Last night, to start the bottom of the eighth inning and the Red Sox trailing the Reds 3-2, Cincinnati lefty Manny Parra whiffed Boston’s David Ortiz. Parra then issued an unintentional, intentional walk to bearded right-handed slugger Mike Napoli. With the “New Grady” Sizemore, a lefty, due up next, Red Sox manager John Farrell decided to send righty Jonny Gomes to face Parra.
Reds manager Bryan Price took the bait. Price replaced Parra, a good pitcher, with right hander J.J. Hoover, who struggles in big moments such as this. Hoover walked Gomes, surrendered a ground rule double to A.J. Pierzynski, an intentional walk to light-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr., and a single to slumping Will Middlebrooks.
By then, the damage was done. Parra had thrown the ball extremely well Tuesday night and had just struck out “Big Papi.” Likely under orders, he pitched around Napoli. Then, with Gomes coming up, Price trusted J.J. Hoover instead of Manny Parra. Hoover was about as effective as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover would have been pitching in a 1972 Major League game (Hoover died May 2 that year).
This situation is a reminder that managers’ obsession with late inning “lefty-lefty, righty-righty” match-ups is more fantasy than reality. A hitter would rather face a mediocre to lousy, one-pitch right hander than a quality, two-pitch lefty. John Farrell knew this instinctively; Bryan Price is still learning on the job.