Thanks to high expectations that Rangers manager Ron Washington helped create by guiding this team to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011, the skipper seems to get second-guessed a lot these days. Heck, I'm guilty of doing it, too.
That's actually the beauty of baseball. There are usually a few times per game (at least) when you can sit in your chair and pretend that you're managing and wonder if you'd do something differently.
A few weeks ago, Washington allowed Yu Darvish to throw 130 pitches in eight innings of work against the Detroit Tigers. When Darvish came back out for his final inning, the Rangers were ahead by six runs. I didn't agree with the decision, thinking that it was a good time not to push Darvish and let the bullpen -- not the usual late-inning pieces, but some others -- get the final six outs with a six-run lead. Washington explained his reasoning and I understood all of them. I just wouldn't have risked it.
But last night was different. The Rangers were protecting a slim lead in the second game of a day-night doubleheader. The bullpen was taxed and Washington needed to ride his horse as long as he realistically could. And he did. Darvish threw 116 pitches in 7 2/3 innings, but gave up a two-run homer to Didi Gregorius that tied the score. That was the same hitter that blasted a triple off Darvish in the first inning. But after that rocky first, Darvish was dominant. He had 14 strikeouts and his slider was its usual nasty self (just ask Gerardo Parra, who seemed to tweak his leg after swinging and missing at one in the third). He didn't walk anybody and was on top of his game. But the one bad pitch altered the game.
That's not Washington's fault. At that point, Darvish was the best option to try to not only save the pen, but get the Rangers a win. And it wasn't 130 pitches. The usually reliable Robbie Ross gave up the winning hit in the ninth to give the Diamondbacks a walk-off win. It was the first time the Rangers had blown a lead after six innings this season.
It was a tough loss, for sure, and the Rangers' AL West lead is now down to three games. But don't blame the manager. He had good reason to believe Darvish would get Gregorius out in the eighth last night. It just didn't happen.