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#pounditSaturday, November 27, 2021

Dusty Baker burned by questionable pitching change

Dusty Baker

Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker made a bold move in Game 3 of the ALDS, and it did not work out at all for him.

The Astros carried a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the third of Sunday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. Starter Luis Garcia ran into trouble, however, giving up a two-run home run to Yasmani Grandal to make it 5-3. Garcia was one strike away from getting out of the inning, but gave up back-to-back two-out singles to Yoan Moncada and Gavin Sheets to bring Leury Garcia up as the go-ahead run.

When the Astros pitcher fell behind in the count 2-0, Baker made the unconventional decision to change pitchers in the middle of the at-bat. He came out and summoned reliever Yimi Garcia to try to end the inning instead.

That did not work at all. Yimi Garcia threw a ball, moving the count to 3-0, then got a called strike. Leury Garcia then smashed the 3-1 pitch to dead center for a go-ahead three-run homer.

There’s a reason managers don’t like to change pitchers in the middle of a plate appearance. Pitchers can be very rhythm-oriented, and it’s tough to get into a rhythm when inheriting someone else’s count. That becomes even more true when a pitcher enters behind in the count, giving them even less margin for error. In general, managers will usually try to start their relievers with a clean count, even if they can’t offer a clean inning.

Ironically, Baker has garnered a reputation for leaving his starters in too long during key playoff games. Even last year he opted to stick with his starter in a big spot, and was actually rewarded for it. Perhaps he would have been better off doing the same in this instance.

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