It is not often that a manager can dictate whom his pitcher will face in specific situations. Sure, we’d all like to face Rey Ordonez with the game on the line. But sometimes Ted Williams is the next batter up. Terry Collins had a chance to control a crucial situation in Sunday’s loss to the Phillies, but he made a poor decision, a decision he still defending; a defense undermined by Collins’s own words.
With two outs and the score tied at one in the seventh inning, two Phillies reached base against a tiring Jonathon Niese. Collins correctly removed Niese from the game. His mistake was bringing in righty Scott Atchison, knowing who was looming on the Phillies bench.
Ryan Howard did not start the game against the tough lefty Niese, and Charlie Manuel was itching to get him into the game at the first possible moment. That happened when Collins put in a righty. Howard promptly hit a two-run double to put the Phillies ahead for good.
In defending his move, Terry Collins said he had faith in Atchison and his breaking ball, which is very nice; a manager should have confidence in his pitchers, especially one who has been throwing well thus far this season. But then Collins said this:
“I knew they were going to put Howard in.”
Now, Ryan Howard is still one of the most feared sluggers in the game. Wouldn’t you want to avoid facing him if you could, especially with the game on the line? Of course you would. So if Collins knew Howard was going to be brought in, which he fully admitted, why didn’t he take the necessary step in order to prevent that from happening, which would have been to bring in another lefty (he has two in the bullpen, by the way)?
Maybe Collins didn’t want to bring in Robert Carson, who got lit up on Saturday, or Scott Rice, who pitched two innings in that game. Collins never said Rice wasn’t available. Either of them would have been a better option if it meant Howard stayed tethered to the Phillies bench.
No, Terry Collins blew this one. He had the rare opportunity to control who came to bat and he didn’t take it. And it cost the Mets a game.