In a game that meant winning the series at home, or having to go back to Atlanta for a game 5, Don Mattingly had to choose between starting Clayton Kershaw on short rest, or Ricky Nolasco on extra rest.
Mattingly chose to put the ball in the hands of “THE” guy on his staff.
In the same game, up a run in the bottom of the 8th, Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez had a similar choice to make. Go with a rookie who was touched up for a 2-run HR in game 2, or with a well-rested Craig Kimbrel for 2 innings.
Well, you all know the story; Kimbrel did not throw one meaningful pitch.
Now, I know that hindsight is 20/20 and it is easy to be a “Monday morning quarterback”. After all, had journeyman veteran Freddy Garcia not gone blow for blow with Kershaw for the first 6 innings, Gonzalez would be taking all kinds of heat for that decision, but it paid off so everyone sees it as a smart move.
However, after watching replays of Kimbrel in the bullpen and seeing him say something along the lines of “I told him if we are winning after 7, I want to throw the last 2 innings”, it’s hard to find any reason to back up Gonzalez with this decision.
After all, Kimbrel has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball for the last 3 years and he sat in the bullpen while a converted catcher in his first postseason blew a late inning lead for the Braves.
Braves fans and media have been very vocal about the decision since… You know what though, let’s forget the fans, media, or even the rest of the team for a minute. This was unfair to Craig Kimbrel.
When “THE” guy of your staff, the most dominant reliever in history (thus far), who has done everything you’ve asked of him and more his entire career, comes to you and tells you he wants the ball in the biggest game of the season, you give it to him.
When Clayton Kershaw went to Mattingly and said, “I want the ball” on short rest for game 4, Mattingly didn’t blink. Why? The Dodgers wanted the ball in the hands of “THE” guy of their pitching staff when it mattered most.
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