Hard to say which is more surprising Thursday morning, that Newsday’s Wallace Matthews is riding manager Willie Randolph after the Mets’ 6-5 win over the Dodgers, or that Wally neglected to get in even one dig at Lastings Milledge.
It took Willie Randolph 12 years to manage his first playoff game, and a little over two hours to nearly manage his team out of it.
In his first postseason game as a manager after 47 as a player, Randolph seemed as geeked up as any of his players. Vying for Micromanager of the Year, an award thought to have been retired around here with the departure of Bobby Valentine, Randolph yanked one pitcher too soon and stayed with another too long. He played it safe when he should have gambled, and gambled when he should have played it safe. Working with a shortage of quality starters for the playoff run, Randolph found a way to use half his staff in Game 1. Somehow, he managed to get outmanaged by Grady Little.
In spite of it all, the Mets held on to beat the Dodgers, 6-5, thanks to Reyes, Wright, Delgado and Dodgers third- base coach Rich Donnelly, who fortunately was only directing baserunners at Shea and not jetliners at LaGuardia.
Randolph asked Guillermo Mota to do something he had done only once as a Met, and not at all since Aug. 26 – pitch more than one inning. Mota looked sharp in the sixth, and Randolph, feeling good about the three-run lead the Mets had opened in the bottom of the inning on Wright’s two-run double, sent Mota up to hit for himself with the bases loaded and two outs. It was a perfect opportunity to bust the game open – the Mets had righthanded hitters Woodward, Julio Franco and Ramon Castro on the bench to face lefty reliever Mark Hendrickson – but Randolph chose to settle, and Mota flied out to end the inning.
“I always like to get the runs,” Randolph said. “But in that situation, I just felt like we had our best pitcher out there at the time and I felt like we could hold the lead. Didn’t work out that way.”
Not only did Mota not extend the lead, he gave it back in the seventh on Garciaparra’s two-run double. But Reyes, Delgado and Wright bailed out Mota, and the manager, in the bottom of the inning. Wagner did his customary cardiac arrest job in the ninth to escape with the save.
Along with his notorious trigger temper, Tigers P Kenny Rogers can add “All-Star Left Fielder” to his impressive resume, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Cecil Angel. Nice to see CSTB’s laid-off copy editors found some work in the Midwest.