Play Of the Night


Take nothing away from Curt Schilling, who did not have his best stuff, but still gritted his way into the sixth giving up just one run. But with two on and one out, it was clear he was running on fumes. We were one flat splitter away from being down, 4-2, with Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas waiting to shut down the bats the rest of the game.

Rather than let him work out of it — or put the Red Sox out of it — Terry Francona went to the mound. He didn’t ask Schilling (a la Grady Little-Pedro Martinez) if he felt he could continue. He didn’t meekly request the Greatest Postseason Pitcher of Our Era whether he could please get a couple more outs (as many accuse him of doing when the subject turns to Schilling). He took the ball from a clearly unhappy Curt, and gave it to the Red Sox’ most reliable setup man, who proceeded to shut down the Rockies for the better part of three innings.

Schilling, Mike Lowell and Hideki Okajima are rightfully getting the credit for the Sox’ 2-1 win last night. But without Terry Francona’s sixth-inning decision, their performances likely would have been moot.

41 comments… add one
  • And something that was mentioned a little more frequently last night that should be praised: Francona’s and Epstein’s decision to shut down Okajima in September with the Yankees breathing down their necks.

    Paul SF October 26, 2007, 11:09 am
  • I freaking LOVE Terry. I have always loved him here in Boston. I expect him to be with us for a very, very long time.

    SoxMom October 26, 2007, 11:30 am
  • On your second point, it is very interesting to look back at the end of the regular season given what we’re seeing now. All of the players who were limited in action then seem to be playing at least as well now as they were at the beginning of the season. Oki and Paps are blazing, Manny and Youks are locked in. Despite our grumbling and groaning and all that “do we care about the Division title or not?” controversy, it appears Tito knew what he was doing all along. If they win this, is he the Best Playoff Manager Ever?

    Matt S October 26, 2007, 11:31 am
  • Again Tito makes the smart moves. They worked, which makes them look better, but even without the results Tito took a pro-active, ballsy approach that gave the Sox the best strategic advantage.
    Absolutely brilliant managing which enabled the players to execute.

    SF October 26, 2007, 11:49 am
  • “Absolutely brilliant managing which enabled the players to execute.”
    I just want to clarify…Tito is brilliant because he pulled Schilling? Just a question.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 11:51 am
  • Yes.
    That clear enough, Trisk?

    SF October 26, 2007, 12:02 pm
  • The whole game was brilliantly managed, Trisk, that was just one move of many, including the information in my post above.

    SF October 26, 2007, 12:03 pm
  • Tito was being asked, hell even begged, by the greatest postseason pitcher of our time to stay in the game. Tito did not budge. A lot of managers would have given in to Schilling and let him try to work his way out of trouble–in his possibly final start in a Red Sox uniform, no less–but Tito did the right thing.
    And like Matt said, the organization’s decision to sit a few key players at the end of the season has really paid off. Okajima has pitched 10+ scoreless innings this postseason, and Manny has been, well, Manny.

    Atheose October 26, 2007, 12:06 pm
  • Deep breath, your up 2-0, not down 2-0. I was simply asking a question/for some clarification.
    I am not trying to start an argument. I can appreciate the joy being shown around here. You folks deserve it, but let’s not get crazy.
    First thing, Francona did what he has been doing all season. Starting pitcher to Okajima to Papelbon, what was so brilliant about that? I watched the game and I have to be honest with you it had the players stamp all over it. This was a brilliantly played game, but I wouldn’t say it was a brilliantly managed game by any means. Francona didn’t out manage Hurdle, the Sox outplayed the Rockies.
    Second, the comment above “All of the players who were limited in action then seem to be playing at least as well now as they were at the beginning of the season.” How does Francona get credit for this? If a player is shut down, he is shut down. Okajima, Schilling, Manny they all had issues that needed to be resolved via rest and time off. If they were healthy, they would have played.
    The Sox in the playoffs have been amazing. They continually get the clutch hit when it’s needed, they have shown patience at the plate and really gotten some solid pitching. I am glad you guys appreciate Francona, that’s great, but let’s not get crazy and call him brilliant. During a baseball game there is little a manager or coach can do that can be considered brilliant. Football, basketball sure, but not baseball.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 12:43 pm
  • First thing, Francona did what he has been doing all season.
    This is actually not at all true. One of Francona’s biggest traits as a manager has been to let pitchers work out of their own trouble. I don’t know how many times this season — particularly with Wakefield and Matsuzaka — we said, “Two (or three, or four) batters too late.”
    If anything, Francona did the exact opposite of what he’d done during the regular season.

    Paul SF October 26, 2007, 12:46 pm
  • Francona didn’t out manage Hurdle
    Where did I say anything about Hurdle being outmanaged?
    I don’t know if this is just the medium, but you really sound quite bitter, Trisk. Francona did NOT do what he had been doing all season – he has used Oki in longer stints (his longest of the season was last night, in uncharted waters). Same with Papelbon going almost two – that was almost a non-existent scenario. He adjusted, where he had been using MDC in the sixth he took the Cleveland implosion and went a different direction. He pulled Curt really fast, he had Oki warming and ready in the sixth, nearly an unprecedented situation. Add in the Holliday scouting and tactics, and you have the image of a well-run coaching staff and a superb managing job.
    He didn’t go by habit, he didn’t do what he’s always done, that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of his managing in the playoffs. It is really quite insulting that you chalk our excitement to the wins, it’s condescending, like we aren’t able to critique our manager smartly because we are blinded by the victories.

    SF October 26, 2007, 12:52 pm
  • “First thing, Francona did what he has been doing all season. Starting pitcher to Okajima to Papelbon…”
    Those are my words. Where in that statement did I say anything about letting pitchers work out of trouble? My point, which I thought was clear, was that Francona used a format that worked all season for him. Starting Pitcher to a very strong group of middle relief and setup men to a dominant closer.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 12:53 pm
  • Francona’s managing very much like Torre did back in the Zimmer days–using his best relievers in high leverage situations, seemingly knowing when to pull the right pitcher at the right time. Like Torre, his best work is coming in the post-season. Whether you want to call it brilliant seems to be based on what your definition of that word is. He’s doing everything correctly though. That’s all you can ask for.

    Nick-YF October 26, 2007, 12:59 pm
  • That’s wishful thinking SF, no bitterness here at all. 2004, I was bitter, but not in 2008, but thanks for checking. You are taking my quote out of context, just like Paul did. You are calling the job Francona did “Brilliant” and I am telling you last night’s game was won by a brilliant performance by the Sox. Brilliance would imply that he won the game for the team and that he won the battle of the managers, or out managed Hurdle. As for Okajima pitching longer then he normally does, that could have something to do with the success he was having early or something they had in their scouting.
    “It is really quite insulting that you chalk our excitement to the wins, it’s condescending, like we aren’t able to critique our manager smartly because we are blinded by the victories.”
    Where did I say this? I am not a troll, I am not looking to piss in your champagne. I give credit where credit is due always, regardless of the team. The Sox are amazing this season, see my above comments. I am just not ready to call what Francona did last night “Brilliant.” I am allowed to have an opinion right?

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 1:03 pm
  • Come on, John, that’s just a simplistic reduction, putting the “format” into a vacuum. The formula was Oki for 1, maybe 1+ innings (NOT 2+), and Paps for the ninth only. The “format” also typically included another pitcher in the mix, particularly in a 5+ inning start by the opening pitcher, and sometimes he let a 6+ inning start happen from a starter who should have been pulled in the fifth.
    Francona went outside the comfort zone last night, and it was a smart move, maybe lower-risk in the end, which is WHAT A GOOD MANAGER SHOULD BE DOING, assessing the risk and responding. How many times does this not happen in the heat of the playoffs?
    Just look at Joel Skinner’s decision the other night with Lofton compared to the Holliday pickoff – maybe Skinner wasn’t prepared well enough by Wedge to know about the left field carom, Manny’s efforts on balls down the line, etc. Maybe the scouting staff wasn’t pushed by Wedge to get certain information. Maybe Tito and the scouting staff knew exactly what to look for with Holliday, and those intelligent ideas trickle through the organization (Edes’ story today certainly indicates that DOES happen).
    I don’t get your frustration with us praising Tito, with recognizing he has managed differently (and better) in the playoffs. We get excited about players “raising their games” in the playoffs, and it’s clear that Tito does the same. It is no guarantee of victory, hardly, but he has done even better in the postseason at putting his players in the best position to get results. I will be interested to see what he does in Colorado with in-game player movement, it’s going to be another test for him.

    SF October 26, 2007, 1:04 pm
  • Brilliance would imply that he won the game for the team and that he won the battle of the managers, or out managed Hurdle.
    There’s nothing at all about Hurdle anywhere in my comments, this is entirely your own fabrication and intention, to bring Hurdle into this in some form of managerial competition. I am only speaking of Francona’s abilities and execution, he doesn’t manage anyone else’s team, jus this own. And I have never, EVER maintained that a manager can win a game for a team, I have always, ALWAYS represented that I believe a manager’s job is to put his players in the best possible position, and then it’s up to them. Many managers do not do that (and Tito doesn’t, to my mind, do that during the regular season all the time), but these playoffs, so far, Tito has been nearly flawless.

    SF October 26, 2007, 1:06 pm
  • Paul, I am not frustrated with you praising him. I think Francona is a very good manager and has done a great job in the playoffs. Think back to my praise of him for starting Wakefield. I am not a Tito hater by any means. All I am saying is our definitions of “Brilliant” must be different, because I saw some good moves, but I didn’t see brilliance.
    As for Skinner, he froze. It had nothing to do with being informed or the organization dropping the ball, etc…Coaching third base is a crap shoot. You are making decisions on the fly in a split second, he made a poor decision and the Indians paid the price.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 1:11 pm
  • Listened to the NESN post-game interviews. Schilling said he couldn’t get lose in the sixth, had lost his stuff, and Francona who knows him best understood this, just by Schill’s body language, and rightly pulled him. Schilling was almost making it sound as if he was asking the manager to pull him. Kudos still to Francona, of course. But for slightly different reasons. Was Schill spinning? He did look upset when Francona came to the mound, but was he simply upset at himself? Upset that he left a mess needing cleaning up.
    Shutting Okajima down worked out so well (so far, don’t want to jinx him) because a Japanese pitcher normally pitches year around with only small breaks thrown in now and then. Okajima got a lot of time off in September, given the nature of the regime he is used to, and his body probably thinks its May again.

    kyoto October 26, 2007, 1:15 pm
  • To me SF, Paul, etc…a “Brilliant” job by a manger means he outmaneuvered the other manager, he put his stamp on the game with a H&R, double steal, a suicide squeeze, something. That’s where the comparison to Hurdle comes into play. Francona made some real solid calls by letting Okajima go that long, pulling Schilling etc…

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 1:19 pm
  • So we have a different opinion of what “brilliant” means. I think he did a great job last night, and has done a great job throughout the playoffs. Is it ok to leave it at that?
    Or is my definition of “great” going to be questioned?

    SF October 26, 2007, 1:25 pm
  • My point, which I thought was clear, was that Francona used a format that worked all season for him.
    Clearly not so clear, trisk. ;-) I understand what you mean, but I agree that it is overly simplistic. The “format” of starter-Okajima-Papelbon is intact, but tat format assumes seven strong innings, not five spotty ones.
    Francona in the regular season often left pitchers in for longer than he should have — in this situation, I would have bet money that he’d leave Schilling for at least two more batters, which could have, likely would have, cost the Sox the game.
    Instead, he pulled Schilling quickly and asked Hideki Okajima to carry his team, which Okajima definitely did. Was this because he read Schill’s body language? Maybe, and if so, that just increases the praise he deserves for knowing his players so well.

    Paul SF October 26, 2007, 1:26 pm
  • Yeah, I really don’t think Trisk is being bitter. He’s very consistent on this issue actually, and, of course, he doesn’t have a history of bitterness at this website. I’d just chalk it up to you guys having a different definition of brilliant managing. Trisk, I believe, has a very high standard for what makes for brilliant managerial moves. Perhaps, the reason he’s into this subject in the first place is that he’s a coach himself.

    Nick-YF October 26, 2007, 1:27 pm
  • “Or is my definition of “great” going to be questioned?”
    Why the sarcasm? I am simply stating my opinion. No need for that.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 1:29 pm
  • “…increases the praise he deserves for knowing his players so well.”
    Couldn’t agree more, I could only imagine how difficult it was not to let Schilling convince him he was fine. One of the most difficult managerial moves to make is when to know a pitcher is done and not to allow that pitcher to sway your decision.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 1:33 pm
  • I was surprised that Schilling allowed himself to show his pique there.
    He has been in the game long enough not to act like a huffy Little Leaguer by shouldering past Francona without looking at him. He knows that Tito was doing the professional thing. So he just momentarily lost a little control of himself there. He seemed to have cooled off by the time of the press conference, though.
    Likewise, I was surprised at Papi when he came into the dugout in the middle of the 9th in ALCS Game 7 against Cleveland with his swimming goggles and red bib on. That was really not cool, and completely out of character for him.

    Hudson October 26, 2007, 1:36 pm
  • I simply find it a little annoying that this entire discussion is being driven by a difference of opinion (or a frustration about the use/meaning) of the word “brilliant”.
    Brilliant performances are, to me, those that one remembers long past the events that have transpired. Should the Sox go on to win the Series, one of the lasting things that will come out of such a win, for me, will be the way Terry has managed this team, and the adapatations he has made in the playoffs. So that’s my own definition, take it or leave it.

    SF October 26, 2007, 1:48 pm
  • “Absolutely brilliant managing which enabled the players to execute.”
    I just want to clarify…Tito is brilliant because he pulled Schilling? Just a question.

    As for sarcasm, this was the post that started this back and forth, Trisk, and I apologize if I read it incorrectly. But it it conveys a reductive, condescending tone and reads, to me, as sarcastic. So in my opinion this was the first shot fired in the sarcasm battle, and it came from you.
    Add in the “let’s not get crazy” quip, which to me reads as another dig at our pleasure in Terry’s performance, and I would hope you could recognize why the discussion is the way it is.

    SF October 26, 2007, 1:55 pm
  • SF, you give me too much credit. I asked the question because I didn’t want to go off on a rant if that was not what you meant. That’s all.
    As for the let’s not get crazy comment, I can honestly tell you that was not my intentions. We seem to go through this a lot, I am not throwing digs at you.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 26, 2007, 2:00 pm
  • No prob, Trisk. I’ll start giving you way less credit. ;-)

    SF October 26, 2007, 2:14 pm
  • Not trying to be a troll, but I can’t understand why, with an off day today and the end of the season at the most 5 games away, stretching out your most reliable arms in an effort to nail down a close game is considered brilliant managing. Smart – most surely; but in playoff baseball this is a pretty tried and true practice. It doesn’t rise to the level of brilliance.

    Andrews October 26, 2007, 3:03 pm
  • In an interview I heard on xm late last night, when asked about pulling Schilling, Francona responded: ” I’ve been around him a long time and have learned to read his body language”.

    Andrews October 26, 2007, 3:05 pm
  • We’ve gotten to a point where Yankee fans are nitpicking us SFs over the use of the word “brilliant” in reference to the (is this better?) “wicked pissah” managing of a Red Sox skipper in the World Series.
    I am digging the zeitgeist!

    SF October 26, 2007, 4:03 pm
  • It’s not about using Okajima, Andrews — a no-brainer of a decision, to my mind. It’s about pulling Schilling, something that was not in any way a given, particularly Francona’s patterns this and other seasons (was it 133 pitches in 2006?).

    Paul SF October 26, 2007, 4:10 pm
  • “I had a little trouble getting loose in the sixth. I could not get it feeling right. I thought I didn’t command the baseball very well that inning. So I certainly couldn’t complain.” –Schilling on his not complaining to Francona.
    Not to beat a tiny drum, but upon reviewing the tape again, I don’t get the impression Schilling is upset he is getting the ball taken from him, he seems upset that things aren’t going well at the moment. Francona and Schilling go back a long ways. Eye contact and smiles and taps on the butt may not be of such import after so many years. Nor signs of disrespect or tantamount to a tantrum. Thus I take Schill at his word post-game. In my opinion the move by Francona was indeed very good, on a number of levels, but the drama surrounding the battle at the mound with the old veteran was non-existent, and the overall use of the staff last night was, dare I say, was brilliantesque :)

    kyoto October 26, 2007, 4:17 pm
  • Schilling was almost making it sound as if he was asking the manager to pull him.
    Kyoto – when you watch the tape, you can see Schilling mouth “please don’t take me out, guys. Please.”

    Jackie (SF) October 26, 2007, 4:55 pm
  • “It’s about pulling Schilling, something that was not in any way a given, particularly Francona’s patterns this and other seasons (was it 133 pitches in 2006?)”
    Paul, It wasn’t a surprise to see Francona pull Schilling at that point, given his shoulder problems and effort to give him extra rest since his return from the DL. Wasn’t last night the first time he has gone on 4 days rest since early Sept?

    Andrews October 26, 2007, 5:31 pm
  • Guess I lack ability in reading lips. Can’t quite make that out. But if he was pleading to stay in, then it makes his post-game interview quite interesting indeed: as he goes on and on about his not having what it takes to get through the sixth and it being an obvious move. Nothing wrong with taking a step back and supporting the manager in front of the press, especially given the outcome, in fact I’m sure Francona would appreciate Schilling’s spin if this is the case. But stubborn perhaps, I’m taking Schilling at his word and chalking up the lack of ceremony and warmth at the mound to 1) Francona and Schilling’s many years together 2) other things popping into his mind, like this might be his last time standing here (he did get misty eyed on the way in) etc….. p.s. I can even grant he did say that and his post-game interview could still not be spin– i.e. he said it because saying it is what is expected by everyone, but he said it in a way that meant he didn’t mean it and this was perfectly understood by everyone involved. Or maybe he said, ” …… “, dang, can’t quite convert your lip reading to an alternative version that has something to do with tacos. The hard p in “please” very difficult indeed.

    kyoto October 26, 2007, 6:03 pm
  • Well…*I* was still really happy when he pulled him, obvious move or not. It might have been the obvious move to make, but it wasn’t obvious (to me) that it was gonna happen.

    Devine October 26, 2007, 6:49 pm
  • You say “po-tay-toe” I say “po-tot-toe”. It was a “wicked pissah” move that Tito probably wouldn’t have made earlier in the season, and it put the Sox in a better position to hold the line and win the game. I really love that elmer fudd lookin, rocking chair sittin, tobaccie spttin bastad!

    DUFF October 27, 2007, 10:19 am
  • Well, to be evenly critical, Tito made his first head-scratcher last night, bringing in Javier Lopez in the sixth inning. Odd move, considering his reverse-split with righties (though Hawpe has a split too). Nonetheless, it was done in a 6-0 game, probably the best time for a guy like Lopez to come in, considering the worst-case scenario was the Sox still having a multiple run lead.

    SF October 28, 2007, 7:06 am
  • i won’t object to the use of the word “brilliant” to describe tito’s performance in the playoffs/series…some may think it’s hyperbole, a fairly standard insult on yfsf, when one of you doesn’t agree with a particular adjective…brilliant in this context simply means “distinguished by unusual mental keenness or alertness” [thanks webster]…so i guess your argument is that tito is showing more than his “usual” level of “keenness” or “altertness”…funny thing about pitching changes, they can make or break a manager…helps to have a good bullpen along with being able to guess just the right time to yank a starter…just ask grady little about timing…i’ve probably said this 50 times during the torre debates, but managers get way too much credit for winning and way too much blame for losing…i think tito gets a tip of the cap for deciding to use ellsbury more…took guts to put a rookie into a ws, and so far it’s more than paid off…

    dc October 28, 2007, 8:27 am

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