What can you do?
When you have the ability to use one of the worst relievers in major-league baseball for two straight innings in a pivotal division game, you gotta do it. You just gotta. And when that reliever, who has somehow pitched in 38 of your team’s 93 games this season, shows that he doesn’t have it in the second inning, you gotta wait until he loads the bases before you pull him. You just gotta.
That was the dilemma Terry Francona faced tonight when he let Bryan Shaw pitch the seventh and eighth inning with a comically long leash. He made a decision. Not the right one, but a decision, nonetheless.
Now, Shaw did get out of the seventh with a 1-2-3 inning, but it was on three hard-hit balls and his cutter was all over the place. Because that’s what Bryan Shaw does — he hurls that thing around and occasionally it’ll look great and get some strikeouts. Sometimes it works, and when it does you should count your blessings and move on to the next reliever.
But like he’s done so many times this season — and really, since he was given the keys to Shawmobile in 2013 — Tito relied far too heavily on his favorite reliever. The result was a slap in the face to the work that the rest of the team put in to come back from a 3-0 deficit and pull ahead in the top of the seventh. It was a slap in the face to Konnor Pilkington, who against all odds, looked like a major-league pitcher through parts of his five shaky innings of work. It was a slap in the face to me, who continually dunked on the White Sox on Twitter and will now begin reaping what I have sowed.
After striking out Yoan Moncada to start the eighth, Shaw allowed a double and two walks to load the bases before Francona finally woke up and strode out of the dugout to pull him. Thirty-five pitches, with nothing to indicate he actually knew where the pitchers were going when he threw them, before Tito decided to make the call. Doubleheader or not, it was an absolutely brutal decision that cost the Guardians the game.
Nick Sandlin was the pitcher that technically let the winning runs score in the eighth as an A.J. Pollock ate up Ernie Clement at third base. Sandlin has his own issues with walks, but second-inning Shaw is a timebomb waiting to happen. At the very least, bring in the sidearmer when it’s clear Shaw couldn’t locate. Do something besides watch Shaw flail out there until it’s too late.
As for Ernie, it was difficult play, sure, but one he has to make if he wants to be a “versatile utilityman.” Part of that is playing great defense, and those who play great defense make that play most of the time. It was an awkward angle to make a play, but it wasn’t exactly scorched either — 77.3 mph, according to Baseball Savant.
This effectively wiped out the great single that Clement himself had in the Guardians’ seventh-inning rally, as well as a Myles Straw RBI triple, Steven Kwan’s clutch hit, and Amed Rosario’s go-ahead triple that scored him. Oh, and José Ramírez flew out.
A split doubleheader isn’t the worst thing in the world, but stepping on the throats of the White Sox when they were down sure would have felt nice. Instead, they gave them a hand up and got punched in the face for it.