Cash’s controversial move leads to Rays’ demise

by Gary Shelton on October 28, 2020

in general

Cash relied on his matchups in defeat./JEFFREY KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

The game was supposed to define the career of Blake Snell.

Instead, it will be about Kevin Cash.

Him, and the fistful of pages of numerical breakdowns he pores over before each game.

Cash, on everyone's short list for Manager of the Year, may have cost himself some votes Tuesday night. It was his controversial move in the sixth inning that turned around the game and allowed the Los Angeles Dodgers to rally for a 3-1 victory and close out the World Series.

And so it ends. Not with a whimper, but with a chorus of questions.

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Snell was pitching the game of his life./JEFFREY S. KING

Why did Cash take out Snell, who was pitching the game of his life, in the sixth inning? Snell had given up two hits, no runs and had struck out nine. He had only thrown 73 pitches. And there was a new, vulnerable reality to his bullpen.

What more could Snell have done to stay in the game?

Why did he pick Nick Anderson to relieve Snell? Granted, inserting Anderson at any time was a fine idea during the regular season. But this isn't the same Anderson. He has now given up runs in seven straight games.

Why, especially, did he bring Anderson, a right-handed pitcher, in to pitch against Mookie Betts, who has struggled against left-handers this year. Snell had dominated the top third of the Dodgers lineup, holding them to 0-for-six with six strikeouts. Anderson quickly gave up a double to Betts. He later added a wild pitch. He allowed the go-ahead run. In his outing, he threw 10 pitches, and half of them were balls.

Why? Because the analytics demanded it (The Dodgers were about to hit for the third time against Snell), and Cash has managed that way forever. From now on, this will be known as Cash's Folly, and it will be a counterargument that, at times, a manager needs to trust his eyes instead of his fractions. Ask yourself: Who was more likely to keep Betts off base: Snell or Anderson?

“The only motive was the lineup the Dodgers feature is as potent as any team in the league," said manager Kevin Cash. "Personally, I felt that Blake had done his job and then some. Mookie coming around for the third time through ... I value that. I respect and understand the questions that come with it. Blake gave us every opportunity to win. He was outstanding. They’re not easy decisions.  I came to the decision I felt was best after (Austin) Barnes hit the single. I didn’t want Mookie or (Corey) Seager seeing Blake for the third time.

“There was no set plan. As much as people think that, there is no set plan.  This organization is tremendous  about giving the staff the trust to make the in-game decisions that we feel is going to give us the best chance to win. What unfolded today was pretty tough.”

Granted, the odds said that Snell wasn't going to go nine. Eventually, he was going to be pulled. But replacing a pitcher who is cruising is all about timing. To pull Snell in the sixth inning, the way he was pitching, was as big an error as a booted ball by the shortstop. The play, at the time, seemed all wrong. And the Rays never recovered.

"I’m definitely disappointed, upset," said Snell. "I just want the ball. I felt I did everything I could to prove my case to stay out there. That was one of the better games I've pitched.

"I get it. It’s the third time through the lineup. I’m going to make the adjustments I need to make. I believe in me. I believe in my stuff. I believe in what I was doing. I didn’t walk anyone.  For most of that game, I was dominating every outcome possible. And that lineup is so talented."

Again, Snell hasn't helped himself with the way he has lost it in games past. In Game Two, remember, Snell had a no-hitter into the fifth, and Cash left him in. Betts and Seager had a single and a walk.

"I think it was Blake’s game," outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. "He was dominating. I don’t care what the numbers say, third time through or whatever. There weren’t many guys making contact. I think I would have let Blake stay in there. Cash and everyone have been great the whole year. If he had a three or four run lead it would have been different."

When you are weary of blaming Cash for this one, where do you turn? How about the bats? The Rays were as anemic as ever against the Dodgers Tuesday night, scoring only on yet another home run by Randy Arozarena. It's tough to beat a team like the Dodgers with one run.

The Rays simply didn't hit well enough to be World Champions. They struck out too much (16 times Tuesday night). They gave up too many home runs. The bullpen was mortal. Too many spots in the lineup were holes.

Consider this: After one out in the game, the Rays got two hits. They had only three over their next 26 outs.

At the bottom of it all, there is this: The Dodgers were better. They hit better, they pitched better. They controlled the biggest moments of the series. And because of it, they won their first World Series in 32 years.

The Rays? Eventually, they will be able to look back on a terrific season. But not yet. Right now, the grand prize has slipped away.

"I guess I regret it because it didn’t work out," Cash said. "I felt like the thought process was right. If we had to do it over again, I would have the most utmost confidence in Nick Anderson to get through that inning.

"Over the last two years, there's an argument to be made that he's been the best reliever in baseball."

Perhaps the numbers say that. This morning, the gut feeling is that it wasn't true on Tuesday night.

And all the Rays can do is wonder if they helped dig their own graves.

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