Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Let the Second Guessing Begin... 

After a 4-0 start against the best (or 2nd best with the arrival of the Big Unit) pitcher in the American League, the Mariners looked set to start the season with a 2-0 record.

Gil Meche was labored a bit early allowing baserunners in the first three innings, but looked to have found his rhythm by the fourth inning and had managed to pitch 4 scoreless innings, although his pitch count was a bit high.

Then came the fifth inning, which looked like a highlight film of the M's 2004 season. And in this inning, every decision Mike Hargrove and the club had made backfired. And this is where the second guessing of Hargrove will begin.

As Meche tired, he seemed to revert a bit to early 2004 form and became Gil the Nibbler, instead of Gilgamesh the power pitcher. The singles started coming, and the bullpen starts warming up. With Johan Santana dealing, this may be a critical inning, so its time to get the best pitchers in our bullpen up, and then plan on Ryan Franklin taking over to start the sixth. Shiggy gets up, and also Ron Villone. The guys you would expect in this situation. No wait, that's not Villone, that's Matt Thornton! Yes, the guy who made the roster primarily because he was out of options. Okay, maybe Villone is tired from yesterday, and we don't have another lefty, and I think there is no way that Matt Thornton should be entering this game at this time.

A couple of singles later and its 4-2, with one out, and runners on first and second. The Twins have two lefties coming up in Mauer and Morneau, so it is time to go with the strategy that worked so well on Opening Day, when Villone came in and dominated those same two hitters. Only today, its not Ron Villone, its Matt Thornton taking the hill.

Sure enough, Matt starts Mauer out with two balls and ends up facing him with a 3-1 pitch. On 3-1, the Twins send the runners and the strategy works to perfection. A grounder to short that would have been a double play to end the inning instead becomes a run scoring single. Thornton got the ball in play he wanted, but unfortunately, because of the 3-1 count, the Twins were able to hit and run.

So now the M's are up 4-3, runners are on the corners and still one out. Big lefty Justin Morneau comes up, and Thornton immediately falls behind 2-1. But another good pitch from Thornton gets a little bloop to left field. But instead of speedy Randy Winn out there, we have Raul Ibanez playing left, and the ball drops for a "single". Thornton has actually gotten two hit balls that he wanted, and has no outs and two hits to show for it.

At this point, I must say that Matt Thornton did his job pretty well. The Twins just executed better with the hit and run, and we should not play Ibanez over Winn just to make Raul happy. Grover was right to put in Thornton here. Now, with Torii Hunter coming up, its time to get out there, give Matt a slap on the behind, and bring in Shiggy.

Instead, Hargrove leaves Thornton out there to face right-hander Torii Hunter, who promptly singles. Matt is now throwing more strikes, but they are of the right-down-the-middle variety. Grover should have pulled Thornton a batter ago, as he has that dere in the headlights look to him. But now a lefty is up, and Hargrove seems to want Thornton to go out on a positive note, right. Nope, Jacque Jones crushes a pitch to right field, and a 4-4 game is now 7-4.

At this point, Hargrove comes out and puts in Shiggy who gets the M's out of the inning. Interestingly, Shiggy goes on to pitch 2 1/3 innings, while Ryan Franklin gets a single 1-2-3 inning. I wonder if Shiggy is being considered the mopup/long relief guy and Franklin more of a setup man?

Regardles, this game will go down as Matt Thornton being the goat, and don't get me wrong, he surely was. But Mike Hargrove has to take some of the responsibility. And since managers don't like to be made accountable for disasters by their pitchers, I would guess that Matt Thornton's days in a Mariner uniform are numbered at best.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?