Quantifying the contributions of a manager is a very difficult task in the world of baseball evaluations. Regardless, even those who feel that managers do very little can agree that one responsibility involves accurately filling out the lineup card prior to a game. Rays manager Joe Maddon seemingly could not handle this responsibility yesterday, leading to a ruling that places Sunday’s Rays-Indians game atop all others this week.
Though Clayton Kershaw and his seven no-hit innings certainly made a solid argument and the three consecutive walk-off wins for the Yankees stated an impressive case, Maddon’s blunder and the results surpassed all others.
For those who have not yet heard, Maddon penciled in both Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist at third base. The ‘5’ on the lineup card next to Longoria’s name was circled, suggesting he would actually be the designated hitter. After Zobrist played the field in the top of the first, Indians skipper Eric Wedge pointed out the flaw. Thirteen grueling minutes later, the umpires stripped the Rays of their right to use a designated hitter, meaning that Andy Sonnanstine would be their third hitter.
B.J. Upton led off with a walk and promptly stole second base. Carl Crawford then singled him in, bringing Sonnanstine to the plate. Sonny tried to sacrifice Crawford along but ended up reaching first on a fielder’s choice force out.
In the top of the second, Ben Francisco hit a three-run homer to put the Tribe ahead, 3-1. A half-inning later, Jason Bartlett tripled and crossed home plate courtesy of a Gabe Kapler groundout. The game remained 3-2 in favor of the Indians until the bottom of the fourth inning, when the Rays erupted for five runs. Prior to that inning, Sonnanstine had batted again and struck out.
The five-run rally kicked off when Ben Zobrist started the frame with a triple. Bartlett then singled him home to knot the game at three runs apiece. Kapler walked and Akinori Iwamura singled to load the bases with nary an out. Michel Hernandez then delivered a bases clearing double to put the Rays ahead, 6-3. After Upton and Crawford were both retired, Sonnanstine launched a double over the head of the quite shallow Ryan Garko, scoring Hernandez.
Sonnanstine lasted until the sixth inning and left with a 7-5 lead. Though he got the win, he did not necessarily pitch that well. Maybe he took his poor at bats back to the mound with him. The last time this odd ruling came into play was on July 23, 1999, when Mike Hargrove messed up the fielding positions of Manny Ramirez and Alex Ramirez, meaning Charles Nagy had to bat. It isn’t uncommon to see a pitcher record a win while going 1-3 with an RBI at the dish… but it is very odd to see this occur in a league specifically designed to avoid pitchers hitting.
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