Braves take Game 2 amid managerial mistakes and controversy

10/5/13 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Blog Photo - Braves take Game 2 amid managerial mistakes and controversyDuring the regular season, managerial tactics are not as important as what goes on in the clubhouse. Tactics get the most attention and criticism during the season, but that's solely because that's all people can really see. However, it's mostly recognized to be a fairly small part of a manager's job. That changes during the playoffs, where the margin for error is so small, and any error could be magnified very quickly. That's what happened to Don Mattingly last night, and while that wasn't the sole reason the Braves defeated the Dodgers 4-3 to tie the series up, it sure played a part.

To set the scene, the Braves led 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th. Starter Zach Greinke had been taken out in the top half for a pinch hitter, so Chris Withrow was now pitching. He started the inning by walking Brian McCann (who was pinch ran for by BJ Upton). A Chris Johnson single made it first and second, with those runners advancing on a sac bunt by Andrelton Simmons. Withrow struck out Elliot Johnson, bringing up the pitchers slot. Initially, Atlanta sent up weak hitting Jose Constanza, a left handed hitter. Mattingly then decided to play matchups and bring in lefty Paco Rodriguez. In response, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez brought back Constanza and brought in right handed hitter Reed Johnson. As such, Mattingly intentionally walked Johnson, which did bring a lefty in for the Braves. However, that lefty was Jason Heyward, who then did this.

 

The Braves now led 4-1, which allowed them to survive an 8th inning homer by Hanley Ramirez. Mattingly had three choices of who to pitch to, and chose the worst option of all because he enslaved himself to matchups. Yes, matchups are usually a good thing to consider, but not when it causes you to pass on obviously weaker hitters. Take Constanza. He's a career .278/.322/.329 hitter. You'd have to make sure the defense is ready in case he bunts for a base hit, but otherwise you've got a banjo hitter out there. Take your chances. Reed Johnson is a bit better of a hitter, .282/.339/.409, but even against an opposite hand pitcher, you'd probably rather face him than Jason Heyward, especially since Heyward actually posted an .801 OPS against lefties this year. Obviously, nothing was guaranteed if Mattingly had chosen differently, but it's hard to argue that he put his team in the best position to win there.

The game ended with further controversy unfortunately. Closing it out in the 9th, Craig Kimbrel walked AJ Ellis. Dee Gordon came in to pinch run, and it was obvious he was there to steal second. He went, and this happened.

 

As you can tell by Dee Gordon's reaction, he thought he was safe. It's very very close either way. That was the second out, and after Andre Ethier walked, Carl Crawford struck out to end the game.

The Braves did not just win because of managerial incompetence and umpire controversy though. Mike Minor pitched very well, scattered 8 hits in 6.1 innings to give up just 1 run, while striking out 5. Luis Avilan ended the only threat the Dodgers had (that didn't involve Hanley Ramirez) in the 7th by forcing and starting this fantastic double play.

 

After all that, the series is now tied as it heads to Dodger Stadium. Game 3 is Sunday night. The starting pitchers are both rookies: Julio Teheran for the Braves and Hyun-Jin Ryu for the Dodgers.
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