I like Ron Washington. Really do. I don't necessarily trust his relentless optimism about everything and I lost a lot of respect for him for using cocaine in the middle of last season, but I like him.
There is a part of him, however, that I don't like. His in-game decisions as a baseball manager. Oakland 7, Texas 6 didn't have to be.
Scott Feldman - at 1-3 are we starting to hear whispers about him being a one-year wonder? - dug an early 5-0 hole. (Let's be fair, shortstop Elvis Andrus helped the cause by lazily allowing a two-run single to bounce through the middle.) But the Rangers, behind a grand slam and five RBI by Vladimir Guerrero, rallied within 7-6 into the 9th.
Oakland A's closer Andrew Bailey has been Rivera-esque recently. No runs allowed this year and 25 straight saves converted. But when catcher Matt Treanor singles, the Rangers at least have hope of scratching out a run for the tie. When Craig Gentry pinch-runs and steals second, the scenario becomes more inviting.
But then, perched on the verge of a 7-7 tie, Washington screwed up.
I know the baseball conventional wisdom is to play for a tie at home and a win on the road, but this situation screamed for 7-7. The A's, with nary a hit since the 4th inning, were ready to lose this game. Right?
With the speedy Gentry on second and no outs, ninth-place hitter Julio Borbon and his .188 average trudged to the plate. It couldn't have been any more clear: B-U-N-T! A sacrifice bunt would've moved Gentry to third with one down, giving Andrus a chance to score him on a fly ball or Michael Young a chance to send him home with a two-out hit. As Andrus proved earlier in the game with two bunt singles, the A's are succeptible to small-ball anyway.
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Instead, inexplicably, Borbon hacks away at 1-0 pitch and sends a harmless fly ball to short left field. Andrus promptly grounds out out to short, moving to Gentry to third. But Young grounds out to third to end the game.
Who knows? If Borbon bunts maybe Andrus and Young both ground out and the Rangers still lose. Texas' starting pitching wasn't good enough to win last night.
But still, it's the manager's job to put his team in the best position to win the game, and on that front Washington failed last night.