October 16, 2018


Revisiting the Grady Little Game, 15 Years Later: The then-Red Sox manager's slow hook in Game 7 of the ALCS seems like an artifact from an earlier era. Just how much has pitcher usage changed since 2003? (Ben Lindbergh  Oct 16, 2018, The Ringer)

Some things in 2018 aren't so different from 2003: The Red Sox are in the ALCS, Pedro remains a prominent postseason presence, and managers still make maligned decisions about how long to stick with starters in Yankees-Red Sox playoff games. But Pedro is now a TBS analyst, Boone is the manager whose decisions are being savaged, and those crucial managerial junctures in important playoff games are arriving more and more often in the third or fourth inning instead of the eighth. A baby born on October 16, 2003, would be a high-school student today, as I was when I sat--or, during the eighth inning, stood--in the upper deck in right field at the old Yankee Stadium and watched the Red Sox unravel. High school doesn't feel like it was that long ago, but the Grady game seems like an artifact from an earlier era, one in which managers' minds and pitching moves bore little resemblance to the way they work today.

With the pennant and the upper hand in a historic rivalry at stake, Martínez had cruised through the game's first six innings with only one blemish on his line, a leadoff homer by Jason Giambi in the fifth. His first jam arose in the seventh, when he got a groundout and a Posada lineout--hit much harder than the bloop double would be--to start the inning, then allowed another Giambi blast and back-to-back singles to, of all opponents, Enrique Wilson and Karim García. (Wilson, weirdly, was a well-known nemesis of Pedro's, which is why he started over Boone. The extremely light-hitting utility man boasted a 1.167 OPS against Pedro in 23 plate appearances through the 2003 regular season, but he went 2-for-12 with two singles thereafter, which made much more sense.) With two on and two out in the seventh, righty reliever Mike Timlin was ready to enter.
But Martínez fanned the free-swinging Alfonso Soriano to end the threat and preserve the 4-2 lead. On his way back to the dugout, the starter signaled to the sky, believing his day was done. He had thrown exactly 100 pitches.

David Ortiz homered in the eighth to give the Red Sox some extra insurance, and as Martínez later told Tom Verducci, Little asked him to return to the mound for the eighth. On a TBS segment last week, Pedro implied that he expected to face only one batter, the oft-injured Nick "OBP Jesus" Johnson. Johnson was a lefty, but he was 3-for-7 that season against Sox southpaw Alan Embree, which may have signified something to Little. Pedro could get anyone out--his career platoon split spanned just 29 points of OPS--and whether Little knew it or not, Johnson wasn't susceptible to lefties. (He retired with one of the largest-ever career reverse splits for a left-handed hitter.) It wasn't a terrible matchup, and it went Boston's way, as Johnson popped to shortstop on the seventh pitch he saw. Pedro had gotten his hitter.

Timlin and Embree had been up in the bullpen before the first out. Still, Little didn't budge, electing to let Martínez face the right-handed Derek Jeter, who doubled (thanks in part to a Trot Nixon misread in right) on an 0-2 fastball that was lower than neck level, where Jason Varitek wanted it.

Pedro's pitch count stood at 110, with five consecutive switch-hitters or lefties due up. It was an obvious Embree opportunity, but again Little left him in. "You get the feeling that [Embree] will be the pitcher against [Hideki] Matsui one way or the other," Tim McCarver said in the Fox broadcast booth as Bernie Williams batted. Williams lined a single to center to make it 5-3, which finally brought Little out to the mound--not to pull Pedro, but to ask him whether he had enough left to face Matsui. "A proud man, a proud baseball player, a proud pitcher, never really wants to give up his sword," Martínez said last week. "I was a wounded warrior, but I wanted to continue to fight."

Posted by at October 16, 2018 4:37 AM