Judging from the Oakland Athletics’ post-game testimony and terseness, with runners on second and third and Dodger Mike Marshall batting in the third inning Sunday, it came down to one thing.
You win 104 games, you give no breaks. You cut no slack. You allow no easy breaths.
You intentionally walk no one.
Even though the guy at the plate is 2-for-3 lifetime off your pitcher (Storm Davis), with 5 RBIs in the previous 8 post-season games.
Even though the guy on deck is John Shelby, a man with just 5 hits in 29 post-season at-bats (.172) including 13 strikeouts.
“Storm Davis has good enough stuff not to have to give in to Marshall,” A’s pitching coach Dave Duncan said. “In that situation, we do not give up a walk.”
You give no breaks.
Only, sometimes, all that gets you is broken.
Three pitches after the A’s chose to pitch to him, Marshall ended up on first base anyway--for about one second. He put their decision into the left field seats for a 3-run homer to give the Dodgers a 5-0 lead en route to a 6-0 win and a 2 games to 0 lead in this 85th World Series.
Afterward the question was obvious. The A’s acted as if the answer was just as obvious.
This is, after all, a team that intentionally walked fewer batters than any team in major league baseball this year, just 27, or 34 fewer than the forced-to-be-scheming Dodgers.
Hey, catcher Ron Hassey, any thought to walking Marshall?
Hey, Storm Davis, how about you.
Funny look. “No, not really.”
The man who may have resented the question the most was the most matter-of-fact.
“I just do not think it would have been a good play,” A’s Manager Tony La Russa said, as gracious in defeat as he is in all those wins. “Shelby is not a double-play man. Sure, you consider it. But you don’t want to put the guys on base.”
Of course, on second thought . . .
“Looking back it’s like an auto accident,” Davis said. “Things happened so fast, you don’t know what you were thinking.”
He got ahead of Marshall with two quick strikes, and then was planning on throwing high and inside.
“We were hoping he would swing at a bad pitch,” Davis said.
But he left it out over the plate, a good pitch, a great pitch.
“A game-breaker,” La Russa said.
“Just a mistake,” Duncan said. “Happens with pitchers all the time. People have to realize, games are decided every day by mistakes.”
Whether the Dodgers and Marshall were thinking that the mistake was in the decision, not the pitch, is hard to tell.
For one, Manager Tom Lasorda second-guessing someone is like Tom Lasorda telling someone to lay off that sweet roll.
“I have two things to say about second guessers,” Lasorda said. “First off, people who second guess do it because they don’t know enough to make a first guess. Secondly, they do it because they need two guesses to get it right.
“I will say nothing (about the walk) because I do not try to manage another man’s team. Their decisions are their decisions, mine are mine. I will not question anybody else’s move.”
Neither would Marshall question the A’s, but for different reasons. Reasons having to do with the fact that, in 144 games this year, he was intentionally walked seven times.
“I don’t get walked,” Marshall said. “With me, they know they get a chance at a strikeout. I’m the guy they walk other people to get to. They walk Guerrero (Pedro). They walk Gibson (Kirk). They do not walk me.”
Marshall said this and shrugged. He is used to it. The Dodgers are known for Gibson, Orel Hershiser, Steve Sax, and then, if you don’t count Vin Scully, maybe Marshall.
Just look at these first two World Series games. Gibson hits his homer on Saturday night. Ninety minutes later fans are crowding the parking lot, chanting his name as he hobbles to his car.
Marshall? He hit his homer on a Sunday night. When he later alks to his car, hand in hand in hand with his wife Mary, he is greeted mainly with the whine of a stadium vacuum cleaner.
Marshall smiled. “I know that not many teams win with just two or three players,” he said. “You can’t rely on just a small group day in and day out. We’ve done it this year with everybody, all of us chipping in a little piece here and a little piece there.”