In a winner-take-all game, the normally reliable Nationals defense kicked, bobbled, and heaved the ball around like there was, well, literally no tomorrow, so naturally Dusty Baker had to be fired. Such is what passes for logic in the baseball managing world.
Meanwhile, A.J. Hinch has made his share of puzzling moves that had a great chance to backfire, but all is well because the Astros are headed to the World Series.
A big head scratcher was Hinch’s decision to use his closer — his best reliever in a group of tall midgets — to close out a 7-1 lead in game 6. You would think a top priority would have been to try to keep Ken Giles available for 2 IP in game 7 and certainly opportunity was knocking when the Astros opened up a 6 run lead going to the 9th.
It is never optimal to ask a reliever to go on back to back days, and never ideal to give the other team a free look at your pitcher the day before, and any reliever, such as Will Harris, could have allowed 3 base runners and Giles would have been able to rescue him before it was even a save situation. Giles wound up throwing 23 pitches in the inning.
But Giles wasn’t needed in game 7, allowing Hinch to fall back on the overused excuse “Well we had to win game 6...” Actually, you had to win game 7 too. The difference was that game 6 was in the bag, with the bag tightly closed and the cat gasping for air, whereas game 7 was very much of an unknown with Charlie Morton starting and Lance “creature of habit” McCullers ready to try relieving for the second time in his career. On 3 days rest.
This brings us to another decision that is difficult to understand but also worked out great. Why didn’t McCullers start game 3, Morton game 4, giving McCullers the two starts with Morton the relief option for game 7? It’s not as if Morton is considered to be an ace, and to hear the Astros talk it is McCullers who needs to be kept on turn and on routine. Also, McCullers is...better.
Well it worked out, didn’t it? Morton threw a gem for 5 innings and the win, and then McCullers came out of the bullpen to fire 4 sensational innings and the save. Terrific job by Morton, terrific job by McCullers, no need for Giles, champagne everywhere.
Is this some genius “A.J. knows his players” magic? Or was this a series of miscalculations all of which worked out spectacularly because against some odds every player succeeded beyond reasonable hopes and expectations?
You decide. In any event, congratulations to the Astros and keep that rabbit’s foot hopping. If you never lose a home game, I predict you will win it all.