Everyone thought Doug Fister would go for the complete game last night. After all, the Nationals mustered one run and three hits against him in eight innings, and his pitch count was at 99 after the eighth inning.
It made sense, but Mariners manager Eric Wedge did not look at it that way. He wanted to give Mariners closer Brandon League work after not being used for four days, and he did not want Fister to go any longer on a hot night at Nationals Park.
To League’s credit, he had two outs on a double play, but unfortunately, Mike Morse’s liner hit him, and he was out of the game.
Wedge summoned David Pauley to get the last out, and that did not go well. With Jerry Hairston Jr. at second and Morse at 1st, he gave up a hit to Danny Espinosa to make the game interesting, and Wilson Ramos hit a three-run blast to give the Nationals a 6-5 victory.
In a move like this, it’s easy to first-guess. When a starter is mowing the opponent down for all eight innings, a manager keeps his guy in to finish the game. Mariners announcers expected Fister to complete the game when they described his performance.
The Nationals were not hitting the ball hard of him, and they average 12 pitches at-bat against him. At one point, he threw 72 pitches in the seventh inning. They made him work in the eighth inning, but he was strong enough to go nine innings.
Wedge’s reasoning for taking Fister out did not make sense here. There’s no reason to give a closer work when a starter is in command. The objective is to find the right guy on the mound to win the game, not worry about getting guys work. If a pitcher wants to get his work in, a manager should do that when the team is losing or enjoying a blowout victory.
The first-year Mariners manager’s claim about the weather was ridiculous. Anytime a guy has a chance to get a complete game, he should get that opportunity. It’s hard to get one, and it is rare starters go deep in the game. This was good timing to give Fister that chance. Starters are trained to handle the heat, and Fister did not seem dehydrated or tired.
If Fister was struggling by throwing all over the place or getting hit around, it was understandable for Wedge to take him out. That wasn’t the case.
It turned out to be costly. Not only did the Mariners lost, but they are hoping that line drive does not cause League to miss time.
Even if the Mariners won the game in the ninth, Wedge deserved to be questioned for taking his starter out. Why waste a reliever in a moment that he doesn’t need to be used?
The Nationals were happy about the decision. They started to hit the ball well, and they were able to create a big inning in the ninth. They took good at-bats, and they made League and Pauley work in the ninth, which was not the case with Fister.
There was a new life on the team when Fister was gone. That’s always the case when the opposing starter is gone after a good performance. Teams tend to do well when there is someone new on the mound.
Why give the Nationals a momentum by throwing someone else to pitch? There’s nothing good that comes out of it.
Wedge was firm about his comments in the press conference after the game, but deep down, he probably asked himself what he was thinking. That’s what managers do. With losses like that , they asked themselves if they made the right decision an hour after the game. It’s only natural for managers to be conscious of their decision.
The Nationals will take it, though. They want to continue their drive to .500 after snapping their eight-game winning streak Sunday afternoon. They can accomplish that goal tonight with another victory.
This win helps them continue their momentum of building a winning team.
The Mariners are going to be fine. This loss won’t stall their momentum in what is shaping up to be a weak AL West division.
Still, a decision like that makes one wonder if Wedge is capable of making smart moves in a pennant race. If he can’t figure out his starter is good enough to go all the way, one wonders if he knows when to take a starter out in the fifth or sixth inning due to control issues.
A manager has to have a good feel of whether or not a starter has enough to go complete a game or if he is done.
If the manager doesn’t, it makes it easy for first-guessers to rip the decision. That was the case last night.