SAN FRANCISCO -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington might be incompetent. He might be a liar. At the moment I'm leaning toward calling him both. I have my reasons, and you'll see them soon enough -- but first let's get to the question at hand.
What in the hell was Washington thinking as Game 2 of the World Series, a beautiful battle of pitching and defense, began to slide into slop as he sat in the Texas dugout and watched it happen?
That was the question I had for Washington a few minutes after San Francisco finished off its 9-0 bludgeoning of the Rangers on Thursday night, a blowout that gave a 2-0 World Series lead to the San Francisco club and a dunce-cap to the Texas manager.
Actually, this is the question I had for Washington:
"[Texas reliever Derek] Holland throws eight straight balls ... and has to throw a ninth ball before you got somebody up in the bullpen. How come?"
This was Washington:
"Because I thought he would correct himself. I felt like he could finally get back in the groove. I certainly brought him out there to get [Nate] Schierholtz out of there, and he didn't. I didn't expect 12 balls in 13 pitches ..."
Which is interesting, and not in a good way for Washington, because he was admitting that he wasn't managing. He was hoping. Big difference between managing and hoping. "Managing" is making one move as you're preparing for two moves down the road. "Hoping" is doing what Ron Washington did in the eighth inning of a two-run game in the World Series: He hoped Derek Holland would get Nate Schierholtz out.
Plan B? There was no Plan B.
If you don't know the situation, or you've forgotten it, or like me you just want to briefly relive it to make sure you didn't dream the whole damn thing, here's what happened at the critical juncture of Game 2:
The Rangers trailed 2-0 entering the bottom of the eighth. Right-handed reliever Darren O'Day struck out Andres Torres. O'Day struck out Freddy Sanchez. Those two guys, Torres and Sanchez, had gone 15 for 26 in the three postseason games leading up to Game 2, and O'Day whiffed 'em both.
After Buster Posey singled softly to center, Washington pulled O'Day.
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He wanted the left-handed Holland to face the left-handed Schierholtz. Not sure why, seeing how O'Day already had struck out the switch-hitting Torres, who hit left-handed, and also seeing how it was Nate Schierholtz. Who is Nate Schierholtz? He was a defensive replacement in the seventh. He hit .242 this season. He slugged .366. There are lefty hitters who require a left-handed specialist to pitch to them.
Nate Schierholtz isn't one of them.
No matter. Washington made his move, and it's defensible. What happened next, however, is not.
Because Holland didn't have it. He walked Schierholtz on four pitches. That left Holland to face a right-handed batter, Cody Ross -- and Holland walked him on four pitches.
Eight pitches. Eight balls. Bases loaded.
Nobody up in the Texas bullpen.
Two-run game. Eighth inning. World Series. And Ron Washington had decided that this game, maybe even this season, would ride on Derek Holland and his career 5.52 ERA.
Holland threw a ball to the next batter, Aubrey Huff. That was nine pitches. Nine balls. Somebody in the Texas dugout -- speaking of which, where the hell were you, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux? -- finally realized what was happening, and the bullpen was mobilized.
Meanwhile, in the other dugout, Giants manager Bruce Bochy already had realized what was about to happen. Bochy had closer Brian Wilson warming up to pitch the ninth, but that was when the score was 2-0. It was still 2-0, but Bochy could see what was happening to Texas, even if the Texas manager could not. As the Rangers' bullpen stayed empty, Bochy sent out a second reliever, Sergio Romo, and eventually Guillermo Mota as well to get loose.
After Holland's ninth straight ball the Texas bullpen got going, but it was too late. Holland walked Huff on five pitches, giving him 12 balls in 13 pitches. When he left the score was 3-0, but the bases were still loaded and the Rangers' next reliever, Mark Lowe, walked the first batter he faced. It was 4-0. Then came a single by Edgar Renteria, two more runs and a 6-0 lead. Then an Aaron Rowand triple and two more runs. Then a Torres double for the Giants' final run. It was 9-0.
No need for Brian Wilson. Mota pitched the ninth. Demoralized, Texas went down without a hit. Game over. Series over? Not yet, but it looks bad for Texas.
As for now, well, we wait for the rest of the story. The rest of Washington's story, I should say, because his stories tend to change. He misled or maybe just lied to the media twice after Game 1, telling us (1) Vladimir Guerrero would play right field for Game 2 even after committing two errors in Game 1; and (2) vowing that "jitters didn't have anything to do with" Texas' four errors in Game 1.
One day later, both stories changed. Guerrero was on the bench Thursday, and before Game 2 Washington told the media that those errors in Game 1 happened because it was the Rangers' "first time in a World Series. There probably was nerves going on out there."
So, look. I did what I had to do. I asked Washington which of the stories he had told us after Game 2 would change before Game 3. Seriously. I asked him. Because I want to know, yes, but also because I don't like being misled or even lied to. So when I asked Washington "if there's any answers that you're going to change from tonight to tomorrow," he finally came clean.
"It may change," he said. "We'll see."
I've seen enough.