I didn’t see most of this one when it happened, but I knew that the Pirates lost a close game and when I came home, literally the first thing I saw on my TV was a highlight of Mike McKenry getting thrown out at home plate by a mile and a half on a sac fly in the seventh inning.
Of course, the first thing I did after that was bring the box score up to try and get some context. Neil Walker was up, which meant Andrew McCutchen was on base. Which meant that McKenry was sent from third base with two outs on a very shallow flyball to left field with one of the best hitters in the National League on deck. I know that the justification for sending McKenry there is that with two outs and runners on second and third, that Charlie Manuel will walk McCutchen to bring Garrett Jones up, then bring in a lefty to pitch to Jones. I know that Mayberry isn’t the greatest defensive left fielder anywhere, really. But watching the play over and over again and turning the situation over in my head … with McKenry on third, don’t you make Manuel walk McCutchen? Don’t you bring your best hitter up with two guys on force his hand? In the seventh inning, maybe he tries an unintentional/intentional walk and ‘Cutch gets something to hit. Are you sure Josh Harrison (who we’ll assume would’ve pinch hit for Jones in the seventh) won’t get a hit off of Antonio Bastardo? Bastardo’s good, but is Harrison less likely to get a hit than the plodding McKenry was to score from third on an extremely shallow flyball?
These are questions that are all easy to ask in hindsight, of course, but the fact remains that betting on McKenry to score on that play was an extremely low-probability bet. It’s one that the Pirates’ lost, and so they lost another game.