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4.08.2007

Saving the game in the eighth inning 

In baseball, closers typically are expected to pitch the ninth inning of a game when their team is ahead by 1-3 runs, and sometimes when the game is tied. However, this strategy is often not optimal, depending on when the big bats in the other team's lineup are coming up. If the 3-4-5 hitters may come to the plate in the eighth inning, it is wise to have the closer warming up a few batters in advance in case they come up to the plate with runners on base. These high-leverage situations can come up in the sixth and seventh innings as well, but it's usually impractical to have the closer warming up, then sitting back down, then warming up again and coming into the game later. However, all managers should seriously consider having their closer ready to go in the eighth inning.

Tonight's Red Sox-Rangers game provided a clear example of this strategy. With the Sox up 3-1 and the Rangers batting, Joel Pineiro put the #8, #9 and #1 hitters on base. (Kenny Lofton reaching wasn't really his fault, as Lofton sac-bunted but nobody covered first base.) Javier Lopez then allowed a force-out run, but Jonathan Papelbon (who had been warmimg up at the top of the inning, I believe) got Michael Young and Mark Teixeira out on five pitches, then finished off the ninth without incident.

Comments:

Thank God Joel Pineiro is not the closer...

It was a great game!
 


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