This past Friday, the Toronto Blue Jays began a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians with an 11-2 thumping against rookie pitcher Eli Morgan. While the Saturday game would be canceled due to inclement weather, the Jays would make up the game against Cleveland in a doubleheader on Sunday. They would win the first game backed by a quality outing from Ross Stripling before dropping the second game late in the seventh inning.
The Blue Jays were rolling pretty well in game #2, with a four-run outburst in the third inning before Cleveland stormed back in the sixth to tie it up due to a defensive error from Santiago Espinal and some timely hits that followed. While Marcus Semien would put the Blue Jays ahead in the seventh with a single that scored Jonathan Davis, Tyler Chatwood would walk four batters in a row before being lifted for Anthony Castro, who immediately gave up a sac fly and resulted in the Blue Jays losing the game.
Last night, Chatwood just didn’t have it. Considering he has been a pretty dependable reliever this season and a normal go-to guy in high-pressure situations alongside Rafael Dolis and Jordan Romano, who were both used in game one, putting the right-hander late in the game following starter Steven Matz was a no-brainer.
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However, considering how close the game was, Montoyo decided not to have anyone warming up behind Chatwood at the start of the seventh inning, a gutsy call, and one that ultimately backfired for the Blue Jays skipper.
The first sign of trouble was when Chatwood replaced Matz in the sixth inning and gave up a single, which resulted in a run, and then issued a walk before finishing the inning with a ground out and lineout. While it wasn’t the worst inning considering he inherited runners on the bases, he just didn’t look sharp right from the get-go.
Montoyo then decides to throw him out there in the seventh inning with no contingency plan behind him (i.e no other arm warming up or getting loose) and then lets him walk four straight batters after getting the first out before he decides he’s seen enough.
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo made some questionable decisions in game two of the doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, leaving the team with only two wins in the series before heading back to Buffalo to face the Miami Marlins.
I understand the logic of letting a pitcher try and get out of a jam, but this is the game on the line. This isn’t an 11-2 thumping and Chatwood has had a few rough previous outings and if he gives up four runs the Jays still have the lead; this was a do-or-die moment in the game. Montoyo even goes on post-game reaffirming his decision to keep the reliever on the mound, “You’ve got to trust somebody one time and let him get out of trouble”.
Montoyo may have decided to let him work out of it because of what occurred on May 23, when the manager lifted Chatwood from the game in the ninth inning against the Rays and the relief pitcher was visibly frustrated by the decision, but the right-hander was left in way too long last night given how he just couldn’t find the strike zone.
After the first two walks in the seventh inning, Montoyo could’ve gone to the fresher arm in Castro if he was getting warmed up from the start of the inning (or during the Blue Jays at-bats) and this whole scenario could have possibly been avoided. Sure, Castro could have come in and given up a home run and we’d be discussing how Chatwood didn’t pitch well, but ultimately, a risky and quite frankly unnecessary decision to not have a pitcher warming up to start the seventh by Montoyo resulted in the Blue Jays losing today. Plain and simple.
Yesterday, the bullpen was pretty rested considering only Hyun Jin Ryu and Trent Thronton pitched on Friday (given the rain out that ended the game early) and there was no game played on Saturday as well. Even if he didn’t want to go to Castro, there were other pitchers that he could’ve turned to like Joel Payamps, A.J. Cole, or recently promoted Carl Edwards Jr., with Romano also a possibility considering he only threw 17 pitches in game one of the doubleheader and hadn’t thrown since May 27th prior to that. For Montoyo to not have a backup plan in place after Chatwood looked shaky in the sixth inning just seemed careless and by the time Castro came in, it was too late.
There have been a few times in the past where Montoyo has made questionable decisions in regards to pitching management, with the most notable decision occurring in last year’s AL Wild Card game when he pulled a dealing Matt Shoemaker after the third inning (a move most likely analytical in nature given the top of the Rays batting order was coming up again).
He also decided to not bring in Romano to close the game on May 23, going with Chatwood (as mentioned earlier) and Travis Bergen and eventually losing the game after the Tampa Bay Rays put up four runs.
To summarize, Chatwood didn’t have it in game two yesterday, and while he has been a dependable reliever for most of the season, it is the manager’s responsibility to make sure there is a plan in place if the pitcher starts to toss away the game.
Last night, Montoyo decided to put all his chips on Chatwood to secure the victory and he walked away empty-handed, leaving a sour taste in Blue Jays fan’s mouths that already has people up in arms on social media and wanting him fired from the team.
While that may seem a bit aggressive considering it’s not to the same level as removing Blake Snell in the 2020 World Series, if manager Charlie Montoyo continues to make questionable game-time decisions that result in the Blue Jays losing close games, it will only hurt the team’s chances of trying to play October baseball if the club is one or two games back from securing a spot in the postseason when the end of September rolls around.