With a 3-2 lead and the laboring C.J. Wilson still pitching, Ron Washington decides to intentionally walk Magglio Ordonez (to load the bases) in order to pitch to the left-handed hitting Alex Avila. Washington—whose tactical decisions cost him some games in the World Series last season—went in favor of a lefty-lefty matchup instead of facing Ordonez and his paltry .255/.303/.331. Avila came into the at-bat 1-for-19 in the postseason, but he was the Tigers' third most consistent hitter this season (.295/.389/.506), and is a better hitter against left-handers than Ordonez is against anybody.
What made the decision even worse was Washington's insistence on leaving Wilson in to face Avila—seemingly so that his ace could qualify for the victory. Wilson had thrown 96 pitches through one rain delay, and his fastball velocity was down for his last handful of pitches. I have no doubt that Washington would have made a move to the bullpen if it was the sixth inning or later, and in the highest-leveraged situation in the game, Washington should have had Alexi Ogando pitch to Ordonez—or at least have a new pitcher face Avila.
Much to the chagrin of Washington, the skies opened up once again and the game went into its second delay, which made the intentional walk look even worse in retrospect. Rangers fans should be elated this morning, considering the fact that the delay forced Washington's hand to bring in a new left-handed pitcher to face Avila. Michael Gonzalez, whose 2.76 xFIP against left-handed hitters was the lowest of any pitcher on the Rangers' roster, faced the Tigers' best left-handed hitter in one of the most important at-bats of the game.
Washington did a nice job bridging the gap from Gonzalez to Neftali Feliz, but decisions like walking Ordonez are bound to get him in trouble for the rest of this series. Avila's wRC+ ranked second-best on the Tigers' roster, and odds are that he has a big game soon.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!