When appropriate, Big League Stew reviews key decisions to see if the right one was made.
The Turning Point: The New York Yankees cut into a five-run Texas Rangers lead by scoring once in the seventh and putting the first two runners aboard in the top of the eighth against left-hander C.J. Wilson(notes). Rangers manager Ron Washington went to his bullpen and replaced Wilson — who had thrown 104 pitches — with lefty Darren Oliver(notes). Washington, in fact, made four pitching changes in the inning as every choice he made seemed to be wrong. Darren O'Day(notes) and Clay Rapada(notes) each made one pitch — both of which became RBI singles. Never did Washington call for closer Neftali Feliz(notes), though he had been warming up for most of the inning. The Yankees scored five runs in the eighth and went on to win 6-5.
The Question: Should the Rangers have gone to their closer in the eighth inning with the Yankees threatening?
The Case For: We're in the postseason, and there are very few tomorrows left. It seems hard to believe that Washington wouldn't have gone to Feliz in the ninth inning. Why not a few batters sooner? Why not in the eighth?
Washington seemed concerned with keeping a left-handed pitcher on the mound to deal with switch hitters Nick Swisher(notes) and Mark Teixeira(notes), along with lefty Robinson Cano(notes). He could have saved himself three superfluous trips to the mound by simply bringing in Feliz, whose .409 OPS against lefties is a little better than 200 points lower than it is against righties. Besides, in 24 career plate appearances against Feliz, nobody on the Yankees has ever gotten an extra-base hit.
The Case Against: The Rangers have good set-up men they've relied on all season. The Darrens (Oliver and O'Day) don't usually pitch like Darren Stevens. Oliver had only three games all season in which he walked two batters, and only one sequence when he walked two in a row. Against the Yankees, he walked the first two men he faced and turned a brushfire into something the team could not control. Besides, Feliz is usually required to get three outs. Asking players to do things they're not used to is a needlessly risky tactic.
Washington: "Those are the guys I wanted in there. I mean, Darren Oliver has been nails for us. Just walked two guys back-to-back. Wasn't Darren Oliver. Just didn't happen tonight, that eighth inning just killed us out of the bullpen."
Oliver: "Something like that you won't see very often and I'm sure you won't see it again. ... We should have won the game."
Washington, on using Feliz for six outs: "No. He's never done anything like that. I wouldn't do that. I had the people I wanted in the game. They didn't get it done. It happens."
[Check out the latest from Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, who says Washington should have stuck with Wilson.]
Stew Verdict: First of all, it's not true, what Washington said. Feliz, three times this season, got six outs. Twice in August. On three other occasions, he got at least four outs. Back in 2009, when he made 20 appearances, Feliz got at least six outs a total of eight times. In fact, he faced a total of 117 batters in 20 appearances, which is just under six per game. Washington is misremembering history.
Going to Oliver made some sense, but as soon as the Old Man walked Swisher and Teixeira, that should have been it. No Darren O'Day. No Clay Rapada. How could Washington pin the Rangers hopes to Clay Rapada? He's not even the lefty Clay reliever with the killer mustache. It's managerial malpractice. It's entirely possible Feliz would have given up the lead as well. But at least the Rangers would have lost with their best relief pitcher on the mound.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments.