The Red Sox and Astros are tied, 1-1, in the top of the ninth inning in Houston. NESN’s telecast points us to the Red Sox bullpen, where closer Jonathan Papelbon and reclamation project Bobby Jenks are warming up.
Don Orsillo informs us that “of course, if the Red Sox take the lead here, we’ll see Papelbon; if it remains tied, we’ll see Jenks.”. Of course. Because that makes no sense whatsoever.
What’s harder to do, give up no runs or give up one or fewer runs? Common sense tells us that a 1-1 game, where a single run is a loss, calls for the team’s best available pitcher. Sure, you’d love to have your best guy out there to protect a 2-1, extra-inning lead too, but you won’t have that chance if a weaker pitcher gives up the winning run in the ninth.
When will managers stop making decisions based on the save statistic? Sure, you want to keep your closer happy by giving him save opportunities, but wouldn’t he be happier contributing to a win, which is more likely to happen if he pitches the ninth (and maybe tenth) inning?
We won’t get to see if Sox manager Terry Francona would have challenged conventional foolishness, as the Red Sox scored a run in the ninth and Papelbon will come in to close. I’d like to think one of the game’s best managers is better than that, but if that was the case, why would Jenks have been warming up?
Statistics are part of what makes baseball great, but they can be damaging too. Red Sox fans can thank Kevin Youkilis’s run-scoring walk for keeping statistics out of this one.