankee Stadium for the game’s first run. Maybe you could second-guess both decisions, but when he chooses very good players for important situations, there’s no fault to be found at the managerial level.
But when Marshall … what, the White Sox’s fifth-best reliever? … is counted upon to get all the high-leverage outs in the last two innings regardless of how he’s looking, the conversation can’t help but find the manager, because the manager has no better answer than to say he was saving his closer for a situation that wasn’t guaranteed. For added pain, La Russa mentioned that they were slow on the draw for getting somebody besides Hendriks involved.
Most managers wouldn’t have pressed their luck after the Marshall plan worked against considerable odds the inning before. Marshall replaced Kopech in a 1-1 game with runners on the corners and nobody out in the eighth, perhaps because he finally looked great his last time out, and he can keep the ball in the infield if that’s the guy La Russa thinks he has. I wouldn’t place that much faith in Marshall, but there’s a version of Marshall in the not-too-distant past who fit the bill.
Anyway, Marshall escaped with the help of friends and a foe. First, D.J. LeMahieu’s comebacker eluded Marshall, but bounded right to a shifted Tim Anderson, who fired home in time to get Miguel Andjuar for the first out. Luke Voit followed by hitting a rocket to the left side, but it was at a perfectly positioned Yoán Moncada. Brett Gardner decided to break for third instead of waiting for it to get through, and Moncada had an easy flip to second for the 5-4 double play that ended the inning.
A similarly hot shot to the left side blew up the White Sox’s next rally in spectacular fashion. Yermín Mercedes led off by taking five Aroldis Chapman pitches, four of which missed the zone. He was replaced by Billy Hamilton, but Hamilton couldn’t time the lefty before Leury García bunted him over. Fortunately, García tried to get a hit out of the situation himself, and his push bunt was far enough away from Chapman to force an awkward lunging, stumbling fielding attempt that didn’t get the job done.
That put runners on the first and second with still nobody out for Andrew Vaughn. He took a first-pitch ball from Chapman, then made Chapman prove he could throw a strike for 1-1. When Chapman tried a get-me-over slider on his third pitch, Vaughn put a good swing on it.
Unfortunately he didn’t get any lift on it. His 101-mph grounder was hit right to Gio Urshela, who took a couple steps to his right for the force at third, fired to LeMahieu at second, who completed the turn to Voit for the 5-4-3 triple play.
Those two half-innings were characteristic of just how difficult it was to score a run in this game. Carlos Rodón struck out 13 over six shutout innings, but Jordan Montgomery was his equal by striking out 11 over seven. They combined to make a very specific kind of history.
The teams could only score after they left the game, and only by unusual circumstances. Gleyber Torres greeted Michael Kopech in the seventh by working a 3-1 count — the Yankees’ first three-ball count of the game! — and did what he could to meet Kopech’s heat in a fastball situation. He did enough, sending a relative flare (97.7 mph) into the first rows of Yankee Stadium’s short porch for the latest unlucky opposite-field homer against the White Sox. Statcast said it wouldn’t have been a homer in any other park but they one they were in.
The White Sox had to wait an inning for New York’s starter to leave, but Jonathan Loaisiga was just as much a letdown after Montgomery’s brilliant outing. He walked a pinch-hitting Adam Eaton to open the inning. Eaton then took second on a wild pitch, and third with a bit of canny baserunning on Anderson’s slow chopper to the left side. Eaton held his position after taking a couple steps toward third, and his lack of motion drew no special attention from Urshela, who was charging it. But Eaton also didn’t shift any of his weight back to second, allowing him to restart toward third and take it without a throw.
Those 90 feet mattered, because it brought the infield in, and so Nick Madrigal had plenty of room to parachute a slider that was low and off the plate into short right field to tie the game. It was one of those at-bats that was terrible until it wasn’t, because Madrigal swing at four of five pitches, and none of them were anything close to a strike.
There was still only one out, and Yoán Moncada appeared to sustain the rally by dropping a line drive in front of Aaron Judge in right. But Madrigal got faked by Judge’s bluff and was forced out at second for the 9-6 fielder’s choice.
Over the course of two at-bats, he completed the final two legs of the Nick Madrigal Hat Trick. Well before the soft single on a crazy pitch and the TOOTBLAN, he panicked in the field and rushed himself into an error.
Two errors, actually. With one out and Miguel Andujar on first in the third inning, Madrigal first dropped Gardner’s line drive. That alone wasn’t an error, because he still had his choice of outs. Andujar had frozen like he should’ve, and was barely getting started toward second base, so Madrigal had an easy flip to force out the lead runner. Likewise, he could’ve collected the ball in time to get Gardner at first, and see if Andjuar might be confused himself to not commit all the way to second.
Instead, Madrigal clipped the wire on his internal clock that had it counting double time. He picked up the ball and fired wildly to first, so much so that not only were both runners safe, but both runners could also advance a base as Zack Collins chased down the ball by the first-base dugout.
That put Rodón in a jam he didn’t deserve, but fortunately another infielder had his back. When LeMahieu followed by hitting a bouncer to first base, José Abreu gloved the ball and quickly but calmly — Madrigal always forgets that second part — made an on-target throw home to beat Andjuar by a couple of steps. Rodón then did the rest himself, striking out Voit on three sliders, the last of which elicited a primal roar.
Rodón already had beast mode engaged from the start, when he struck out the first five Yankees he saw. His slider, which had been a late-arriving pitch for most of his starts this season, was with him from the first batter. He threw 32 of them, 22 of which found the zone, 20 of which were swung at, and 11 of which were fanned on. His fastball also had extra pop, averaging 96 and topping out at 99, and the changeup showed up for the third time through.
The combination resulted in a career-high 13 strikeouts with just two singles allowed. Under different circumstances, La Russa might’ve asked him to start a seventh inning, since he had thrown 95 pitches. Coming off an off day and with 18 games over the next 17 days, La Russa chose to not exhaust a starter who will be needed at full strength on normal rest the next two turns.
Rodón lowered his ERA to 1.27, but he didn’t get the win, because Montgomery was just as tough, and even more economical. He threw seven zeroes on just 90 pitches, 68 of which were strikes. Moncada continued his hot streak with a double and single off Montgomery, and Mercedes had a pair of flared singles, but nobody else in the lineup had an answer for a lefty. And because José Abreu went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in between Moncada and Mercedes, the Sox couldn’t post two consecutive productive plate appearances against Montgomery all night. The Yankees offered their own comical mistake when Gardner and Andujar nearly collided on a rather routine Andrew Vaughn fly in left center for a two-base error, with two outs in the sixth, but Yasmani Grandal came off the bench and found out why so many other guys were striking out.
All of the above contributed to a game that seemed like it would’ve gone 16 innings under the traditional rules, but thanks to La Russa’s overreliance on Marshall, we couldn’t even see what it looked like through 10.
*Anderson’s slump extended to 0-for-16 after going hitless in four at-bats, striking out twice. That’s what it took for his average to fall below .300 (.298).
*LeMahieu, Anderson’s batting title rival, had an even worse night. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and his two non-strikeouts resulted in fielder’s choices at the plate.
*Moncada continued his habit of saving his best contact for the least favorable park. His 395-foot drive to the left center power alley only found the base of the wall. Still, he should’ve had a three-hit night if it weren’t for Madrigal.
Record: 26-17 | Box score | Statcast
This was perhaps the most entertaining baseball game I’ve seen all year. I wish we’d won, of course, but it’s nice to have our team talented and relevant again so we can enjoy watching games in May that feel like the playoffs.
I don’t know about that headline, though. Tonight’s game was played on a razor’s edge; it could have gone either way. You can certainly fault TLR’s decision to leave Marshall in for the 9th, especially given the results, but I think this micro-focus on our manager is getting out of hand. Right or wrong, several other MLB managers would have made the exact same call.
I’m confident that most managers would not try to get six high-leverage outs from a guy like Marshall.
I cannot stand TLR any longer but I also would not have liked our closer in the ninth when tied. That already failed this year.
However… Many times this year TLR has tried to grab an extra inning from our relievers when it should be an inning for each (kopech excluded)… That one… That is the one that has blown several/many games already.
That extra grab is what has killed our Super Pen from the beginning.
“Most” is being generous. I’d be surprised if there was one other manager who would have made that call. Marshall has been a disaster this year. 5 K/9, 4 BB/9; 6.89 ERA; 5.70 FIP. Bringing him in at all is questionable (but excusable). Leaving him in for the 9th is indefensible. I really can’t imagine another manager sticking with him.
I would be fine going a few days without La Russa mentioned in every headline. IMO, everything is about him if people choose to make it about him.
But see, that’s the point. We don’t have just “another manager” in our dugout. We have a Hall of Famer Baseball Person. You would think a HOFBP would be making better bullpen decisions than the guy we fired but so far that’s not been the case.
Well, if you look at the headlines here, you’ll see that LaRussa isn’t mentioned in every one of them. In any case, Jim edits a White Sox blog. LaRussa is the manager of the White Sox, and, unfortunately for all of us, is constantly doing dumb, newsworthy shit. If he’s in the headline, like in this post, it’s probably warranted.
Would have made the same call after a day off? No.
I agree Shaggy… every darn day the same stuff…. I wish they’d didn’t hire him but it’s over the top on this site. Doesn’t play Vaughn enough, then plays him too much.. every pitching decision is his fault. That Sox Machine Live episode was disappointing.
Who said he plays Vaughn too much?
You don’t have to be Steve Stone to first guess that a second (or first) inning of Marshall instead of any host of choices in a fully rested bullpen is a horrible idea. Maybe people will stop talking about Tony when he just starts making the normal smart baseball move and stops trying to show how smart he is (and having it blow up in his face).
A careful re-read of the game recaps would show fair analysis of pitching decisions. They’ve given credit to Tony or excused him for reasonable decisions that didn’t work out many times. Indeed, in this very recap, Jim defended TLR for a decision that didn’t work out even though other fans are salty about it.
And I think you’d find folks around here would be thrilled not to see obvious manager blunders not loom large over losses. It’s not like this is typical fan second-guessing. These are decisions that are terrible in real-time and then don’t work out.
It was an entertaining game and TLR blew it. Whether the Sox would have won or lost the game is unknowable, but his decisions materially affected the outcome.
The bullpen had pitched 1 inning in the previous two days. He had his choice of relievers. Even if you give him a pass on going with Marshall and sticking with him through the 8th, the 9th was bad managing. And even if you give him a pass on having Marshall start the 9th, leaving him in once there was a runner on base was bad managing. In that situation what you need is a strikeout. The Sox spent a lot of money on Liam to be that guy who can get you a strikeout in high leverage situations. And Heuer was still an option too.
Also, I just generally am not sure what his thought process was. If the game is close enough and important enough to bring in a pinch hitter (with a batting average below .200!) in 7th, then it is probably important enough and close enough to justify using one of the top 3 or 4 relievers on the team. Alternatively, if the thought process is “don’t waste your closer” then I’m not sure why Grandal couldn’t just have a day off.
So is the logic that the 6th inning was highly stressful so there was no need to risk Rodon? He didn’t seem too stressed out until that point so it felt like he could have pitched the 7th with Kopech ready in case of emergency.
Fun game despite the loss and a great bounce back for rodon who was all but unhittable.
So when can we erase comments about madrigal having a high baseball iq the sample is getting large enough now that he has to be considered one of the worst base runners in baseball and his double error on a liner that should of been a relatively easy grab was awful.
Re Madrigal. Yes, all of that.
However, we really should not be so reliant on or concerned with the performance of our 2018 first round draft pick. Do I wish we had Kelenic instead? Yes. What about the (now) two guys in the Cardinals system (Liberatore and Gorman)? Yeah, I wish we had either one of them. But at least we have a guy who is playing in the majors every day, which frees the team up to spend money elsewhere, except…
Oh wait…we didn’t spend the money elsewhere unless you count Hendricks who was not used in a tight game on the road against the Yankees, so….
I tend to think that the biggest problem with Madrigal is that we need him to be more in 2021 than most 2018 draft picks can actually be. And the reason for that is that we didn’t go out and really fill a gaping hole in right field.
Last night’s game as an example…if we had a real right fielder, then Mendick is the right handed pinch hitter in the 7th instead of Grandal and I would have felt a lot better about Mendick’s chances to make contact there.
Who is faster Paul Konerko or Andrew Vaughn?
As a big Konerko fan, Vaughn is still faster, but Vaughn is slow. Konerko was one of the slowest non-catcher, non-really-big players I’ve ever seen. His inside-the-park home run was glorious.
This was an electrifying game. I was truly entertained and this is why I love baseball. Yes, we lost. Yes, maybe trusting Marshall too much was not a good call, but TLR made other right calls. Some didn’t work (Kopech, Hamilton pinch running). Bringing Marshall in the 8th looked like a genius move, then keeping him, didn’t. Cancels out.
Today will be very tough with Gerrit Cole. I hope Cease keeps us close. The Yankees lineup without Stanton is not as scary as many people think.
Good thing Liam Hendricks will be fresh for after Cease hands the bullpen a late lead with all the runs we’ll score against Cole.
I mean, even if it actually works out that way, is that the way you’d draw it up?
I can’t believe Jordan Montgomery, a perfectly average left handed pitcher, the exact type the Sox usually beat up on, made the lineup sans a couple players (Moncada, Yermin) look like minor league hitters. This is exactly what I’m afraid of after the slim 2-1 win against the Twins the last time out. We should brace ourselves for the offense to slip back the rankings. Blowout wins will be more rare coming in.
As for the Marshall situation, I could see the logic coming in to the 9th. Flukey flyball home runs have hurt the Sox for a while now including in this game so you’d want someone who can get groundballs to get you through to extra innings where the Strikeout artists really matter. It was only 15 innings ago where Marshall was THAT guy that can get those ground pounds. I don’t know what’s been eating him this season, maybe its a confidence thing, maybe he small sample sized his way through last season, whatever it is I hope the Sox pitching staff can fix him or else designate him for mop up duty in blowout losses (which thanks to good SPing, hasn’t really bean an issue for the Sox)
Once there was a runner on in 9th – especially once there were runners on first and second with no outs- then Tony needed to go to someone who could get a strikeout. No point in playing for the 10th with a runner in scoring position and no outs in the bottom of the 9th.
This was basically the 2021 version of Rick Renteria letting winnable games slip away in 2020 by relying on Jimmy Cordero whenever the game was tied. Basically, Tony just did one of the things that led to Renteria getting fired.
I believe no reliever was ready (warmed) by then.
But see, that’s been another problem with La Russa. Multiple times this year he has not anticipated something going poorly and has failed to have another reliever warming in time. If he was only going to use Hendriks in the 9th if they took the lead (which is dumb too), then he should have had another reliever warming with Hendriks, since Marshall only got out of the 8th due to a line drive rocket. It was easy to anticipate things going poorly for Marshall in the 9th.
Well is that just a circumstance? Or is it a circumstance within Tony’s control? After all, he is the one with the office, as he reminded us all this week! Once he decided to start the 9th with Marshall he should have had someone else warming up.
Went to the game — it was incredible. I yelled at Rodon to trust his slider as a putaway during pregame warmups. Feel I should go buy a lottery ticket…
The Sox fan sitting behind me in the outfield was equally nonplussed when Marshall came back out. Utterly ridiculous. TLR needs to be fired immediately — regardless of the sideshow, his in-game decision making has been awful.
Most every game I watch this team play and think “this is a special group of players.”
TLR’s presence has really tainted this season.
What is TLR’s obsession with trying to tempt fate?
He isn’t as smart as he thinks he is which can be a very toxic combination.
Am I the only one who, once Garcia was safe at first from his bunt attempt, expected (hoped), they would call a double steal with Hamilton the lead runner?? 2nd and 3rd with no outs best case, man on second with one out worse case (and what the attempted sac bunt was intended to do.