Time To Second Guess?

In last night’s game, St Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny opted to intentionally walk Bryan LaHair with two out in the eighth in favor of matching up Alfonso Soriano against Mitchell Boggs.

Why did Matheny do that?  In 157 ABs (172 PA) Soriano has posted a .261/.320/.420 line against the Cardinals.  He’s terrorized the Kyles, off whom he’s hit all 5 of his HR (3 off Lohse, 2 off McClellan).  Other than those two, and Lance Lynn (he’s 3-7 against Lance), current St Louis pitchers have largely handled Soriano.  On the other hand, there’s LaHair.  He has a much smaller sample size, having a total of 19 AB (22 PA) against St Louis, but he’s made the most of them.  LaHair has hit 3 HR in those 19 AB, and has a .368/.455/.842 line.

Perhaps the critical pieces of data for this discussion are these – Soriano was oh for 9 with 7 K’s career against Boggs.  LaHair had never faced the right hander.  And, while LaHair was 3 for 4 with a HR in the game to that point, Soriano was 0-3.

So with all that data in mind, Matheny walked LaHair.  Boggs promptly fell behind Soriano 2-0 and 3-1, then surrendered a single to left which allowed the tie-breaking run to score.  5-4 Cubs.  Chicago would tack on an insurance run in the ninth to win 6-4.

Did Boggs lose Soriano simply because he fell behind?  Perhaps, but Boggs had fallen behind in the count to Soriano on three previous occasions, and had recovered to induce a pop-out to first and 2 strikeouts.  He had only surrendered a 3-ball count to Soriano once before and it had turned into one of the 2 strikeouts noted above.

So did Matheny do the right thing here? Well, he did successfully navigate a scoreless seventh inning while directing 2 intentional walks.  And, had Boggs not fallen way behind in the count perhaps he could have retired Soriano successfully.  I think in this game Matheny rolled the dice once too many times.  He was bound to get burned.

Mike Metzger is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He blogs periodically about the Padres.  Follow him on Twitter @metzgermg.

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