Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington made several questionable decisions during Game 6 of the World Series, a 10-9 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals that took 11 agonizing innings. The Rangers took small leads that were matched by the Cardinals almost every inning. Washington’s players came through time and again to preserve the lead, but he ultimately let them down as Texas faces Game 7 on the road with an exhausted and bewildered pitching staff.
In the 5th inning of Game 6, the Rangers led by one run with the bases loaded and two outs. Texas starting pitcher Colby Lewis, who had shown signs of fatigue on the mound just moments earlier, was up to bat. The situation was a golden opportunity for Texas to add to its lead as the Rangers were hot swinging the bat all night.
Instead of pinch hitting for his pitcher in an obvious situation to do so, Washington elected to let Lewis bat. Naturally, he struck out, stranding Michael Young, Mike Napoli and David Murphy on base. Lewis had bunted into a double play earlier in the contest, so he hadn’t actually swung the bat at all prior to that plate appearance. Washington blew a great opportunity, but that wasn’t his last blunder of the evening.
After Rangers closer Neftali Feliz struck out two Cardinals in the bottom of the 9th, he was unable to finish off Cardinals third baseman David Freese with strikes. Freese’s 2-RBI triple tied the game, sending it to extra innings.
Texas regained the lead in the 10th on Josh Hamilton’s first home run of the postseason, a 2-run blast that scored Elvis Andrus. For the second consecutive inning, Texas had St. Louis down to its last strike, but Rangers reliever Scott Feldman allowed Lance Berkman to tie the game on an RBI single.
Texas couldn’t score in the 11th inning and Washington was out of experienced relievers in his bullpen. Only Mark Lowe, who hadn’t pitched at all in the playoffs, remained. With two outs and Rangers catcher Mike Napoli on first with a single, Washington elected to pinch hit for Feldman, taking his last reliable pitcher out of the contest. Washington chose Esteban German, who had two at-bats in the playoffs (both strikeouts), to pinch hit for Feldman.
Naturally, German grounded out and Lowe allowed Freese, the first batter he faced, to hit a walk-off home run to win the game. Washington made the wrong decision twice when his pitcher was up at the plate, and that cost the Rangers the game. Granted, there were errors and missed-judged balls in the outfield at various points in the game that would have made a difference, but Washington’s sheer blunders put his team at a disadvantage twice in the game’s most critical moments. Game 7 is Friday night at 7:05 p.m. in St. Louis.
Contact Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin