When you drive on the back roads at night in this part of the country, you encounter hordes of
jackrabbits. The car headlights seem to attract them. The rabbits run out onto to the road, and they
do one of three things:
a) They freeze. And your car passes over them, and usually there is no sickening thud.
b) They run to one side of the road or the other, and they are unharmed.
c) They freeze, then, at the last instant, dart to the left or right. This is almost always followed by
a sickening thud.
The rabbits’ life-and-death decisions seem entirely random.
I bring this up because it reminds me of Ned Yost’s strange move in the top of the sixth inning in the
American League Wildcard game on Tuesday night. With a 3-2 lead and his ace on the mound, Yost
pulled starter James Shields for Yordano Ventura to face Brandon Moss.
Ventura is a hard throwing right-hander primarily used as a starter.
Ventura’s first two pitches were balls, and then Moss homered to dead center field. The three-run
homer sparked a five-run Oakland inning. Kansas City tied the game in ninth and eventually won 9-8
in 12 innings.
Yost was asked about this decision. He said that Ventura had relieved once during the season and
won a game. And Yost said he wanted go to his power arms.
Shields had just given up and a weak single and a walk on a 3-2 count to open the inning. He had
thrown 88 pitches. He throws 94 mph. And he’s supposed to be the best pitcher on the team.
Moss had homered in the first inning. He is a left-handed batter with a better batting average
against lefties this year and similar power against righties and lefties. So there is no real advantage
to going with a lefty against him, as some suggested.
It’s a one-game playoff. You can use Johnny Wholestaff if you
want. And many times managers rely too long on their starter in the playoffs.
But why make the change at all?
Surely your ace has a reasonable chance of getting out of a two-on, no-out jam.
Yost’s move seemed so random — and a good way to wind up as road kill.