I would say that Matty and Doc have each made a separate case for Wedge actually being an astute manager of a bullpen. This will be interesting to watch. Could be fun. Cut off from the restraints (temporarily) of hard and fast closing roles, Wedge could really demonstrate his managerial chops. If you don't have a Mariano Rivera, it could be useful to develop a number of second or third tiered closer types. Give each a chance to close a game or two, in settings that maximize success (and victory, always the main objective) and build the confidence of everyone.
Felix Is Ours and You Can't Have Him
Oakland, having gone 102-60 over the last calendar year (!!) threw out a rawhide-tough lefty lineup. Their 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 9 batters hit southpaw against the King, and the strategy was perfectly obvious. Force the M's ace out of the game after 6 innings, behind no more than 1-0 or 2-1. Get to the M's ragtag pen.
After two-plus innings, the A's scripted win looked like a foregone conclusion. Felix lacked his usual command, and had tossed 53 pitches with only 2.1 innings gone. Uh-oh...
Realizing that the A's were passive, Felix took a page out of Iwakuma's book and busted them with fastballs. They took a blizzard of called strikes and, after 7 innings, had fanned 8 times and scored 0 times.
Here came the 8th, this time with a comfortable M's lead...
Fister Residue, Dept.
Blanco called for outside fastball after outside fastball. Charlie Furbush kept waiting for the three fingers. One time, Blanco put down one finger, outside ... Furbush balked. Blanco put down one finger outside again. HEH! Furbush balked. Blanco put down three fingers. Furbush threw another strike.
Furbush had ahold of the seams on his slider, and they couldn't touch it. 12 of 18 pitches were frizzzbees, man, let's see you hit it? Nope. This pitching matchup was due to the lefty-on-lefty factor, and the M's won it fair and square.
You'd noticed, right, that Charlie Furbush has 35 whuffs in 26 innings. Righties are hitting .125 against him. All he needs is regular work (5.4 BB) and he could really step up as a star setup man in the AL.
Wedge tried to let Furbush glide thru the 9th on his momentum. Didn't work. So...
Medina, one on 0 out, came into the 9th, with Perez "hot" behind him, with what was technically a save opp. There are two explanations:
- Wedge actually is closing by committee, going by matchups.
- Wedge wanted Medina to get his feet wet in the 9th, in a comfortable situation with margin for error.
In this specific case, it looked like the second one to me, objectively speaking. Eric Karros, doing the broadcast, agreed: "If the tying run comes to the plate, the Mariners are going to Perez."
Medina looked horrible, walking Norris on 4 pitches to put the second guy on, and then giving up a 3-run homer that was two yards foul. But the kid has good stuff, and Yoenis Cespedes' greed bailed Medina out of a catastrophe. (After Medina had opened the conversation with 5 straight balls, he threw a high fastball that Cespedes jumped on, hoping for the glory shot THAT WOULD NOT TIE THE GAME, and he skied to center.)
After Cespedes' blunder, Medina visibly relaxed, and pitched ... um, mediocre ... from there, cobbling a "save" out of a 4-run lead.
Capps Warming Up
Will cheerfully admit that Medina, coming in to face 3-of-4 righties, looked something like a matchup choice by Wedge ... still, Medina never had to face a tying run.
More telling was the fact that Carter Capps was up in the 9th. That surprised Dr. D. It is somewhat possible that this means that Wedge is being more agile about his 9ths than we figured.
The realities stand. Yoervis Medina is not a man you want under 9th-inning pressure in a 3-2 game. Carter Capps is only about 70% of a finished product, and was probably in there to discourage pinch hitting.
In any case, Dr. D is a lot more comfortable right now with (1) a committee than (2) Tom Wilhemsen. The M's have good arms down there, notably Perez', and have no need to blow 6 more walk-off losses on Wilhelmsen's pride.
The bottom line, for SSI, is that the Committee should be fine. With Oliver Perez as anchorman, the next three weeks' late innings should be average-mediocre.
IMHO, Medina was the choice there because the situation was relatively "easy" and the As had some righties coming up. The righties thing would have normally invoked a Capps sighting, but it was a 4-run "save" so why not save the arm in case we need it and get Medina in there? Perez would have come into the game if the batting order had gotten around to a lefty with the tying run at the plate. I really do believe he's going match-up to match-up and Perez will get a lot of work because line-ups frequently center on lefty lead-off men and lefty sluggers. But we shall see. Iwakuma today...good chance to sweep the evil As. :)