(the obligatory post-game shot of Brad Lidge, perhaps wondering what “don’t give in to this guy” really means, or perhaps pondering whether or not home delivery of the Chronicle is really worth it)
The Houston Chronicle’s Richard Justice has decided —- a day later —- that Phil Garner should’ve ordered Brad Lidge to intentionally walk Albert Pujols during Monday’s fateful 9th inning. Had Garner done so and Reggie Sanders replied with an extra base hit, Justice’s column wouldn’t read like this :
After Eckstein’s single came perhaps the key at-bat, the one that forced the confrontation with Pujols.
Lidge lost the strike zone. He walked Jim Edmonds.
Up steps Pujols.
Give Lidge credit for not giving in to Edmonds. Give Edmonds credit for not expanding the strike zone.
At that point, Phil Garner walked to the mound. He told Lidge “not to give into this guy.”
Garner wanted Lidge to work Pujols as carefully as he would work him with no one on base. He wanted him to know that walking him was better than throwing one down the middle.
That conversation sounds eerily like the one Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda had with reliever Tom Niedenfuer during the 1985 playoffs.
With Jack Clark coming up to bat, Lasorda waddled to the mound and appears to have told Niedenfuer: “Don’t walk him, but don’t give him anything to hit.”
Which is about the dumbest thing a manager can say to a pitcher. As one current National League manager said: “You should not put that responsibility on the pitcher’s shoulder. Just order the intentional walk. You get into that ‘don’t give in’ stuff, and everyone gets messed up.”
Niedenfuer didn’t walk Clark, but the home run he allowed was maybe the hardest ever hit in the NLCS ” until Pujols crushed that Lidge slider Monday night.
Here’s the second-guess. What Garner should have said to Lidge was: “Walk Pujols.”
Twenty-four hours after the fact, we all know that.
That walk would have put the tying run in scoring position with Reggie Sanders, a tremendous clutch hitter himself, coming up.
But you have to pick the guy you want to beat you. You want the second-best guy to beat you.
Today’s Chronicle is filled with hysterical letters from Astros fans saying they’ve been through enough suffering and have already given up. Which team is leading the series 3-2, again?