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October 29, 2010

World Series Prospectus

Game Two Report

by John Perrotto

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SAN FRANCISCO—Relief pitchers have a special bond. Not only do they belong to the same team, but they are also a team within a team. In most ballparks, they spend the game apart from their teammates, often sitting as far as 450 feet away from the dugout.

So, a team's bullpen often becomes like a family. And when one family member suffers, everyone feels the pain.

Thursday night, everyone in the Rangers' bullpen was hurting more than normal following Game Two of the World Series at AT&T Park. Manager Ron Washington deployed five relievers after six magnificent innings by starter C.J. Wilson and all of them failed, some spectacularly.

Darren Oliver allowed the runner he inherited from Wilson to score and then Darren O'Day, Derek Holland, Mark Lowe, and Michael Kirkman all gave up runs during a nightmarish eighth inning when the Giants scored seven runs to turn a tight game into a 9-0 blowout and a 2-0 lead in the series.

"It was hard to watch," O'Day said. "It just seemed like whoever we put in couldn't get anyone out. The difficult part is everyone in our bullpen knows how to pitch. We have a good bullpen. You wouldn't know it if the only time you've watched us play all season is in the first two games of the World Series. That's the hard part to swallow. In the two biggest games of the year, we haven't gotten the job done."

The Rangers' bullpen gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings in the 11-7 loss in Game One. That wasn't a pretty performance, but it didn't begin to portend the meltdown of Game Two.

Giants starter Matt Cain allowed four hits in 7 2/3 innings as he combined with Javier Lopez and Guillermo Mota on a shutout—but Wilson was his equal. The only difference is that Wilson gave up a solo home run to Edgar Renteria down the left-field line in the bottom of the fifth after Ian Kinsler hit a drive off the top of the center-field fence to lead off the top of the inning that bounced back into play for a double; Cain stranded him.

The score was still 1-0 in favor of the Giants when Wilson walked Cody Ross on a full-count pitch to start the seventh inning and then left the game with a blister on the middle finger of his left hand. Oliver relieved and Ross moved to second on Aubrey Huff's ground out. Washington kept the veteran lefty in to face right-handed hitting Jose Uribe, who delivered an RBI single to center field to double the Giants' lead.

Cain was lifted with two outs and a man on second in the top of the eighth as manager Bruce Bochy summoned left-hander Lopez to face Josh Hamilton. Lopez got Hamilton to fly out to center field to end the inning and prepared to hand the game off to closer Brian Wilson in the ninth.

However, the Giants' closer wasn't needed. By the time the Rangers came to bat again, the lead had grown to 9-0 following one of the biggest debacle innings in World Series history. Thus, Mota brought out the bucket and mop to finish the rout.

Before we go into detail about the Giants' eighth inning, though, be advised it is not for the faint of heart or those who get squeamish at the sight of horrible pitching.

O'Day started it off well enough by striking out Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez. After giving up a single to Buster Posey, O'Day yielded to left-hander Derek Holland, and that is when things took a surreal turn. Holland walked Nate Schierholtz and Ross on four pitches each to load the bases.

Holland then walked Aubrey Huff on five pitches to force home Posey before exiting in favor of Mark Lowe. Holland threw 13 pitches in his World Series debut and he probably won't tell the grandchildren only one of them was a strike.

Holland offered no excuses for his 7.6 strike percentage: "I felt fine. There was nothing wrong physically. I just had no command of my fastball, it was simple as that. I couldn’t throw it over the plate."

It was surprising that Washington didn't hook Holland after he threw eight straight balls. However, Washington defended that decision and also said he gave no thought to going to rookie closer Neftali Feliz to start the inning in an effort to keep the deficit at two runs.

"I thought Holland could correct himself," Washington said. "I felt like he could finally get back in the groove. I certainly brought him out there to get (the left-handed) Schierholtz out and he didn't. I didn't expect 12 balls in 13 pitches but it happened. Once he didn't get Schierholtz, he wasn't a situational lefty anymore. Holland has gotten right-handers out before."

Relying on Lowe to keep the score at 3-0 was a leap of faith by Washington. Lowe did not pitch between May 3 and September 28 because of back surgery, getting traded from the Mariners to the Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal in the interim on July 9. He made three relief appearances during the final week of the regular season but had not pitched competitively since October 3—before he was used in Game One in which he gave up three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Lowe walked Uribe on a full count to force in a run, then surrendered a two-run single to Renteria, who had three RBI, and made it 6-0. He left in favor of rookie left-hander Michael Kirkman.

Lowe, too, offered no excuses: "Physically, I feel great. I just didn't get anybody out."

Rookie lefty Michael Kirkman, the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year this season, came on but also couldn't stop the insanity. He was torched for a two-run triple by pinch-hitter Aaron Rowand and an RBI double by Torres before Sanchez struck out for the second time in the inning.

All told in the eighth, the four pitchers gave up seven runs, five hits, five walks and threw just 27 of 55 pitches for strikes. On the bright side, they did strike out the side.

That nutty inning almost overshadowed Cain's outstanding performance as he has yet to give up an earned run in 21 1/3 innings in his first postseason. He was not overpowering, as he struck out two and walked two, but he was effective in stopping a Rangers' lineup that was shut out just five times in the regular season. Cain also snapped the 12-game post-season hitting streaks of Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz.

Cain is just the fifth pitcher to toss at least 20 innings in a postseason and not allow an earned run. The record of 27 is shared by Christy Mathewson of the 1905 Giants and Waite Hoyt of the 1921 Yankees. Also on the list are Kenny Rogers for the 2006 Tigers and Carl Hubbell for the 1933 Giants. All but Rogers are in the Hall of Fame.

Cain says Posey, the rookie catcher, has been a big part of his success: "I've been able to work ahead in the count and Buster has done a great job as our catcher of really pushing me to throw different pitches in different counts. So I owe a ton of credit to him."

Cain has shown a freakish ability to limit the number of home runs he allows despite being a fly-ball pitcher. He took that to the extreme with Kinsler's deep fly in the fifth. Cain, though, did his best work of the night to escape the inning unscathed as he got Wilson, who should be available to start a Game Six, to ground out with runners on the corners to end it.

"A lot of times balls that hit the top of the fence bounce out but we got a break there," Bochy said. "Matt made a mistake. He didn't make many but he had him 0-2 and didn't get that ball quite where he wanted and almost paid for it. Still, there's nobody out there and it's tough to get out of it but he did."

Kinsler still seemed upset about his misfortune after the game. He refused to talk to reporters and complained about the number of media members in the clubhouse.

The Rangers, as a whole, did not seem broken by the nightmarish ending. They were still upbeat and talked about the excitement they anticipate for Game Three on Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington when the World Series comes to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for the first time.

"We'll be fine," catcher Matt Treanor said. "We'll recollect our thoughts and get refocused for Saturday. I know we're not going to quit. We're down 2-0 but it's not an insurmountable difference to make up. If anything, I think getting home is going to energize and make it easier to put behind what happened to us here."

Meanwhile, the Giants now need to win just two of five games to clinch their first world championship since 1954, when the franchise was still in New York and pulled a stunning sweep of the 111-win Indians. The Giants have gone 0-3 in the World Series in the 52 years since moving west.

"It's nice to get the first two but that's what it is," Bochy said. "You've got to get to this number before your next number. There's a lot of baseball left but it's good to win the first two. There's no getting around that."

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Derek Holland,  Washington,  Inning Limit

11 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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jayman4

You were pretty generous to Washington. Being a Padres fan, I don't follow Texas much, but:

-O'Day looked good. The hit by Posey was a weak one, following two K's. Schierholtz has a sub-700 OPS this season with modest reverse splits, though much fewer PA's against LHP. Not a Ryan Howard. I would have kept O'Day.

-After walks two guys on 8 pitches to load the bases with two outs, you put in your best pitcher, which is apparently Perez. He is saving him for the save that he made sure was not going to happen? Holland is young with, oddly, much worse ERA on the road than home (given his home park).

Wilson probably mows them down in the 9th to preserve the 2-0 win, so maybe the outcome is unaffected, but it astounds me that managers will hold onto provably poor "rules" and hold onto sweet jobs. Dumb decisions are made in other lines of work, and not broadcast on TV, but still amazes me.

As an aside, I would be interested to see the home field affects on young players. I saw some odd reverse home/away splits (e.g. much higher in the run-killing Petco) on several young Padres hitters this year, and wondered if this is a quirk of sample size or something more persistent.

Oct 29, 2010 07:01 AM
rating: 0
 
doncoffin
(422)

I don't even let Holland face Ross (Hollands OPS against righties this year was 818; Perez was 540-something). I probably don't even bring Holland in. He was death to lefties this year (362 OPS, but only in about 50 PA); Perez was damned good (560-something in over 110 PA). I understand, but don't agree with, the "use your closer to close" mentality. But last night, you had to get to the 9th, and giving up even one run in the 8th was huge.

Oct 29, 2010 07:10 AM
rating: 0
 
jayman4

Hmmm, confused. I was saying keep O'Day and no Holland, but, after making the bad decision to go with Holland, and having the bases loaded with 2 outs and a choice between a guy who just pitched 8 straight balls and a very good reliever (Perez), Washington chose the first choice, which, to me, is indefensible.

I agree the difference between two run deficit and three run deficit is huge, and the given the run probabilities you were not going to get a higher leverage moment in the game.

Oct 29, 2010 07:44 AM
rating: 1
 
harderj

Neftali Feliz or converted outfielder Alexi Ogando (0.94 whip vs. rhb) would have been good choices, and not to have anyone up when Holland was imploding seemed strange...but Washington is pretty LaRussian in his use of his closer (also not having Frank Francisco is a hindrance).

Oct 29, 2010 08:08 AM
rating: 0
 
djbrown

Perez=Feliz in all the above of course.

Oct 29, 2010 08:00 AM
rating: 3
 
surfdent48

Wilson gives up a 340 foot homer and Cain gives up a 400+ foot double high off the wall in center to Kinsler who is stranded on third by getting the pitcher to ground out. Consequently, Cain's streak of scoreless innings continues. An example of the unexplainable luck of this great game.

Oct 29, 2010 08:19 AM
rating: -1
 
Morris Greenberg

Hitting a pitch to the deep gap is just hitting a very hard ball. Hitting a 340 foot homer is partly due to a messup in pitch choice usually.

Oct 29, 2010 21:42 PM
rating: 0
 
69wildcat

Not to keep flogging the expired equine here but I have to agree, why was Feliz not in the game before it got completely out of hand? After the walk to Huff you have to take out Holland, who obviously didn't have it, but to bring in Mark Lowe? That might not have cost the Rangers the game since they didn't score but it certainly made their chances of coming back that much harder. I have never understood why managers insist on saving their best reliever for a save opportunity that might never happen.

Oct 29, 2010 08:22 AM
rating: 0
 
Ray Whatley
(267)

How Ron Washington became a major league manager is a mystery to me. He may be a good inflence on the young Texas team, but as an in-game stategist, he is an amateur and has turned this World Series into a travesty.

Oct 29, 2010 11:24 AM
rating: 0
 
harderj

I went back to look at game logs to see if there was something Washington "knew" about Neftali Feliz and long (> 1.00 ip) stints.

Feliz only had five appearances this season of more than 1.0 inning, despite accruing 69.1 innings total, so while Washington didn't vary much from LaRussian use of his closer, he did in fact use Feliz occasionally earlier than the 9th.

His first long appearance was April 21, when he pitched 2 scoreless innings with 3 K's. However, in his next appearance, two days later, he gave up 3 hits, 2 earned runs, and blew the save, but got the win. In his next three appearances after the 2 inning stint and the subsequent blown save, he allowed four earned runs and seven hits (but no walks) in four innings (note, he had already had two save opportunities by then, so he, not Frank Francisco, was the "closer").

Then he had a run of 1.0 or fewer innings for three weeks.

On May 13, he went 1.2 good innings, then had a very effective run in the nine outings following, with 2 hits and 4 walks in 8 innings, with no earned runs.

Then he had a clunker outing of 1/3 inning, then 1 inning or less use until August 10, when he went 2.0, giving up 2 hits but no runs.

The next day, for the second time this season, he had a rough outing following a longer stint. In 1/3 of an inning he gave up 2 hits, a walk, and 2 earned runs.

Then on August 13th, he went an effective 2.0 innings again, and didn't experience a dropoff when he came back after a day off.

His last long outing was September 25th, when he went 1.1, and stayed effective the rest of the way (0.25 whip in 4 ip the remainder of the season).

So two times he pitched "long" and suffered his next outing, but three times he was fine. Especially with an off-day, it seems Feliz should have been considered (if not Alexi Ogando, who while pitching 2.0 innings the day before, had only thrown 23 pitches or something).

Oct 30, 2010 03:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

I don't believe anybody at BP is suggesting he needs to have a long outing. Just long enough to get them out of the immediate trouble in the 8th.

Oct 30, 2010 13:56 PM
rating: 0
 
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