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World Series Game 5: Managing managers


When it comes to Game 5 of the 2013 World Series, let me be very clear about the most important thing ...

Game 5 was not about the managers, or the umpires, or baseball's arcane rules, or much of anything else except Jon Lester. Boston's lefty ace recorded 23 outs, gave up four hits, and didn't walk a single Cardinal. Lester's now started six postseason games this month, and given up five runs.

In the bottom of the third inning, the plate umpire gave Lester a gift strikeout. If the pitch had instead been called correctly, Matt Carpenter would have trotted to first base with a two-out walk. And maybe everything is different. But probably not, considering the next batter was Shane Robinson. Like I said, this one wasn't about the umpires. And there weren't any crazy incidents afield, no close plays that hurt the Cardinals. This was, believe it or not, just the sort of tight, well-played contest you might expect from two good teams with extra-good starting pitchers.

Still, though ... the managers! After watching Game 5, Friend of Baseball Nation MGL wrote hundreds of words before ultimately describing one of the skippers as the worst manager in baseball ... and that's John Farrell, whose team won! I happen to agree with Mickey: Farrell should have gone for the blowout when he had the chance, instead of letting Lester hit for himself in the top of the seventh. But I'm not sure that qualifies Farrell as the worst manager in baseball, since probably every other manager in baseball would have done exactly the same thing.

Let's focus instead on the losing manager, since he did something in Game 5 that he's done again and again this month.

Through six innings, Adam Wainwright had thrown 86 pitches while allowing just one run; the score was 1-1. Again, there's no manager in baseball who would have gone to his bullpen in this spot. Here's what happened next:

Nava - Strikeout (4 pitches)
Bogaerts - Single (2 pitches)
Drew - Walk (7 pitches)

Two men aboard, and just one out. But hark! Are those two automatic outs coming up! There's no such thing as automatic, but David Ross and Jon Lester are about as close as they get, and 99 pitches isn't a huge number for a pitcher like Wainwright who's well-rested.

There's no such thing as automatic. David Ross -- who's actually a much better hitter than his reputation, which is probably why the Red Sox got him, and why Farrell's comfortable using him as Lester's catcher, and why Ross shouldn't be so bloody modest -- laced a double into left field, making the score 2-1.

Farrell let Lester hit for himself, thus raising MGL's ire. Lester grounded out, meekly.

Which brought up Jacoby Ellsbury. And here's where I differ with Mike Matheny, again. Because, again, Matheny stuck with his starting pitcher past the point where that made any sense at all. Wainwright was now at 105 pitches, and had thrown a number of high-stress pitches in this inning. Jacoby Ellsbury is a really good left-handed hitter. Was anyone surprised when he dropped a single into center field? That plated one runner, and would have plated two if Ross hadn't been out on a fairly close play at the plate.

Considering that the final score was 3-1, Ellsbury's hit was essentially irrelevant. But it does point, once again, to Matheny's unwillingness to replace a starting pitcher until the last possible moment. Whether because he's just really stubborn or because his bullpen's really that weak, I don't know exactly. But I continue to suspect the former.

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