The debate over the bottom of the eighth was fierce in the game thread and I'm still not entirely sure how it all grades out. Let's take a look.
- Meche begins the inning, faces Ryan Garko: seems like a completely sound decision to me. Meche was rolling and his pitch count was not an immediate issue.
- Garko doubles after Meche falls behind 2-0.
- Meche faces Ben Francisco: I'd say this is a 50-50% call, depending on the staff's feel for how much Meche's control was slipping, his fatigue, etc. Can't really kill Hillman for this one, especially since the Indians were likely to be giving up an out anyway. Might as well leave a more experienced gloveman in to handle the bunt, if nothing else.
- Weird bunt single, Garko out at home play transpires. The Royals were given a huge break here, but totally failed to take advantage of it.
- Meche faces Hafner: questionable. Not 100% bad by any means, but definitely questionable. With the top of the Cleveland lineup coming up, this would be a great time to use Soria in the eighth, even if it means having Cruz or someone else pitch the ninth. Didn't happen of course.
- Hafner singles.
- Meche faces Cabrera with two men on. Cabrera is not a good hitter, though the Royals really need a strikeout. Would Cruz or Soria or even (gasp) Farnsworth been a better K option? Maybe, but depending on what you think of Meche at this point, he isn't a horrible option either. Either way, Cabrera grounds to Callaspo, who errs, tying the game.
- Meche pulled, Mahay to face Sizemore. Treyball's going for the L-L matchup here. Sizemore is a career .239/.332/.395 hitter against lefties in over 900 PAs. Of course, ironically, this is nearly the same situation in which Mahay wasn't brought in to face Jim Thome, which gave us the epic, "Mahay isn't a lefty-specialist" quote/non-answer. So in a weird way, Trey gets to be right: three run homer, ballgame.
- Meaningless stuff followed.
- So on Mahay-Sizemore, how you evaluate the decision is based on just what you think of Mahay (supposed to be good, may not be anymore) and how realistic you want to be in your criticism of Treyball. The game was already tied, and Trey has just told us that he isn't a fan of bringing in closers into a tie-game on the road. Much less in the eighth inning. So in his mind, he isn't using Soria until it isn't tied, and he may be thinking Cruz in the ninth. Sure, in our world, we'd probably want our best pitcher facing their best hitter with the game on the line, but that just isn't where the game is right now. (As NYRoyal has pointed out a bazillion times.) However, that still doesn't mean it isn't a wrong decision.
Look, Dayton Moore went all the way to Japan to bring back a completely generic guy. That's the reality of it. He is what he is, and essentially no part of his makeup is innovative or creative. In fact, he may not be preferable to Buddy Bell, who at the very least was beloved by the players and oversaw the Greinke situation with something resembling tenderness. Trey is just a guy. The scary thing is, with this team (good pitching, bad offense) the Royals are going to be in games like this constantly.The Royals are going to be in a lot of games like this over the next 140 games. So, for better or for worse, Trey's going to have a larger influence on this team that if he was managing a more balanced squad.
It's hard to be excited about that.
If it's always going to be 2-1 or 3-2 or something like that in the seventh and eighth inning, then the Royals need three good relief pitchers to win. Right now, they have two, and a lot of question-marks. Well, and dudes like Wright and Tejeda who may move up to shiny roles, or may just keep getting people out when no one's watching.