There's a book on baseball somewhere. I've never read it, but it's out there because commentators like to say that a team is playing a game "by the book" or doing something "by the book."
One of the tenets of the book is, "At home, play for the tie. On the road, play for the win."
I don't understand this one at all. Enter today's Mets/Cardinals game, perhaps the game of the week as it pitted two of the National League's best starters against each other: Mark Mulder v. Pedro Martinez. Neither was in top form. The score was 7-6. Going into the top of the 9th, Jason Isringhausen, just reactivated from the DL, was strolling out to the mound to face the top of the Mets' order. Here's the lineup.
- Jose Reyes
- Miguel Cairo
- Carlos Beltran
- Cliff Floyd
- Mike Cameron
- David Wright
- Ramon Castro
- Kaz Matsui
- Mike DeJean
A rusty Jason Isringhausen missed badly with his first three pitches, and Jose Reyes threw the bat back in the dugout and tried to walk down to first on three straight pitches. He worked out the walk without taking a single swing. Nicely done, Mr. R. One of the NL's fastest men was on base with the middle of the Met order coming up.
"The book" about baseball says to bunt the runner over with Cairo, the skilled bunter. Why? Well, he's not exactly a power threat, and he's damn good at dropping down the bunt. Most importantly, you play for the tie at home and the win on the road.
Cairo gets it down beautifully, as expected. Reyes takes second. One man down, runner in scoring position, two of your top hitters due up. So what's the problem?
- You've lost an out.
- The game is not tied; the out clock is ticking downward and you can't give up an out that easily.
- For the win, you're looking for the homer. The runner from 1st will score either way.
- Beltran and Floyd can hit homers, and pretty much everyone was looking for one.
- You had Mike Piazza on the bench. Why not give him a shot in the two hole? Worst result possible is a GIDP, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.
- Even with Yadier Molina behind the plate, you may want to have Reyes try and steal second. Cairo's bunt eliminates that.
- The Cards walked the still-hot Cliff Floyd with 2 out to get to Mike Cameron.
Take it the other way.
Pretend that Piazza had pinch hit and made an out, hypothetically a fly out to center. Then Beltran duplicates his at bat and goes to left field with another fly out. Floyd's up, and, without that base open, there's no way that LaRussa walks the tying run to scoring position.
Instead, the team's most consistently hot bat this year was given the free pass, and it came down to Cameron. I like Cameron, but I think that Floyd/Izzy is a better matchup. The split v. Izzy, since 2002:
I vote we scratch "the book." Why not go for the win there?