The game was tied at 3-3 going into the 16th inning. The San Diego Padres were at home at Petco Park against the Toronto Blue Jays. Nick Vincent had just pitched three full innings, and he was the sixth reliever used.
It was an all-hands-on-deck situation, and something was going to have to give eventually. So when it came time to hold the bluebirds at bay in the 16th, Friars manager Bud Black went with the natural choice of … his Saturday starter, Clayton Richard?
Yes, folks, it was #weirdbaseball indeed.
Now, this move would have made a whole lot of sense as Richard was likely the best candidate to pitch multiple innings if needed. The problem was that the Padres bullpen wasn’t quite depleted — they left one arm on his chair as the team celebrated their walk-off victory.
And it was their best reliever, too.
That, of course, would be closer Huston Street, who normally has the job of shutting down the opposing team with the win on the line. Or in other words, the situation that the Padres were in from extra innings on. No, there wasn’t going to be a save situation as they were at home, but each scoreless inning pitched was going to be just as critical.
It wasn’t as though Street had been used in multiple days either. He’d last thrown on May 29, a one-day layoff, with a nine-day break prior to that. So assuming that there aren’t any secret health issues, the closer was ready. To add to the confounding decision, it’s not as though Black had been holding Street back from all non-save situations prior to Friday night’s game.
@gosensgo101 I don’t get it. I mean literally I don’t get it. Street worked tie games at home this year. Black just figures he’s bad at it?
— Sam Miller (@SamMillerBP) June 1, 2013
That about sums it up, I think.
So instead of using his best available pitcher in the pen, the manager opted to burn through a starter that would have been expected to throw more innings the next day. Rather than having their closer do his job, the team will now call up the relatively untested Robbie Erlin from the minors in an emergency situation to make the start on Saturday, thus increasing the chance that the bullpen would have to be called into action early.
In Black’s mind, of course (per Corey Brock of MLB.com), that they “took his [Richard's] start out of the equation” simply happened because that he and the team “went for the win.” And win they did, to his credit — Richard ended up throwing two scoreless innings and was credited with his first W of the year.
The lesson of the day? Just as good decisions aren’t always rewarded, bad baseball decisions can pay off from time to time too, I guess.