Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 5/13/12
When Astro manager elected to replace starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez after eight innings of three hit ball to go with his closer, Brett Myers to close the game in Pittsburgh on Sunday he was doing what most major league managers would do. He followed the "Book" or the recognized strategic move used in modern baseball. Then he got the pages slammed on his fingers. Myers was not as automatic has he had been for the first nine save opportunities he had worked and a one run lead was lost. The question that many Astro fans had even before the Pirates scored a run off Myers to tie the game that the Astros would ultimately lose in twelve innings was why was Mills so determined to lift his starting pitcher who was showing no signs of fatigue or decline and had only thrown 94 pitches? Mills made a mistake in blindly following "the Book." Rodriguez should have at least been given a hitter by hitter chance to work the ninth inning. If he had allowed the first hitter he faced to reach base then summoning Myers would have made more sense. The way Rodriguez had been pitching odds were not so great that any hitters would have reached base against him. He had retired the last 14 in a row and 21 of the last 22 he had faced. He had not been under stress. The problem is that most managers these days want their relievers to start with clean innings if at all possible. They dont want to have to bring them in after a hitter has reached base unless a match up is being sought. But a match up situation in the twelfth inning finally ended the contest. Mills removed lefty reliever Wesley Wright with two out in the bottom of the inning after he has struck out all three hitters he had faced. But the "Book" says he must be relieved to get a proper match up with right handed hitting Clint Barmes. Barmes led the ultimate Pirate win when he hit a pitch from right hander Fernando Rodriguez into left field despite being jammed. It was a lucky hit but wound up getting Barmes with the winning run into scoring position. An ensuing single by Harrison brought home Barmes and the game was over. Two right handed hitters getting hits against a right handed pitcher. Brad Mills followed the "Book" but Barmes and Harrison didnt bother to read it. Had Wandy Rodriguez been spent in the 9th and Myers had failed there would be no room from criticism. But Wandy was not weakening. As Jim Deshaies put it on television, "If Wandy cant get a complete game out of his effort today, there wont be any on the Astros this year." As any baseball fans knows the "Book" has reasons for its existence. Years and years of baseball have proven what are the best percentages. Yet, it is not infallible. Some of the best managers of all time knew when to ignore some of the adages because no percentage is 100 in baseball. Sometimes you have to play em by gut instinct. Sunday afternoon would have been a good time for Brad Mills to consider that. The Astros might have won 2-1 in nine instead of losing 3-2 in twelve.
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