So, the last thing I did last night before retiring for the evening was to take a peek at the closing stages of the Reds-Nationals game through that wonderful cyber-spyglass that is Game Day.
The Reds, playing at home, entered the ninth nursing the 1 - 0 lead they had carved out for Bronson Arroyo, and called upon their "closer" David Weathers to protect it.
Instead, Weathers gave up a leadoff single to Daryle "Heavy D" Ward, allowed his pinchrunner Damian Jackson to steal second, then watched as a ground out and a sac fly got Jackson home. Weathers thus blew a save for the second straight day, and, peering into my monitor at home, I thought, smiling, of course he did.
After Cordero squeaked through a scoreless bottom of the ninth, Todd Coffey relieved Weathers for the Redlegs. Coffey has been more or less amazing for the Reds out of the pen, and when he handled the Nationals on 13 pitches in the tenth, I thought to myself at home, grimacing, of course he did.
But Jerry Narron was forced to pinch-hit for Coffey in the bottom of the tenth, and it was Rick White--much less a mystery to National League hitters than Coffey--who came out for the eleventh. White proceeded to immediately give up a game-untying homer to Nick Johnson. I was already thinking that two games back of the Reds sounded a lot better than three, but when White subsequently gave up another two, putting the game seemingly out or reach, you know it: at home, I smiled, thinking: of course he did.
That Bigfoot-thing they have in the Nationals pen by the name of Jon Rauch didn't open the bottom of the 11th by pitching very well at all, but it wasn't until after Rauch had left that the shit really hit the fan for the Nationals. Lopez singled off Felix Rodriguez, scoring Olmedo, and then Encarnacion walked, setting up a matchup of Joey Eischen--who had a 10.45 ERA--versus Ken Griffey Jr., who had returned from the DL earlier in the day.
Being the middle of May, it wasn't quite a Kirk Gibson moment, but when that Game Day program flashed its K Griffey Jr homered to center, F Lopez and E Encarnacion scored on my glowing screen in the middle of my darkened room, all I could think was, of course he did. . . .
When I suggested yesterday at the end of the Game Thread that it might not be too long before Garner skips the middleman, and goes directly to Wheeler in the ninth, both littlevisigoth and StrosDux were more than a little skeptical about Wheeler as any kind of choice.
Going beyond the obvious fact that if everybody agreed with everyone else, there'd be no reason for the 'comment' or 'reply' buttons onsite, I might like to reply. That Wheeler has been Lidge's understudy since about this time last year I think would be pretty apparent to anyone who has followed the team. Wheels picked up three saves when Lidge had the biceps thing last year, and Garner has never shown any lack of confidence in using Dan in high-leverage situations.
So, given the history, if Lidge does in fact need to be replaced temporarily, Wheels would appear to have earned the opportunity. And I don't think StrosDux or littlevisigoth would argue with that part of it, either.
What I'm guessing they had the issue with is Wheeler's ERA, and his WHIP, right now, and the very idea that maybe Lidge should be replaced.Well, Wheeler's ERA right now is 5.40 and his WHIP is 1.60, and regardless of the fact that Lidge's numbers are worse, that seems an effective rebuttal. But while Wheeler has gotten hit around--bases loaded walk the other day aside--he has not walked many men.
Put quite simply, I can live with my closer getting hit. What I can't live with is my closer walking the bases loaded.
Wheeler's mechanics are much simpler than either of his two late inning bullpen mates; adjustments are easier to make for him, and his slumps are shorter. If I wonder at where Lidge is going, I have no doubt where Wheeler is headed.
And as far as the efficacy of making a change at all, I can note that a) Ortiz believes that Garner qualified his previously unreserved confidence in Lidge during Scrap Iron's remarks yesterday, and b) if you buy my idea that Lidge's biggest hurdle is his need to throw the nasty slider for strikes--and maybe even if you don't--you will understand that Lidge has to actually reinvent himself as a pitcher. If it were me, I'd make sure that the space I gave him to conduct that reinvention gave him a little room for error.
Lidge in the seventh, Qualls in the eighth and Wheeler as closer makes a lot of sense if it becomes necessary, at least until Lidge can complete the adjustments he needs to make.