Numbers Game: On Yost, Francona and the 1-0 complete game

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

A few weeks back, Ned Yost pulled James Shields after eight shutout innings because the Royals had only a one-run lead.

This week, for the second time this year, Indians manager Terry Francona allowed Justin Masterson to finish a 1-0 shutout himself.

"He deserved to go out there," Francona explained a day later. "And his pitching [in the ninth inning] showed it."

Masterson began the ninth having thrown 106 pitches while allowing three hits. He gave up a two-out single to Brennan Boesch but struck out Vernon Wells to finish his 118-pitch 1-0 win over the Yankees.

It was the first game of a doubleheader, but Francona said he likely would have made the same decision regardless. He said the deciding factor was whether Masterson had enough left to work through an inning even if a runner got on base.

"I told him, 'I need to know what you have left,'" Francona said. "He said, 'I've got enough.'"

This wouldn't be a big deal, except that more managers seem to think like Yost than like Francona on this topic. There have only been three one-run games all season where the winning pitcher went the distance.

Masterson has two of them (with Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals pitching the other).

There were only seven complete-game 1-0 wins last year. Four of them were by Felix Hernandez. One of those was a no-hitter, and so was one of the others (by Homer Bailey of the Reds). And one of the others was by Lucas Harrell of the Astros, whose manager then (Brad Mills) is now on Francona's coaching staff.

Yost told the Kansas City Star that it was a "simple choice" to pull Shields from the May 6 game against the White Sox, even though Shields had allowed just two hits and had thrown only 102 pitches. His explanation was that if you leave him in, you're probably going to the closer if anyone gets on -- and that if you wait until two runners are on base, you're making it too hard on the closer.

In his 10-plus years as a manager, Yost has allowed a pitcher to throw a complete-game with a one-run lead just three times, all with the Brewers. Ben Sheets did it in 2005 and 2008, and CC Sabathia had a 3-2 win in 2008.

***

In 3 to Watch last Sunday, I pointed out that Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks began the season with seven straight starts in which he had pitched at least six innings while allowing no more than two runs.

Well, now it's eight straight, after Corbin pitched seven shutout innings against the Braves on Tuesday night.

In the last 40 years, only three other pitchers have had a streak like that to open a season. Fernando Valenzuela (1981 Dodgers) and Kirk McCaskill (1989 Angels) each went eight games into the season, and Ubaldo Jimenez went 12 games with the 2010 Rockies.

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