Saturday, August 11, 2007
SAUERBECK, I MEAN GAGNE, BLOWS IT
Eric Gagne has yet to throw a clean inning of relief for us. In fact, he's only thrown one inning of scoreless relief. Granted, he's only had 4 appearances with us, but with Texas he only had 5 outings in which he allowed a run. He also had 12 perfect outings with the Rangers before being traded. So with Texas, he had 29 scoreless appearances out of 34, and 12 perfect outings out of 34. With us, he has had 1 scoreless appearance and 0 perfect innings.
Last night, the so-called best bullpen in baseball collapsed...to the fucking Orioles.
We were down 1-0 in the top of the 8th with 2 outs. Bedard was mowing us down, as usual. But we finally got to him. CB Bucknor helped with a questionable ball called on Wily Mo Pena. Bucknor is, without a doubt, the most inconsistent and therefore the worst home plate umpire in baseball.
Anyway, Pena wound up hitting a single up the middle to tie the game at 1-1. Lugo had a bunt single to give us a 2-1 lead. Pedroia hit an infield single to load the bases. Ortiz came through with a basehit that knocked in a pair of runs. Manny finished the scoring with an RBI single. It was 5-1 going into the bottom of the 8th. With the so-called best bullpen in baseball, the game was over, right?
Gagne comes in to pitch the 8th. Just a question for Francona. I don't mind using Gagne here, but couldn't we have used someone besides a set-up pitcher? Couldn't we try Timlin here?
Anyway, Gagne allows a double, a single, and a walk to start off the inning. Yikes. Millar helped us out by grounding out, but then Huff hits a 2 run double. Now a 5-1 lead has disintegrated to a 5-4 lead.
Nevertheless, best bullpen in baseball. Right?
Okajima comes in and allows an RBI single. One of the few times Hideki has allowed an inherited runner to score. But he got out of the inning with the game still tied 5-5.
In the 9th, the Orioles doubled, sacrificed a man to 3rd, then hit a Sac Fly to knock him in and win the game.
What does it feel like as a position player to score 5 runs in one inning, take a good lead, hand it over to the best bullpen in baseball, and lose? I don't know, but it probably doesn't feel very good.
And what the hell is wrong with Gagne? He's been healthy all year. And at times with the Sox, he's looked sharp. But with pitchers, it's all about mistakes. Gagne is making far more mistakes than he has with Texas or the Dodgers.
The only thing I can think of is the move from closer to set-up. As a closer, your role is very simply defined. If your team has a 3 run or less lead in the 9th, then you go in. Also, if there's an emergency situation in the 8th, like bases loaded and 1 out, you might go in early.
But as a set-up pitcher, your role is a bit less defined. You come into games in the 6th, the 7th, the 8th, sometimes the 9th. You come in when your team has a 1 run lead, a 4 run lead, a 5 run lead. You come in when your team is tied. You come in when your team is down 1 or 2 runs. You pitch in the 10th inning. You come into the game in the middle of an inning. You come in for certain spots when the matchups with hitters are good.
Ballplayers are creatures of habit. When required to change their habits, things can go wrong. It takes some time to adjust to new routines. And it takes time to adjust to routines that are not as regular.
Gagne was acquired to make the end of our bullpen shorten games to 6 or 7 innings. As of now, he's cost us one game, and caused 2 other games we led to be closer than they should have. Is he the 2nd coming of Scott Sauerbeck? I don't think so. I think he'll adjust to his new role on his new team.
But if not, what do we do? If we're in the playoffs (that "if" is becoming more and more visible, it is definitely no longer "when we're in the playoffs"), and Gagne still hasn't adjusted, do you go to him in a 1 or 2 run game? I think if he hasn't settled in by then, he is not a viable set-up option.