Such was the case on Saturday's 4th of July early afternoon game at Fenway Park against the Mariners.
Brad Penny pitched strongly, only giving up 2 runs over 6 innings.
Masterson and Okajimi pitched the seventh and eighth quite well, but Takashi Saito in the ninth was fairly lost out there. He walked Ken Griffey Jr., then gets an out, and proceeds to walk the next two guys for bases loaded.
Why is Saito still out there? Apparently, he is being treated like Papelbon's backup. Here's how Boston.com puts it:
Manager Terry Francona gave Saito the ball because Jonathan Papelbon, having pitched in four straight games and six of the past eight days, required a day off. Saito, just two seasons ago, was an All-Star-caliber closer, accustomed to taking the ball almost every day. With the Red Sox, he understandably has
been used in a more sporadic manner.
That may be the case, but the game was tied. The Sox were not leading, so using Papelbon may or may not have been a factor at all. Yes, sometimes he is used when the game is tied at home in the ninth, but not always.
Saito hasn't been good lately, in fact, "in his previous three outings he had allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings," said the same Boston.com article.
I realize that Delcarmen, Papelbon and Ramirez had pitched the night before, and this was a day game, but there was at least a well-rested Bard sitting there, and Delcarmen only pitched one inning Friday night.
I don't recall if anyone was warm in that pen or not, but my gut tells me that was not the case. In my view, walking three guys to load the bases means a guy cannot find the strike zone. Time for him to get a smile from Big Papi on the bench, not work out of a jam that he can't seem to figure out.
Seems like after walk number two, this was the obvious situation. It can be good to let guys work things out on the mound, but not when the game is tied, in the ninth and you're facing a strong bullpen.
This is not a knee-jerk reaction to a meaningless loss. This is no WEEI post-game rant. It means the difference between consistently winning series, and not.
Saito told the Ian Browne of mlb.com:
"I'm not usually the type of pitcher to give up a lot of walks to begin with," Saito said. "I can't really recall another incident like today, really."
So how did it happen?
"In the beginning, I think I was overthinking things a little too much and trying to be a little too fine in spotting strikes, and those ended up being balls," Saito said. "From there on, I couldn't make the proper adjustments on the mound."
That same article makes the case that Saito doesn't have a predictable role in the pen, since he was used to closing for the Dodgers, but I don't buy it. He's the second closer, but he's not been good lately, so better have some back up ready to go.
Saito was off, and it was obvious. He doesn't walk guys. The manager needs to know that pretty quickly, especially in a tight game.
After two rings and lots of playoff appearances, second-guessing this Red Sox manager is admittedly an unpopular thing to do. But in some cases, it's warranted.
Saito's not your closer, Tito. So don't treat him like one.