Did you find it odd to see Yu Darvish come back out for the eighth inning last night with a six-run lead? I did. Darvish had already thrown over 100 pitches. His team had added to its lead, taking a 10-4 advantage into the eighth inning, six outs away from a victory. But there was Darvish, back on the hill for the eighth inning.
At the time, I thought manager Ron Washington was likely going to have Darvish pitch to right-handed hitting Miguel Cabrera and then have Robbie Ross, who was warming up, come in for the left-handed hitting Prince Fielder. Instead, Darvish stayed in and mowed down the middle of the order. He ended up with 130 pitches, his highest total this season. He has thrown an average of nearly 121 pitches in his last three starts.
Darvish needed 15 pitches to get through the inning and got the toughest three hitters in the Tigers lineup, giving the game to Cory Burns in the ninth. Washington probably had a variety of reasons for leaving Darvish in. First, it was the tough part of the order. Second, he wanted to save as much of the bullpen as he could knowing he's got some young, unproven pitchers starting games coming up -- including Josh Lindblom, who has to take the place of Alexi Ogando -- and will need them. Third, it's still the Tigers with the top offense in the league. And fourth, though he probably won't admit it, Washington can't have a ton of faith in parts of this bullpen. Right now, you want Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan in a tight game. Beyond that, it gets iffy. I'm sure he wanted to save those key arms.
I get all of those reasons. And I still would not have pitched Darvish in the eighth. It's not the pitch count that actually bugs me. If you're an ace, sometimes you've got to be able to go out there and carry the team. We've seen Justin Verlander do that a fair amount in his career. But it depends on the situation. I don't think you ask Darvish to do that with a six-run lead. That's not the time to push him. You have to think big picture, especially with the injuries to this staff. You protect that Darvish investment.
For those that note Verlander's high pitch count at times -- he's thrown more than 125 pitches 21 times in his career -- a total of 19 of those came in games that ended up at a margin of four runs or fewer (and in most of those, when Verlander went back out to pitch, it was three or fewer). In 10 of those, it was a one-run game. That's the time to push it.
Darvish, of course, has no issues with this. He's thrown more than 130 pitches enough in his career in Japan. But there, it's a six-man rotation and you're pitching about once a week. There's more recovery time. Darvish can handle some longer workload. I just think you pick and choose your spots and last night was not one of those spots.
But that's just me. What do you think? You OK with the decision to leave Darvish in last night?