A Game Five Strategy That Backfired Twice For Veteran Manager
Mike Hargrove Lost Twice In The Same Game With The Same Decision
Cleveland Skipper Should Have Been More Leery Of Boston's O'Leary
Most of the second guessing concerned one issue after game four of the American League Division Series, when Houston manager A.J. Hinch decided to start Justin Verlander on three days rest. Never before had the Cy Young Award veteran pitched after just three days off so, after the Tampa Bay Rays knocked him for a trio of runs in the first inning, everyone blamed Hinch for the poor decision.
Similarly, Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli could be second guessed for not allowing more playing time to veterans like Jonathan Schoop, who could possibly have helped to avert the Yankees sweep of the Twins. Folks in N.l.C.S bound St. Louis might have been just as likely to second guess manager Mike Shildt's handling of his bullpen, who blew a ninth inning lead by yielding three runs to the Atlanta Braves in game two of the National League Division Series.
All of those decisions will be forgotten in a matter of days, as most managerial moves are. Unfortunately for fans of a team that missed out on the playoffs in the last weekend of the 2019 season, none of the ones mentioned above are anywhere close to as egregious as the errant decision from exactly twenty years ago.
Cleveland, which was eliminated from the Wild Card race after game 161, were in line to advance to the American League Championship Series back in 1999. Manager Mike Hargrove, whose club had jumped out to take the first two games, saw the Red Sox come back to win the next two and force a game five.
The mistake he was to make not just once, but twice a few innings later, may have been due to the events of game four just a few hours before. Boston in that game scored a record number of runs, hammering the Indians 23-7.
Several times the lead changed hands during game five, but it would end with the Red Sox on the winning side because of Hargrove's failed strategy. With the Indians up 5-2 in the third, ace Charles Nagy allowed a run on a John Valentin fielder's choice that also placed runners at second and third.
Hargrove then ordered Navy to give an intentional pass to Nomar Garciaparra, not an unreasonable move with first base open. Unfortunately for Cleveland, outfielder Troy O'Leary smashed a grand slam on the very next pitch.
That unsuccessful strategy, which had put Boston up by a pair, should have been quickly forgotten when the Indians next went on offense. Back to back to doubles by Roberto Alomar and Manny Ramirez were followed by a Jim Thome home run, putting Cleveland back in front 8-7.
Boston managed to tie it a few innings later, until the seventh brought up a similar situation to the one back in the third. Valentin singled and moved to second on a fielder's choice, leading Hargrove to once again issue an intentional pass.
One would have assumed that the Cleveland manager, who had just an hour before seen that same strategy backfire in a grand slam, would have been a little gun shy this time. He was not, probably reasoning that there was no way the result would bite him twice in the same game.
He was wrong, for O'Leary once again followed the intentional walk with a home run. His three run shot gave Boston a three run lead, so the Six would two innings later celebrate a 12-8 victory and a trip to the A.L.C.S.
It was not after all a happy ending for Boston, who fell to the rival Yankees in five games for the pennant. As bad as it had been for Hargrove, it got even worse shortly after that Troy O'Leary seven RBI game. Cleveland decided to hire a new manager for the next season.