Robin Ventura is one of the front runners for AL manager of the year. Considering how often the award goes to a team that shocks the experts and makes an unexpected playoff run, it will probably be down to him and Buck Showalter if the Orioles continue their improbable run.
Tuesday night though, it all went wrong for the first year manager.
Ventura’s handling of the bullpen was questionable at best as the White Sox dropped game two of the series to Detroit. In the most important series of the season, he decided to gamble on Francisco Liriano coming out of the pen for the first time with the White Sox. Brett Myers had just came in for one batter and bailed the Sox out of a huge jam, but was removed in favor of Liriano.
Myers was acquired for these exact type of situations. A one run game in the 8th inning and Ventura decided to gamble on one of his starters over their best right handed set up man. Predictably, Liriano bounced one into Avisail Garcia’s leg. Two singles later and the Sox were down another run and in another jam.
Just like that a one run game was turned into a three run lead, but Ventura would have a chance to redeem himself in the bottom half of the inning. The Sox began the 8th inning with three straight singles off Joaquin Benoit. Inexplicably Kevin Youkilis was asked to lay down a bunt. Now Youkilis is 3-34 since August 28th, but asking him to bunt is putting him in a situation to fail.
Do you know how many times the former Red Sox has laid down a bunt in his nine year career? He has done it a grand total of ZERO times. He has never successfully sacrificed a runner over. NEVER. If the fan watching at home can find this information on Baseball Reference in 90 seconds, how can the manager make such a bad decision?
It was a rally killer. Youkilis looked uncomfortable trying to get down a bunt and fell behind 0-2 before striking out. Never mind the Greek god of walks never laying down a bunt in his career, but the Sox were trailing by two with runners on first and second. Why give up an out after three straight hits? It’s bad baseball and it may have cost the Sox the game.
Giving up an out to sacrifice bunt is almost always a bad move. The only time I can even fathom it is getting a runner from second to third with nobody out in a one run game late. That’s it, this is the American League. There are no pitchers hitting here, bunting is for the NL. There is no game clock in baseball, outs are the most precious thing you have and foolishly giving them away is almost always a bad decision.
The failed bunt ended up being the rally killer. Dewayne Wise who was hitting third for some other unknown reason struck out looking and Paul Konerko could not come through in the clutch. The Sox fell 5-3 and the manager will be given a pass because the offense only mustered two hits against Doug Fister.
The White Sox blew a chance to open a four game lead and it rests squarely on the shoulders of the first year manager. He’s created a great atmosphere this year and deserves to be in the conversation for the manager of the year award, but as the pennant race winds down, he also deserves to be put under the microscope.
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