WASHINGTON — As the Nationals begin their National League Division Series against the Dodgers, baseball fans have already witnessed the full spectrum of bullpen management possibilities around the league.
On Tuesday, with Baltimore and Toronto tied in the bottom of the 11th of the winner-take-all American League Wild Card game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter called for starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez out of the bullpen.
His All-Word closer, Zach Britton, never saw the field. He watched from the bullpen, along with 49,000 others in attendance at Rogers Centre, as Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion smashed the game-winning homer.
It was the inverse of what fans saw from Terry Francona in Game 1 of the ALCS, between the Indians and Red Sox, Thursday, when the Indians manager elected to use his best reliever — closer Andrew Miller — first, bringing him into the game in the fifth inning, a move which halted a Boston rally and preserved the game for Cleveland. The Indians went on to win 5-4.
Showalter’s decision to go with Jimenez in the highest leverage inning led to the Burke & Herbert Fan Question of the Week during Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo’s weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance on The Sports Junkies.
Did Buck Showalter make the wrong call leaving Zach Britton on the bench last night? — Matt in Baltimore
“You know, guys, this is a question that I hate answering and I won’t answer, because I don’t know what’s going on,” Rizzo said.
“I don’t know what’s up in the bullpen. I don’t know what’s up in the clubhouse. I don’t know what Buck’s thought process was,” Rizzo said. “Was he available? Was he not? Is Buck protecting a player?
“I’ve known Buck for a long time. I was with him for Arizona for a long time. He don’t make too many mistakes and I doubt if he made a mistake in this instance. Unless I knew all the facts, I wouldn’t venture an opinion, because my opinion would be baseless and it would have no facts behind it. I would just be popping off.”