ARLINGTON, Texas – Rangers manager Ron Washington didn’t hesitate for a second before pinch-hitting for Mitch Moreland. Didn’t second-guess it after the fact, either.
“Not at all,” Washington said after the Rangers wrapped up their disappointing homestand with a 5-4 loss to the Oakland A’s in 10 innings. “Not at all.”
The decision to pull Moreland for Brandon Snyder with the go-ahead run on second base in the bottom of the seventh inning was purely a by-the-numbers call. Oakland brought in southpaw Jordan Norberto from the bullpen, so Washington went with the right-handed bat off the bench.
Never mind that Moreland had homered off righty starter Brandon McCarty in his previous two at-bats. That wasn’t a factor in Washington’s mind.
“Have you been watching many ballgames? Well, there’s your answer,” Washington said tersely. “With Moreland facing lefties, what does it look like?”
Moreland’s precious few opportunities against lefties usually haven’t been pretty. He’s 3-for-16 with a solo homer against southpaws this season. In his career, Moreland has a .224 average and two homers in 147 at-bats against lefties.
“That’s that,” Washington said.
Snyder was 8-for-22 with three homers and seven RBIs against lefties this season when Washington told him to grab a bat. He’s 8-for-23 after hitting a routine fly ball to center field to end the inning.
Under normal circumstances, this was a no-brainer decision. But these weren’t normal circumstances, as Moreland had powered balls over the fences in left and right field in his previous two trips to the plate, recording the fourth two-homer game of his career.
That continued a stellar stretch for Moreland, whose early-season slump is a distant memory now. He is 21-for-56 (.375) with four doubles and five homers in his last 18 games. But Moreland can’t earn the manager’s trust to face lefties in critical situations by hitting righties hard.
Washington isn’t ready to publicly declare the 26-year-old Moreland purely a platoon player, but his decision during the seventh inning Thursday sent a pretty strong message.
“I want to get as many at-bats as I can,” Moreland said. “I always want to play. That’s just the way it goes.
“He’s the manager. He makes the decisions.”
This decision came back to bite the Rangers, whether Washington wants to admit it or not.
Snyder batted again with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, weakly grounding out to first base off of right-hander Ryan Cook. Would Moreland have fared better? We’ll never know, but the numbers would have favored him.
In the top of the 10th, a diving Snyder couldn’t stop Daric Barton’s ground ball from rolling into right field for a single that moved the winning run to third base. Would Moreland have fielded the ball? We’ll never know, but he’s a superior fielder and the ball was to his glove side, while Snyder had to try to backhand it.
But Washington’s decision was based on trying to win the game in the seventh inning. He trusted Snyder in that situation, not Moreland.
And, as far as the manager is concerned, it doesn't matter what kind of day Moreland was having up until that point.