Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Game Reflections - #63 vs Rockies

Padres lost a winnable game today to the Rockies, and dropped their first series in 2 weeks.  That's a bummer.

I'm not going to do my usual recap of the whole game.  Instead, I want to make two points about the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth.

The bottom of the eighth starts with a leadoff single from Ryan Ludwick.  Bud Black immediately pinch-runs for him with Chris Denorfia.  Taking Ludwick, his cleanup hitter and really his best hitter in the lineup, out at this juncture is risky, but figure Black thinks if the run scores he only needs to get 3 more outs.  It's worth the risk.

Brad Hawpe has a good at bat, then flies out to the track in RF.

During Nick Hundley's (and welcome back Nick) at bat Denorfia steals second.  A passed ball later and he's at third.  Colorado brings the infield in.

Point Number One:  The Contact Play Sucks

San Diego puts the contact play on, meaning that as soon as the ball is put into play Denorfia breaks for the plate.  Except that Hundley grounds weakly back the pitcher and Deno is out by 20 feet.  Which begs the question:  why?  In this situation, Denorfia's run gives the Padres the lead.  If the ball gets through the infield he scores.  If Hundley lifts a fly ball to the outfield he scores.  If Hundley makes an out without the contact play on - and this is critical - THE WINNING RUN IS STILL 90 FEET AWAY.

Teams play the infield in specifically to cut down the run at the plate.  I don't care if Usain Friggin' Bolt is taking a lead off third, on a ball hit right to an infielder playing in he's out at the plate if he goes.  So why would any team ever put the contact play on, especially with the infield in?

Hindsight is always 20/20.  Alberto "Hacker" Gonzalez singled to center (which would have driven in Denorfia), then Cantu made the third out.

So on to the top of the ninth.  Heath Bell is in, which seems odd considering he's the only guy in the bullpen that pitched Tuesday.  However, since there will be no save opportunity once the game goes extra innings (where essentially it is at this point anyway), and the top of the Rockie lineup is due, why not.

Carlos Gonzalez leads off with a single.  Jonathan Herrera, pinch hitter, attempts to bunt but pops it up.  In his eagerness to turn two, Jorge Cantu kicks the ball.  Hundley picks it up, has no play at second, slips while throwing the ball to first but retires Herrera.  Bud Black then decides to walk Todd Helton and face Troy Tulowitzki.

Point Number Two:  The Intentional Walk

In this game, Helton was 4-for-4 with a single, home run, and 2 doubles.  On deck is Tulowitzki, the Rockies best player.  Helton is 5-for-12 lifetime against Bell, Tulo is 0-for-14.  Actually seemed like the correct move.  Bell eventually uncorks a wild pitch during the Tulo at bat, so both runners move up 90 feet.  On Deck is Seth Smith.  If you're willing to walk Helton, why not walk Tulowitzki at this point to set up a double play? 

Pitching to Tulo initially with runners on first and second at least has the double play in order as a potential benefit, but that's gone courtesy of the wild pitch.  And the maxim that you don't want to put the go-ahead run in scoring position does not apply.  The winning run was already in position thanks to the "successful" (read: botched) sacrifice bunt.  Walking Tulo would not put another run in scoring position either; he was already there courtesy of the wild pitch.

Black was willing to be aggressive in taking Ludwick out, and in putting the contact play on.  Why did he go in to a shell at this point?

Tulo doubles in two, Huston Street works his second 1-2-3 ninth inning, and the Padres lose 5-3.

A wise man once said, every team wins 40 and loses 40; it's how you manage the other 80 that makes your season.  This game was one of the 80.  San Diego gave this game away.

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