John Russell decided today to imitate a football coach who's hopelessly down in the last seconds and just lets the clock run out. The only problems: it was the 4th inning, and baseball doesn't have a clock. Russell inexplicably let Sean Gallagher bat with the Pirates trailing, 7-2, runners on second and third and two out. Gallagher grounded out. The crowd, being more familiar with baseball than Russell, booed.
Well, we’re in the fourth inning. We’ve got a lot of game to cover. ... You feel like we’ve got five more chances, with the top of the order due up the next inning, to do something. Gallagher was able to give us much-needed innings. You’d like to get the runs, but you have to realize there’s still a lot of game left. You start taxing your bullpen and your bench early in a 7-2 game or whatever it was, and it’s not going to be a very good situation for us.
Translation: "It's more important to conserve the bullpen than to win." What he was conserving is a mystery. Chris Resop, Heave Ho Park and Evan Meek hadn't pitched the day before, and Wil Ledezma was obviously able to contribute an inning. Russell also thought it was vital to save his pinch-hitters for a better opportunity than runners on second and third. Maybe he thought they might be able to get two runners on each base. He probably forgot that they tried that earlier this year and it didn't work. Or maybe Russell thinks runs count more in the 9th inning than the 4th. In the end, Garrett Jones, Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche all together batted the same number of times as Gallagher, and that AB came with two fewer baserunners than Gallagher saw.
Russell's been doing things like this all year. He doesn't manage to win. (Ooohh, double entendre.) He manages to get through the game with no fatalities and to have an educational experience. He doesn't look for an edge, he looks for an out, a way to get safely back to his office and reflect on how well he's sticking to "the process."