The Yankees and White Sox combined for 26 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. In 2012, that’s not so surprising. What is a bit of a stunner is that Aroldis Chapman didn’t get any of those K’s. Carlos Rodón fanned 13, Jordan Montgomery punched out 11, and Michael Kopech added two whiffs out of the Chicago bullpen.
Why didn’t Chapman have any strikeouts? Because with runners on first and second in the top of the ninth inning, Andrew Vaughn hit into an around-the-horn triple play.
In the bottom of the ninth, Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa declined to insert his warmed-up relief ace, Liam Hendriks, instead leaving Evan Marshall and his 1.51 career WHIP in to face the meat of the Yankees’ lineup: Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela, and Gleyber Torres.
Judge ripped a 107 mph single over second base, Urshela lined a single of his own to right, and Torres sizzled a ground ball through the left side of the infield for a walkoff single.
So, it’s not just the culture of today’s game that makes La Russa look like a dinosaur. Apparently he missed the shift in strategy where managers have tended more toward having their best pitcher face — get this — the opponent’s best hitters, rather than wait to protect a lead that might never come.
The fallacy of managing to the save statistic, which La Russa helped popularize with his strictly-defined bullpen roles for the 1980s A’s, was exposed most clearly in the 2016 American League wild card game, when Orioles manager Buck Showalter never got Zack Britton into an 11-inning game and Baltimore’s season ended on an Edwin Encarnación three-run homer off Ubaldo Jiménez.
La Russa probably was too angry about how Encarnación and the Blue Jays celebrated.
Then again, this is a guy who couldn’t be bothered to learn the rules of the season he’s currently managing in, so who knows what he was doing in 2016.