CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 1: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park on June 1, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds defeated the Brewers 4-3. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Tonight's loss was a bad one. The sky's not falling, it was a well-fought, good series with the Reds on the road, and taking 1/3 isn't the worst outcome. And the team's playing well, still ahead of the Reds, and looks to be in really good shape going forward. But tonight's loss was frustrating beyond belief, and it's because it represented a failure in roster management and a failure in in-game management. You can't get too mad when great hitters like Jay Bruce and Joey Votto are the ones who beat you, but those two issues I just pointed to could have put the Brewers in a much better position in the eighth inning.
The Reds were able to get away with batting Votto third and Bruce fourth throughout this series because the Brewers have no lefties out in the pen. It's an understandable predicament, considering that the top three lefties on the bullpen depth chart-- Manny Parra, Mitch Stetter, and Zach Braddock-- are all on the DL right now. But the Brewers did claim Danny Ray Hererra from the Reds, and he would be a capable lefty specialist and certainly a much better use of a roster spot than righty specialist/ blowout innings eater Tim Dillard. The only other lefties at AAA are Sam Narron and Chase Wright. I don't trust either, but it's tough to say Dillard is a more useful weapon at this point than Hererra. In addition, Braddock has been worked in very slowly and will probably return this weekend. His health is certainly top priority but you wonder if they couldn't have gotten him back for this series with more planning.
Anyways, what's done is done and Ron Roenicke did not have a lefthander available in his bullpen today. After Marcum worked 7 strong innings, he went to Kameron Loe for the eighth. First of all, it should be noted that I hate bullpen roles. Like Earl Weaver, I think a reliever's role should be to pitch when the manager tells him to. Kam Loe is a solid pitcher, a steady middle reliever no doubt, but he seems to have worked his way into some infallible role as the Eighth Inning Guy now, and that's the most dangerous thing for a steady middle reliever-- especially one with a pretty significant career split. When Loe was first called up last year he was seen as mostly a righty specialist. In his career he's allowed a .687 OPS to righties vs. an .847 to lefties. That was a bit less pronounced last season, but it's been there in his career. In addition was his particular struggles against Votto, who has now hit 3 homers in his career against Loe. That's not something I put too much stock in as a predictive measure, but it could certainly be a tiebreaker when determining who to throw in that situation.
When I watch a game and am evaluating decisions, I force myself to make a call on if I support a move before I knew the outcome. Watching this one, I was shaking my head hoping for something other than Kam Loe pitching to Joey Votto in that situation. Latroy Hawkins has a much better track record as a reliever and though Loe is very useful he's not good enough to attain the mythical Eighth Inning Guy role. That's a situation in which you have to play matchups, and Kameron Loe vs. Joey Votto is never a good matchup. There should have been a lefthander pitcher available to Roenicke in the first place, and given the fact that there wasn't, Roenicke should have recognized that Loe was not the guy he wanted facing Votto and then Bruce in that situation.
Tonight sucked. The sky is still up there but this one's going to sting a bit. I'm really confident in this team, but letting one slip away that could have possibly been avoided through some better maneuvering is going to keep me a bit angry at least for tonight.