It was odd on Saturday to see Alex Cintron called upon to pinch hit leading off the bottom of the 7th inning with Josh Willingham sitting. Well, we know Manny has this little fetish that every time a player gets called up, they get to play in their first game with the team. Nevermind that the only reason Cintron is here is to be an emergency back-up middle infielder. He struck out on three pitches against struggling Marlins reliever Logan Kensing.
But, I figured, what the heck. Nationals were up 3 late in the game. Their win expectancy at that moment was 94%.
Fast forward to 20 minutes ago. It's the bottom of the 8th. Nationals are up one perilous run. Runners are on first and second. Two outs. With a completely burned up bullpen and completely spent Saul Rivera warming up, they desperately need another insurance run. So again with Josh Willingham rotting on the bench, Manny turns to... Alex Fucking Cintron.
Alex Cintron, who has a career .315 OBP. Alex Cintron, who hasn't been an above replacement-level player since 2005. Alex Fucking Cintron.
Of course the hacktastic, punchless Cintron popped out to end the inning. You know what Rivera did.
Argh!! What do we do with this team? When I fretted this off season about the bullpen, a lot of people poo-pooed it and said, "ah, middle relief is fungible. You can always dig up a couple minor league starters and get 60 innings of adequate relief." Well, this is what I was worried about. A starting rotation that can't make it through the 5th inning more often than not, an overworked Saul Rivera and a dubious closer who for most of his career had no idea where the ball is going. And 5 other guys who just plain stink. (OK, then they got Beimel, which was good, but the rest of them suck on ice.)
We don't have any silver bullets in this organization, but let me tell you this. When you pass over your best pitchers, you're asking for trouble. Jason Bergmann is better than Steve Shell. Jesus Colome is better than Wil Ledezma and Mike Hickley. And Shawn Hill is better than anybody on the team.
But back to Manny. Your quick hook isn't always the right thing to do, you know. Daniel Cabrera gets pulled today after 92 pitches and 5+ innings. This is a guy who went over 100 pitches 18 times last year and 90 times over his career. He threw more than 92 pitches in 26 of 30 starts last year. His only remaining redeeming quality as a starting pitcher is his durability. Was he looking good after allowing a lead-off double to Hanley Ramirez and a walk to John Baker? Not especially. But he went 1-2-3 in the fifth. You really think your best shot to win was to try to get through 4 innings with Mike Hinckley, Wil Ledezma, Steve Shell, and Saul Rivera? Are you sure that's your best play?
One last thing. Put away the damn hit-and-run, Manny. It's a terrible, self-defeating play. You're making your most patient hitters swing at junk and creating outs on the base paths. When you lose a game like this and Adam Dunn has a CS next to his name, that's a problem.