After Juan Uribe of the Los Angeles Dodgers belted a game winning two run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning of Monday night’s NLDS elimination game, cameras showed Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel standing in the bullpen in disbelief. Not only was he shocked, however, you could actually see him mouth some words, and he definitely said something about how mad he was. I can only assume that Kimbrel wanted to be in the game; he might have even wanted to go for his first six out save, but Braves’ manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t give him that opportunity.
Gonzalez decided to let David Carpenter pitch to Uribe after giving up a leadoff double to Yasiel Puig, a decision that is being heavily disputed in the aftermath of Monday night’s events. I understand the reasoning behind the argument that Kimbrel should have been pitching (in any elimination situation you want your best pitcher in the game), but I wouldn’t be so quick to blame Gonzalez.
Carpenter has been a shutdown pitcher for Atlanta as long as he’s been with the team, and even after giving up the leadoff double, I felt very comfortable with him facing Uribe, as it was a righty-righty matchup and Uribe is not a great hitter. In that situation, even with Kimbrel in the bullpen, I’m still confident that Carpenter will get Uribe out and then maybe Gonzalez brings him in.
The most reasonable argument is that Kimbrel should have started the eighth inning solely based off the fact that the more potent part of the Dodgers’ lineup was due up, as opposed to the bottom of the ninth, which would have consisted of the bottom three batters. Realistically, bringing Kimbrel in to play the eighth would have been a better decision, even if someone else like Carpenter would have had to close to game out; and with a day of rest before and another due on Tuesday though, there seems to be little reason to not pitch Kimbrel in the eighth and ninth other than it being of the norm.
Braves fans are upset, understandably so, but despite his questionable decisions, I’m not so quick to blame Gonzalez. At the end of the day, Carpenter is the one who hung a breaking ball in the top of the zone on a batter who was just attempting to bunt.