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Last night was not Don Mattingly’s finest hour

Oct 12, 2013, 8:59 AM EDT

Don Mattingly AP AP

Carlos Beltran delivered the walkoff RBI single in the 13th inning last night to lead the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS, but a number of questionable decisions from Don Mattingly set the events in motion.

The first occurred in the top of the eighth inning after Adrian Gonzalez reached on a leadoff walk and was removed in favor of pinch-runner Dee Gordon. The idea was for Gordon to take off and steal second base, but he didn’t run on the first two pitches to Yasiel Puig and was eventually erased on a force out. The decision to remove Gonzalez for a pinch-runner came back to bite the Dodgers multiple times, as Michael Young entered the game to play first base and hit into inning-ending double plays out of the cleanup spot in the 10th and 12th innings. While the first one required an excellent throw from Beltran in right field, the second was set up after Mattingly had Mark Ellis bunt Carl Crawford over to second base, which was quickly countered by Mike Matheny intentionally walking Hanley Ramirez to pitch to Young.

For Mattingly’s part, he told Phil Rogers of MLB.com after the game that he didn’t regret his decision to remove Gonzalez for Gordon in the eighth.

“Well, it’s one of those [situations] that you’ve got to shoot your bullet when you get a chance,” Mattingly said. “If we don’t use [Gordon] there and the next guy hits a ball in the gap and he doesn’t score and we don’t score there, we’re going to say, ‘Why didn’t you use Dee?’ So it was our opportunity to run him. Obviously, Yasiel swung early, and it didn’t work out for us. But it’s still a situation that I don’t think we would [do differently]. You get a guy on in that inning, and you have to take a shot at scoring a run.”

But that’s not all. While Matheny used his closer Trevor Rosenthal for two innings in a tie game, Mattingly preferred to hold Kenley Jansen for a save situation. This caused him to use relievers like Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell, and Chris Withrow in extra innings first. Mattingly was finally forced to turn to Jansen in the bottom of the 13th after Withrow allowed a one-out single to Daniel Descalso and walked Matt Carpenter, but Beltran quickly ended things with the walkoff single. Perhaps things would have turned out differently if Jansen was given a chance to begin the 13th clean, but it sounds like that was never Mattingly’s intention. In fact, he told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com that holding Jansen out for a save situation is “pretty much what happens with the closer.”

There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played and the Dodgers have a chance to even things up today with their ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound, but they find themselves in an early hole in part due to Mattingly’s failed strategy.

  1. mybrunoblog - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    D.J. Short is the guy at the water cooler on Monday mornings who derides every coaching decision that he perceives caused his team to lose.
    Mattingly’s 8th inning move was a reasonable risk that did not work out. Blaming that one move for the entire game is silly especially considering the dodgers had 13 innings to score a few additional runs.
    A very exciting game. Hope e while series is like this.

    • alexo0 - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      Mattingly didn’t help matters, but the real reason the Dodgers lost was because their bats were unable to come through against Kelly. Kershaw will win, but I have a hard time seeing the Dodgers taking this series now. The Cards are hot now and won the game they needed to get things rolling for them.

    • Joe - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      I’m pretty sure DJ wasn’t blaming that one move for the entire game, considering he went on to also question reliever usage and the wisdom of bunting Crawford over and taking the bat out of Hanley Ramirez’ hands.

      I agree that the pinch runner was a defensible, “your mileage may vary” move that didn’t work out at the time. It was the fact that they basically lost two of their three best hitters for the rest of the night (because why pitch to Hanley when there’s a double-play machine on deck?) that really made it look bad.

  2. koufaxmitzvah - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    While Gonzalez was questionable, Mattingly wasn’t evasive with his reasoning. The part that bothers me is Molina never tagged Ellis at home plate. You don’t get to tag a player with your body. You must tag with the ball in hand.

    If anything, there should be a discussion about that.

    At the end of the day, Cardinals burned through their bullpen more so than the Dodgers.

    • saints97 - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      https://mobile.twitter.com/Matthew_Tynan/status/388879591957217280/photo/1

      • forsch31 - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:23 AM

        Yup….obviously out. No discussion.

      • DJ MC - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        That photo just shows that the glove was somewhere near the runner’s arm. The video angles show the glove moving away from the runner as Molina braces for the impact.

        So that photo doesn’t help anything.

      • sabatimus - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:52 AM

        1:09—Ellis runs into Molina’s arm. The glove never touches him. The angle in the Twitter photo is slightly behind Molina, which makes the glove look like it’s touching Ellis when it really isn’t.

      • saints97 - Oct 12, 2013 at 12:13 PM

        What’s amazing is that you think that video from bad angles is better proof than a close-up still shot.

      • sabatimus - Oct 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM

        Bad angles? You’ve got to be kidding. I already explained why the twitter shot is fallible, and the video shows the play from the absolute perpendicular: the best angle possible.

    • dwrek5 - Oct 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM

      The bullpen was coming off plenty of rest. They had an off day, Waino’s CG, then another off day. They play 1 more game, then another off day. Plus an extra reliever due to just 4 starters needed. Not an issue at this point.

      • paperlions - Oct 12, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        Plus the 2 innings from Lynn aren’t really from the “bullpen”, and they still have Miller as a long man.

    • paperlions - Oct 12, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      That is what bothers you? You know what bothered me? The extra 6″ added to the strike zone when the Dodgers were pitching. There were 12 ( TWELVE) called strikes that were off the plate in favor of the Dodgers and 1 (ONE) for the Cardinals. Many of those called strikes were strike 3s.

      Those calls affected the outcome of the game far more than your expectation that any human could tell if the runner was tagged or not at full speed.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Oct 12, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        The strike zone was pretty consistent all night for both sides, and I can see your frustration on that point. Again, Paper, I’m not blaming the loss on the play at the plate.

        But I’ll get a little nitpicky with you. Not too happy that your starter stuck our guy in the ribs and now he might be out of the lineup for Game 2.

      • paperlions - Oct 12, 2013 at 2:54 PM

        I wasn’t happy that Ramirez got hit either, and either was Kelly or the Cardinals…they aren’t hitting him on purpose with an 0-2 count in the first inning.

        …and the K-zone was NOT consistently bad for both sides.

        http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/zoneTrack.php?month=10&day=11&year=2013&game=gid_2013_10_11_lanmlb_slnmlb_1/&prevDate=1011

      • koufaxmitzvah - Oct 12, 2013 at 3:07 PM

        Meant to or not doesn’t really matter in this regard. I didn’t think it was malicious. To the same regard, I don’t think the umpire was calling the pitches particularly for the Dodgers benefit. If a player knows the ump’s zone, the player will take advantage.

        I can’t read that chart. I have no idea what’s happening there.

        Good luck today. I don’t have cable, and will have to listen on the TV since everyone I know seems too busy to let me commandeer their couch for a number of hours.

  3. Francisco (FC) - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    But wait a moment, isn’t that EXACTLY how your best reliever was used sometime in the 70′s? You brought in your best guy to put out a fire? After all, we’re told you need to use your best relief pitcher in the highest leverage situation. That’s exactly what happened. Boy a Manager just can’t win. If he HADN’T used Janssen at all then I think the critique would be spot on.

    • Bob Loblaw - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:57 AM

      FC I couldn’t agree more. DJ rips mattingly’s use of his closer but the absolute fact is that he used him in a high leverage situation and the guy failed. The other relievers held their own for 12 innings so where’s the issue? With one out and runners in first and second your closer should get out of the inning…might I say he should “save” the inning? And Janssen failed. And that’s Mattingly’s fault? Weird. If he had used him with bases loaded and nobody out then yeah I could see a problem. But in that situation a great closer should get out of the inning and he did not. Can’t fault mattingly for that.

    • paperlions - Oct 12, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      No, that is not correct. In fact, because after Greinke left after 8 innings any run the Dodgers give up loses the game, the FIRST pitcher out of the pen should be the best one, followed by the 2nd best, and so on….otherwise you risk losing the game while having your biggest guns never on the mound.

      Bringing in Jansen with men on 1st and 2nd and 1 out is just barely better than never bringing him in at all.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 12, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        So what you’re saying is that the way the best relievers were used (60′s,70′s mid 80′s) before there were “closers” was the wrong way to use them.

      • paperlions - Oct 13, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        Yes, if that means risking losing a game using a worse reliever when better options are available. Not sure why this should be surprising considering the near complete lack of thought that went into baseball “strategy” throughout most of its history. When most strategies are based on “because this is how we’ve always done it”, it is likely that they are neither optimal or good approaches (e.g. sac bunts by non-pitchers, hit and run, stealing bases when success rates are below 75%).

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 13, 2013 at 6:24 PM

        In that case why stop there. Let’s further refine your idea. Instead of just bringing out the best reliever willy-nilly I would take the opposing line-up into consideration. Why waste your best buy on the 7-8-9 hitters for example? I’ve often read how some setup guys actually end up facing tougher lineups than closers because most of the time the 3-4-5 hitters seem to come up more often in the 8th than the 9th. If we have three lefties coming up maybe I should bring in my best lefty out of the pen to face them rather than my fire-baller right-hander.

        If during the 9th inning the 6-7-8 guys come up maybe I should use my 2nd best or 3rd best guy and save the best guy for the inning when the 3-4-5 hitters are coming up.

  4. gugurich - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    Like almost every manager, Francona used to manage by the book and take out Ortiz for a pinch runner late in games in 2003. After having the move backfire in extra innings multiple times, he stopped doing it and Ortiz would go on to have multiple game winning hits in extra innings in 2004 against the Yankees. I’m still thankful for this whenever I see a manager manage by the book for their slow runner.

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Grady Little managed the Red Sox in 2003, NOT Francona.

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      However, your point stands…Ortiz’s knack for heroics weren’t exactly known in 2003 though, and even so, you can probably go back in history to point to numerous occasions where lifting a power-hitting slowpoke for a speedy baserunner has worked out.

      Don’t forget about the Dave Roberts steal in 2004, perhaps THE greatest example of this, and orchestrated by Terry Francona.

    • sabatimus - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      Yup. Cf Farrell pinch running Berry for Ortiz vs the Rays in the ALDS.

    • db105 - Oct 12, 2013 at 1:31 PM

      I wonder who wrote the book. Most MLB managers can’t think for themselves and use guidelines written by people such as themselves.

  5. dexterismyhero - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    I think when the runner barrels into the catcher he will be called out every time.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      You would think that. But this is the playoffs, and if the point of discussion is about how Mattingly “played by the book” as opposed to the argument that the umpires “played by the unwritten rules” then you might see my original point.

      I will say that seeing the tag in a one-frame shot makes it look applied. I will further my statement by mentioning that I not once blamed the game loss on the play at the plate, but to change the emphasis of DJ’s argument about interpretation to actual application.

      I believe in the Human Element. There were other reasons why the Dodgers lost.

    • cincinata - Oct 12, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      Yes, I agree. What I would have done if I were Molina, when a runner comes in obviously trying to hurt me, the glove moves up to the area around his neck and/or face to make sure he is tagged. Then see if he comes in after me the next time with a broken jaw. I guess Molina is too much of a gentleman to do that. I never was.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Oct 12, 2013 at 3:15 PM

        Wow. What a tough guy you are.

        Mike Scioscia took a forearm to the head from Jack Crack Clark against the Cards in the mid-80s. He was knocked unconscious for 10 minutes and still held onto the ball.

        That’s a Tough Guy.

  6. skerney - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Managerial strategy, in the Weaver-Bochy-Martin sense of the term, is not where Mattingly excels.
    He excels when Guggenheim billions place highly skilled baseball players in his clubhouse and he writes their names down on a piece of paper.
    Put him in that situation and, most of the time, he’s aces.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      They used to say thing about Pat Riley. And they’ll say the same with the next successful manager of a franchise who plays it smart by picking off high priced talent from teams that were going nowhere.

      • yahmule - Oct 12, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        Yeah, take away Riley’s Hall of Famers and he’ll just goon it up. He’ll shamelessly employ the same dirty tactics he criticized Chuck Daly for using to beat the Lakers.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Oct 12, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        The general consensus was that he was overrated as a coach, but Riley helped create Showtime. Every coach/manager works with what they’ve got. Awful coaches don’t win championships.

    • cincinata - Oct 12, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      Yes, what really gets me is; when Mattingly was playing, he would never have been happy to be taken out of a game in the same way he took out Gonzo. He should have to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”!

  7. nandeezy33 - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/runner_7.jsp

    Clearly out! But interpret at your own risk.

    • sabatimus - Oct 12, 2013 at 11:02 AM

      That wall of text proves nothing at all about the play.

  8. paul621 - Oct 12, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    By this logic, though, shouldn’t Jansen have been used in the 10th? Or the 11th or 12th? It seems a bit arbitrary to say he should have started the 13th, knowing in hindsight that everything blew up that inning. Yes, things might have been different if Jansen started the 13th, but they might have been exactly the same if the Dodgers burned him in the 10th. I think Mattingly should be praised for having someone as good as Jansen around to put out the fire in the 13th (even though he couldn’t do it in the end). And, Mattingly still could have held him back for a potential save but didn’t.

    Also, to contrast this with Matheny’s use of Rosenthal is a bit misleading– using your closer in a tie game at home is by-the-books use of a closer.

    • paperlions - Oct 12, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Jansen should have been the first guy out of the pen, because every inning starting in the 9th, the first run allowed loses the game.

      • paul621 - Oct 12, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        That argument works for me. The argument here, though, is that he should have started the 13th, which doesn’t make any sense to me. To me, it makes sense to have him pitch the 10th, as you said, or hold him back for a critical situation, like the mess in the middle on the 13th. Saying “he should have started the 13th” is incredibly arbitrary and based on hindsight.

        And I’d bet that if Jansen pitched the 10th, and the 13th still played out this way, someone would have written an article saying he messed up by wasting him in the 10th. Lose-lose for Mattingly, unless the Dodgers won, then he did the right thing.

  9. pdowdy83 - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    I think Mattingly’s only real mistake was bunting and taking the bat out of Hanley’s hands. Ramirez just had a series with 6 doubles against Atlanta. A double should score a runner from first. Even if it doesn’t you have 2 men in scoring position instead of giving up an out to put men on 1st and 3rd. Not to mention the guy bunting could have gotten on base in front of him.

    I can’t say he handled Jansen wrong. Best reliever in a high leverage situation is good usage. The real issue would have been if Jansen was still in the pen when the Cards won.

  10. twinsfanstl - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    PUNTO!!!

  11. chrisco716 - Oct 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    A lot of noise about nothing. Good game.

  12. APBA Guy - Oct 12, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    I was surprised there was so little discussion on BBTN about removing A-Gon in the 8th for the PR. They did go over it of course, but on the whole concluded that it was a defensible move that didn’t work out. My own feeling at the time was, and remains, that unless you use Gordon to force the action, taking Gonzalez out is a mistake in that he is a better hitter than his replacement (Young, in this case) and a better defender. It turned out to be a bad move, as Young’s failures with men on base looked glaring, particularly the shallow fly with Ellis on third. Imagine Gordon on third as a PR after the Ellis triple with Gonzalez at the plate. As Mattingly said after the game, you can’t know ahead of time what opportunities you might have to use your guys. Still, I think pulling Gonzalez for Gordon was a poor decision in that circumstance.

  13. cincinata - Oct 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    See my comments about. Mattingly would never think this was a good decision if it were him taken out of the game. However, if’s and but’s do not count!

  14. misterdreamer119 - Oct 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    mattinglys body language is that of a menapausal 50 year old. hes weak!

    • yahmule - Oct 12, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      He is almost certainly in better physical condition than you are, Cheesy Poof.

  15. chiadam - Oct 12, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    Short will also whine if Rosenthal is ineffective in game two because he threw two innings in game one.

  16. MyTeamsAllStink - Oct 12, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    the fact is the Dodgers squandered opportunities by not getting the hits they needed when they had runners on.Nothing more nothing less

    • mkprz - Oct 14, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      All talk aside, that is it. Right on the head.
      No analysis needed.

  17. elmo - Oct 12, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    At the time, I was mostly concerned that Mattingly would bring in freakin’ Marmol while holding Jansen for the imaginary save. I understand the criticism of some of the decisions. When A-Gon was pulled our gathering all agreed that the move could come back to haunt them if the game went extras, and lo and behold. But Dodger hitters blew a bunch of chances. And at the end of the day a great hitter beat a great reliever. No shame in that.

  18. Fantasy Football Consultant - Oct 12, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    This is total BS. Mattingly is the most scrutinized manager in the game. Quit trying to throw him under the bus. He’s great when they win but it’s his fault when they lose. How would it have been different if Jansen couldn’t get the outs late, but he’s gonna be the right call earlier?

  19. moogro - Oct 12, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Hopefully it will be lesson learned. Everyone knew it was going to extras, and without Gonzalez, the Dodgers are weak. Also not mentioned was how terrible Puig looked at the plate last night. He was an easy out, and way more so after seeing Gonzalez. Swapping Puig for Hanley in the order would solve two problems: the ease that pitchers have going from the incredible discipline of Gonzalez to the big drop off in Puig, and if there’s an ill-advised removal of Gonzalez again, Young would be followed by Hanley.

  20. wheels579 - Oct 12, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    At the time I thought Donnie was better served waiting for Gonzalez to reach second before bringing in a pinch runner in the 8th. But consider two things: Gordon didn’t get his job done by not at least attempting a steal or sliding through the bag instead of around it on the Puig grounder. Also, Young nearly gave them the lead if not for the great throw by Beltran. The second guess on Jansen is utter nonsense. The previous pitchers did their jobs extending the game while LA missed on multiple scoring chances. Every blogger here at HBT would have roasted Donnie if someone other than Jansen blew an extra inning save and they all know it.

  21. genericcommenter - Oct 12, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    “you’ve got to shoot your bullet when you get a chance”- That’s what I tried telling my wife!

  22. mkprz - Oct 14, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    When the Dodger went on the 40-8 tear, they had almost no Kemp, no Ethier, no Ramirez.
    Kemp’s ankle, Ramirez’ finger and hamstring and Ethier’s who-knows-what?
    The did it with Punto.

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