The Dodgers beat the Rays in Game 6 of the World Series last night to win the series four games to two. It is their first World Series championship since 1988.
Los Angeles won the game 3-1, and one of the more notable storylines of the entire series came in the 6th inning when Rays manager Kevin Cash decided to pull starting pitcher Blake Snell from the game.
To say Snell was dominating the Dodgers might be an understatement. He had thrown 5 1/3 shutout innings, struck out nine, and not walked anyone. In the sixth inning, he gave up a one-out single to Austin Barnes, just his second hit allowed. He was cruising and had thrown just 75 pitches.
After Barnes’ single, the top of the order was due up for the Dodgers: Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner. They were a combined 0-6 with 6 strikeouts against Snell in the game. Again, Snell was dealing.
But Kevin Cash decided to pull Snell out of the game. He brought in Nick Anderson, who fell behind Mookie Betts 2-0 in the count when Betts ripped a double down the left field line.
After Betts’ double, Anderson threw a pitch in the dirt that got away from catcher Mike Zunino and allowed Barnes to score from third to tie the game 1-1. Seager then bounced a ground ball to first, and Mookie was able to score from third to take the lead 2-1.
That would be all the runs they needed, although Mookie added an insurance run with a solo homer in the 8th, and the Dodgers won 3-1.
Because Snell was so dominant, the move to pull him was a momentum changer, and the Dodgers were happy to see him leave the mound.
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts acknowledged that he was glad to see Snell pulled, and he added that Betts even glanced over at him and smiled before heading to the plate.
“I was pretty happy because he was dominating us, and we just weren’t seeing him,” Roberts said. “We were all kind of excited that Snell was out of the game.”
Betts stated that Cash taking Snell out of the game brought a “sigh of relief” for the Dodgers. Corey Seager said that it “uplifted” the offense.
“He was tough all night,” Seager said. “You tip your cap to him. He threw a helluva ballgame. He had us off balance, he made pitches, we grinded, we battled, and we didn’t really have an answer for him; and once he came out, it uplifted us a little bit, for sure. We started feeling a little momentum, we scratched a few runs and we ended up winning.”
After the game, Cash was asked about the justification behind his controversial decision: “I don’t know if I have the best answer right now,” Cash said. “He did above and beyond what any of us could have asked for. To limit that lineup the way he did was outstanding and gave us every opportunity to win. Good question. Tough question. I don’t know if I have the best answer.”
The move to bring in Anderson to replace Snell was particularly confusing Anderson is a right-handed pitcher. In the 2020 season, Mookie Betts has hit poorly against left-handers (batting average of .200) and much better against right-handers (batting average of .323). In fact, Mookie has just one extra base hit against left-handers all season. He had one double in 64 plate appearances against lefties, and against righties, he had 8 doubles, one triple, and 16 home runs in 182 plate appearances. That is a slugging percentage of .218 against lefties, and .677 against righties. The stark contrast is extremely noticeable. Why Cash decided to bail on Snell and bring in the right-handed Anderson is extremely puzzling.
It should be noted that Blake Snell has gone a major league-longest 21 straight starts without completing six innings, including in every outing this season. He was sitting at 75 pitches with 5 1/3 innings down. Being pulled at just 75 pitches was the lowest pitch count for Snell in a game since September 17th against Baltimore, where he threw 73 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. Snell had thrown over 100 pitches four times this season.
In Game 1, Cash let Tyler Glasnow throw 112 pitches, when he was not performing nearly as well as Snell was in Game 6. In Game 1, Glasnow had little control, as he walked 6 batters in 4 1/3 innings. He also gave up three hits and allowed 6 earned runs, yet Cash kept him in.
This is vastly different from the Snell situation in Game 6, as Snell had 9 strikeouts, zero walks, and just two hits (both singles).
Snell was asked if he thought there was anything more he could have done to stay in the game: “No shot,” he said. “That was one of my better games I’ve pitched in a long time, honestly. The way I was controlling the zone and adjusting through seeing them, I felt very comfortable out there. The way I scouted them and myself with everything, I knew what they were looking for, and I knew when they were going to adjust their game plan. When it came to understanding that team and what I needed to do, I was really locked in. So I did everything I could do to be the best out there today.”
The decision to pull Snell faced much criticism from the baseball world, including Alex Rodriguez calling it “the worst decision I’ve seen in all of the World Series I’ve watched.”
“Snell doesn’t want to be a chess piece. He wants to be a baseball player.”
FOX Broadcaster Joe Buck raised a fair point after the Dodgers took the lead, saying, “Managers today are looking for reasons to remove a pitcher more than reasons to keep them in.”
I can’t help but find a lot of truth in this.
Today’s baseball world is driven by analytics and matchups. It’s run by computers and data. However, sometimes you have to go with what is right in front of you.
There was no reason for Snell to be pulled from that game. The Rays had all the momentum, and Snell was putting up zero and zero. His pitch count was low, and he was controlling the strike zone and locating this pitches. One not need to look further than the 9 strikeouts and zero walks to realize this. I will reiterate the fact that of the next three batters due up, they were 0-6 with 6 strikeouts against Snell in the game.
As a player, when you see the pitcher that has been completely shutting you down leave the mound, it gives you a new sense of hope and energy. That is exactly what Cash provided to the Dodgers.
Don’t get me wrong, analytics are important, but I think they should be used more to build teams and lineup structures based on long-term data and stats. I don’t necessarily think they should be used to micro-manage deciding when a pitcher should be pulled from a game that he is clearly in control of.
This decision is one of the defining moments of the 2020 World Series, and it’s unfortunate for the Rays that it unfolded the way it did.
Title Photo: Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer / Dallas Morning News