There was a reason Fernando Rodney began to warm up in the eighth inning of last night’s 5-1 win over Cleveland. Joel Zumaya had just left the game with a cut on his thumb, and Bobby Seay couldn’t find the strike zone upon his arrival to the mound. Brandon Lyon had already been throwing and appeared ready to go when Rodney began lightly throwing.
Seay managed to get out of the inning with the lead intact at 3-1, so Lyon, again, who was already warm, and Rodney remained in the ‘pen. Country Strong Marcus Thames extended the lead to four in the bottom of the inning with a two-run bomb. At this point the strategy is simple; sit Rodney down and bring in Lyon for the ninth.
That’s not what Jim Leyland did. Rodney continued to warm while Lyon took a seat.
Enter Rodney for the ninth, with a four run lead, in a non-save situation, and hang on tightly.
Trouble began immediately when Brandon Inge, all-star, bounced a throw to first that Miguel Cabrera failed to scoop. Rodney then walked the next hitter on four pitches. Eventually Cleveland loaded the bases to bring the tying run to the plate, which of course had to be Grady Sizemore, probably the only hitter in Cleveland’s lineup who absolutely terrifies you in that situation.
Rodney managed to retire Sizemore and the game ended, no harm, no foul, right? Right? Wrong!!!
Look, we have all seen this movie 1000 times. Every non-save that Rodney pitches in works this way. Why, why, why does Jim Leyland continue to do this to us?
Two things here, Rodney did not need work. He had pitched in three straight games prior to yesterday’s off day, so he could have used another day off. Secondly, again, Lyon had already warmed up and was ready to go. The second that ball left Thames’ bat, Gene Lamont should have been on the phone to Jeff Jones telling him to sit Rodney down and get Lyon back up.
Now you have a rested Lyon for tomorrow, but Rodney threw a ton of pitches (28 to be exact) and has pitched in four straight games with two more coming before the break. When you factor in the injury to Zumaya, it’s possible he could miss the next couple games, so you’d be looking at having to use Lyon to close in one of the next two games.
All of this could have been avoided if Leyland had the foresight to keep his closer in the bullpen when the game was not on the line in the ninth. That is exactly where he should have been to a)prevent a near heart attack from Tiger fans, and b) make sure he could pitch the final two games if needed.
Leyland did what Leyland does and Rodney did what Rodney does. Why do we expect differing results?