Twenty-nine innings and not one swing by John Jaso?
By Shannon Drayer
Twenty-nine innings and not one swing of the bat by John Jaso. Some of you had questions about that after Tuesday’s game and no doubt some of you have questions after Wednesday’s game as well.
On Tuesday Eric Wedge went to Jaso as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game. There was a runner on and two out. When Jaso was announced Orioles manager Buck Showalter went to the pen for his lefty, Brian Matusz. Wedge countered by pulling Jaso for the right-handed Alex Liddi. At that point Jaso was out of the game.
It was a curious move considering Wedge had been extremely cautious with his use of Jaso off the bench in recent months. His reasoning was that opposing managers would go to the pen for a lefty or intentionally walk him if they had the opportunity to do either, essentially taking the bat out of Jaso’s hands.
Before Wednesday’s game I asked why he went to Jaso Tuesday night when he knew the Orioles had a lefty in the pen.
“One, I wasn’t sure if their left-hander [Matusz] was going to be ready, and two, I wanted to force them to make a move if they’re going to make a move,” he answered. “The way that guy [Jake Arrieta] was throwing, I wasn’t 100 percent sure, but if they are going to make a move that gets their guy out of the game, I’m okay with that. I think anyone less than Jaso they probably don’t make a move then we keep on going. It’s just a matter of forcing their hand and making them make a move and then we go from there.”
“That guy”, as I indicated above, was Jake Arrieta and although he had thrown 3 and 1/3 innings at that point he could have gone much deeper in the game as he is a starter recently recalled from Triple-A. In going to Matusz, Showalter ended up burning his long guy in the pen, which could have been advantageous to the Mariners if they had been able to do anything with runners in scoring position.
As for Wednesday’s game, Wedge went to two lefty pinch hitters before going to Jaso in the 11th inning. In the 10th he pinch hit Trayvon Robinson in place of Casper Wells. That move did not prompt Showalter to go to the pen for his lefty but when Wedge went to a second straight left-handed pinch hitter in Mike Carp, Showalter brought in Matusz, who struck out Carp and walked Dustin Ackley before being replaced by Luis Ayala. At that point it was safe to bring in Jaso, which is what Wedge did in the next inning.
“You are trying to stay away from the left-left situation,” Wedge said when asked if he had been working toward getting Jaso into the situation at the end of the game. “We’d had so many other opportunities but when they have got a lefty down there, that is a different ballgame. We wanted to try to put him in a situation to face a right-hander.”
Wedge put Jaso into that situation against right-handed closer Jim Johnson but Michael Saunders took him out of it when he was caught stealing to end the game on the first pitch to Jaso. It was an aggressive move that I did not like. Saunders’ rationale was that if he were to get to second he could score the tying run on a single. True, but if he got to second, first would be open and Showalter would have had the option to put Jaso on and face Robinson instead.
Saunders has had the green light all season and Wedge said after the game that he trusts him in that situation.
“He’s trying to make something happen and we are not doing anything offensively,” Wedge said. “I trust him out there. Trust has to be a part of the fact that he has a pretty good feel out there and he’s not taking off unless he thinks he can make it.”
Saunders is a good baserunner and an all around aggressive player, both offensively and defensively. Wedge likes this and does not want to discourage it. While I absolutely hate the move in a one-game snapshot, in the long run it’s okay. I would rather have Saunders pushing the limits and learning what he can do and what he can’t do in situations this year when nothing is on the line than playing it safe.
On the flipside, Wedge and the coaches learn more about Saunders, too. If this had been a must-win game perhaps Saunders wouldn’t take that risk or perhaps Wedge would take the green light off and he would make that call. It is all part of the learning process, so it is okay.
And it got me home at a reasonable hour, which is good after a ridiculously long week.