10/29/07 1:45 AM ET
Chess Match: Twists and turns
Game 4 nail-biter hinges on interesting decisions
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The situation: With a runner on third and no outs in the first inning, David Ortiz comes to the plate.
The decision: Colorado brings the infield in.The outcome: Ortiz pokes a single through the right side, a ball that likely would have gone for an out if the infield had been at regular depth. The next batter, Manny Ramirez, grounds into a double play. The analysis: As Rockies manager Clint Hurdle pointed out earlier in the series, this is how Colorado has played all year long, so the decision wasn't a surprise. But playing to prevent a single run, at the expense of a potential big inning, is rarely a winning play at Coors Field. Faith in the kid
The situation: Starter Jon Lester issues a two-out walk in the sixth inning, following a solidly hit line drive.
The decision: Lester comes out of the game in favor of Manny Delcarmen, who was shaky the night before.The outcome: Delcarmen gets the most urgently needed out, striking out Ryan Spilborghs to end the inning. He struggles in the seventh, though, allowing a homer and a single before Mike Timlin puts out the fire. The analysis: Frankly, Boston didn't have a whole lot of choices. The Sox clearly wanted to wait to use Timlin until a more dangerous part of the batting order -- Delcarmen came in to face the No. 6 hitter, then saw 7-8-9 in the next frame. And Eric Gagne is clearly persona non grata in any game-critical situation. "Manny Delcarmen is growing up right in front of our eyes. It's fun. You watch the veterans act like little kids, and then you see the young kids starting to act like veterans. It's gratifying." -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona Right-left -- right!
The situation: The pitcher's spot is due to lead off the eighth inning for Boston. Colorado had pinch-hit for its pitcher in the previous half-inning, so the Rockies were forced to go to their bullpen to start the inning.
The decision: Rather than calling on Kevin Youkilis, Francona taps another man to swing from the right side against lefty Brian Fuentes -- switch-hitter Bobby Kielty.The outcome: Kielty smashes a solo homer, stretching Boston's lead to 4-1. The analysis: A lot of decisions went into this one moment. Francona ran a big risk if he had used Youkilis. If Youkilis bats, but the Red Sox go down 1-2-3, Francona is in a tough spot. He'd be forced to choose between removing Youkilis from the game after his at-bat, burning the Sox's defensive replacement for David Ortiz, or substituting for Ortiz before the slugger got a last chance to bat. He made the safer play, and it worked out perfectly. The Red Sox got a run, Ortiz got one more chance to bat, and Youkilis came in for defense at first base. On top of all that, when Ortiz walked, Francona used Coco Crisp to pinch-run while Manny Ramirez was batting. That set up another defensive move in the bottom of the eighth, putting Crisp in the outfield and removing Ramirez.
"Bobby sitting around being a professional like he is, knowing what his job is, and putting a beautiful swing [on it] ends up making a difference." -- Francona
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.