Many relief pitchers have a problem coming into the 9th in non-save situation. It is likely that thinking the lead is safe the pitcher throws strikes to get outs, but the strikes are too good and hits come, not outs; or the pitcher is relaxed and throws balls just out of the strike zone. It is only a surmise; the truth is a mystery.
But that is not the problem Sunday when Fernando Rodney came into the 9th with a 7-3 lead on Oakland. Lets look at the last of the 9th. Reddick a leadoff double, Semien a walk, then Sam Fuld 2-run double, 7-5. Canha infield single, Zobrist walks. McClendon visits mound and then Butler hits into double play, a run scores, 7-6, but two outs. The last out is the toughest and Sogard singles, Canha scores, 7-7.
Here is the problem. Rodney had pitched Saturday night so he was not in need of work and by bringing him in on Sunday throwing 25 pitches in a non save situation, it is unlikely he will be used for the Monday game against the Dodgers. Would it not have been better to start Medina in the 9th and if he gets into trouble, then bring in Rodney?
Managers tend to go with their closer and rarely take him out when he is not pitching well. The manager will, like the captain of the Titanic, go down with the ship, and the closer is the managers ship. That is why Rodney was allowed to either get out of the jam or lose the game. But if he lost, this would be one of those games you look back on and say this game was one that got away. And the M’s missed the playoffs by one game in 2014. Even early in the season you don’t want to let games slip away.
Nelson Cruz bailed the M’s out with a 10th inning homer and medina pitched a 1-2-3 9th for the save. Rodney got an undeserved win.
Closers are best in save situations.