Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Ron Washington stands behind choices
By Jeff Fletcher
OAKLAND, Calif. — Say this for Ron Washington. He doesn’t second-guess himself.
Plenty of questions awaited the Texas Rangers’ manager when he trudged back to his office following Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Oakland A’s. Questions about pitching changes and bunts, decisions that all backfired.
Washington didn’t hesitate to answer any of them. He said exactly what he was thinking and why he believed his decisions were right, even though they didn’t work.
“We had the right people in,” Washington said. “We just didn’t get the job done.”
Michael Kirkman walks off the field in Oakland after giving up a walk-off home run to Brandon Hicks.
The game’s ultimate decision was to leave lefty Michael Kirkman in to start the bottom of the ninth in a tie game, instead of bringing in right-hander Mike Adams or even closer Joe Nathan. Kirkman, who had pitched a scoreless eighth, gave up a walk-off homer to Brandon Hicks on the third pitch of the inning.
“With the hitters coming up behind (Hicks), we thought we’d get an opportunity to turn the lineup around,” Washington said. “We never got there.”
The three hitters following Hicks included two switch-hitters (Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks) and a lefty (Josh Reddick). Washington said he wanted all three to face a lefty. (Crisp has hit worse against lefties this year, but Weeks is actually better against lefties.)
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Kirkman miscalculated on his 1-1 pitch to Hicks.
He thought Hicks was looking for a fastball, so he threw a changeup, which he left up, and Hicks belted it over the fence in right-center for his first career homer.
It was the second time Washington’s pitching logic failed to produce the desired result. In the seventh, he had left-hander Robbie Ross stay out for a second inning, even though Alexi Ogando was warm in the pen and a right-handed hitter, Brandon Inge, was due to hit first.
Inge was hitting .184 against lefties this season. And there were three consecutive switch-hitters after him, although the A’s had two dangerous right-handed pinch-hitters on the bench in Chris Carter and Jonny Gomes.
It all blew up, because Inge doubled against Ross. Washington then brought in Ogando, who proceeded to walk Carter. He retired the next two batters, but then Reddick blasted a double off the fence, tying the game. It was the first time the Rangers had blown a save since May 17, when Reddick got to Ogando for a homer in Texas.
“As you start to get to know him, you know next time to make a better pitch,”
Ogando said through an interpreter.
Ogando, pitching the second time since coming off the disabled list, was more disappointed with the walk. He had walked the first batter he faced Tuesday.
“I feel a little uncomfortable trying to locate,” Ogando said, “but I feel like I’m coming around.”
Washington made one other decision that didn’t work. After Nelson Cruz led off the top of the ninth with a double, Washington had called for Mike Napoli to bunt. Once Washington saw how aggressively the A’s were defending against the bunt, he took it off. Napoli struck out, and Cruz never moved from second.
“When I realized they knew he was going to bunt, I thought they’d throw him something he could get on, and I took it off,” Washington said. “It didn’t work.”