Last night, the Yankees lost the first game of a brief six game West Coast road trip. Mariano Rivera blew just his second save all season. He had converted 36 straight save opportunities and given up one run in his previous 33 innings.
That wasn’t the strange thing, however.
But that isn’t the strange thing either – although it really is strange for that to happen.
Ichiro Suzuki hit that game winning homer last night, his second straight walk off hit in as many days. That is rare, but not the strange thing I was thinking about.
But something interesting did happen in the Seattle Mariner – New York Yankee game last night.
A starting pitcher entered the 9th inning of a game on the losing end of the score and ended up getting the victory.
King Felix Hernandez was down 2-1 to the Yankees and pitched the top of the 9th, then the Mariners ended up winning the game in the bottom of the 9th. Hernandez got the well deserved victory, but even though Hernandez at that point threw less than 100 pitches, normally a major league manager would of had Felix out after 8 innings.
So instead of a middle inning reliever getting the victory, Felix won his 16th game. Mariner manager Don Wakamatsu definitely had AL CY Young thoughts in his mind.
Those kinds of games rarely happen, and so far I only came across one other this season. Matt Harrison of the Texas Rangers won a game on May 14th while entering the 9th inning on the losing end.
Ironically, the other team in that game was the Mariners and their bullpen blew a lead (and possible victory) for King Felix, who was removed after 7 innings and 110 pitches.
If starting pitchers were allowed to pitch more than 7 innings or go for complete games then the starters would have higher win totals. As I mentioned above, the M’s manager likely did that to maybe attain Felix another win in his pursuit of the AL Cy Young award.
And it worked.
Zach Greinke is the odds on favorite because of his seriously great numbers, except for wins. And while Felix has great numbers, too, he also has a great Won-Loss percentage.
Greinke has eight no decision this year and the Royals have scored 18 runs. Of those eight no decisions, he left with a lead six times. Why take your best pitcher out of a game in which he has the lead?
Pitch counts? Saving for a rainy day? Plain stupidity. To win games a pitcher needs to stay in the game longer. Why leave a game up to a overpaid Kansas City bullpen?
Many times a #1 starter goes up against the other teams #1, and this season Greinke did that on many occasions. You just have to pitch better than the other guy that day, and if that means allowing no runs, then that is what you have to do to get the win.
Winning games on a non hitting team? Koufax did OK with that, Drysdale too. Even King Felix has done well this year with a less than potent Mariner attack.
And Steve Carlton was pretty good in 1972 also, winning 27 games while his team won only 59 on the season.
The Phillies scored 4 or more runs 18 times in Carlton’s 41 starts, a 37% rate. In Greinke’s 30 starts this season, the Royals have scored 4 or more runs 11 times, a 44% rate.
UPDATE: Cliff Lee also entered the 9th inning on July 21st, losing 1-0 to Toronto and the Indians came back to take the lead in the top of the 9th, with Lee finishing it out. Cliff Lee is a great pitcher. Traded by Omar Minaya along with Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips for Bartolo Colon.
Omar is an idiot and should be canned as New York Mets GM.
Anyway, so if pitchers want more wins to generate more Cy Young award consideration, they might want to pitch longer in a game, even if he has to get in the face of his manager to do so. What is the manager going to do, cut their best pitcher?
And if they continue to get wins taken away by ineffective bullpens, and aren’t allowed to finish their own games, leave for greener pastures. Maybe one with a better overall team with better management.