Commentary

Maybe Wash knows what he's doing

Rangers manager sticking to his Game 7 pitching plan, and we shouldn't second-guess it

Updated: October 27, 2011, 3:41 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ST. LOUIS -- Ron Washington is giving the ball to Matt Harrison if the Texas Rangers need to play Game 7 of the World Series.

Period.

End of story.

Rain postponed Game 6 on Wednesday, creating an opportunity for Washington to start Derek Holland in a Game 7 on regular rest, if he wants.

[+] EnlargeRon Washington
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesRangers manager Ron Washington gave Derek Holland a high-five during Game 4, but if there's a Game 7, the start will go to Matt Harrison.

He doesn't.

For Washington, Wednesday's steady drizzle had no effect on his decision to start Harrison in a potential Game 7. To him, this is a no-brainer.

And, get this, he could not care less if you disagree. Or second-guess his decision. Or, in some cases, question his sanity.

"I'm not afraid to stick my [expletive] out there," Washington said. "I wasn't afraid as a player or a coach and I'm damn sure not afraid as a manager. Why would I try to outsmart the game of baseball? I'm not going to do that.

"I'm not trying to prove how smart I am. I may do things a little differently, but I thought the name of the game was W's -- and we've had a lot of those the last two seasons."

Washington has created a clubhouse atmosphere founded on trust -- and a rain delay isn't going to persuade him to change his approach.

Good for him.

As the first American League manager not employed by the New York Yankees to lead his club to the World Series in consecutive seasons since Cito Gaston did it nearly 20 years ago with the Toronto Blue Jays, Washington has earned the right for us to trust his gut.

The Yankees, with their bloated payroll, have six more wins than Washington's Rangers the past two seasons. The Tampa Bay Rays have one more win. That's it among AL teams.

Plus, Washington is the only big league manager who has improved his won-loss record each of the past five seasons. And let's not forget, Washington has bested Joe Maddon (twice), Joe Girardi and Jim Leyland in the playoffs the past two seasons.

[+] EnlargeMatt Harrison
Pierre Ducharme/Getty ImagesMatt Harrison, who won 14 games with a 3.39 ERA in the regular season, has earned his manager's confidence.

Maybe, Washington actually knows what he's doing.

If you understand how Washington has cultivated the clubhouse and forged the relationships with his players that have created their success, then you wouldn't even wonder who's starting Game 7.

And if you did ask, then you'd know why he'd give the ball to Harrison.

"Wash gets guys to play for him because he shows them that he believes in them," first-base coach Gary Pettis said. "That's how he instills trust. They see his belief in them, and it helps their belief in themselves."

Obviously, when last we saw Harrison, the Cardinals were banging the ball all over Rangers Ballpark in the 16-7 butt-kicking they delivered in Game 3.

When last we saw Holland, he pitched 8 1/3 of flawless baseball, allowing two hits and no runs in the Rangers' Game 4 win that evened the series at 2-2.

Common sense says Washington should go with the hot hand and start Holland, right?

Nope.

Holland was magnificent in Game 4, but we're also talking about a pitcher who had never even strung together three consecutive quality starts until last month.

There's no guarantee the Holland we saw a few days ago is the Holland we would see in Game 7.

"It means a lot to me that he has the trust in me to get the job done," said Harrison, "and give us a chance to win."

Washington said it's simply Harrison's turn to pitch, just like it was Holland's turn to pitch in Game 4.

"Harrison is my Game 7 pitcher. Harrison has been a big part of this team all year. I am not changing the things I've been doing all year," Washington said. "That's why we are where we are -- and that's why I'm saying Harrison.

"We're here because of our starting pitching, and Harrison has been a big part of that starting pitching. It just hasn't been one guy. It has been every single one of those guys that takes the ball every fifth day and every single one of those guys in the bullpen.

"We all have been in this together and we're certainly going to stay together."

The Rangers have won 196 games, two AL West titles and four playoff series the past two years.

It's time for all of us to accept that Washington knows what he's doing.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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