One of the great things about playoff baseball is how every decision is magnified. Even more so because you get to make choices you would never have during the season, like bringing your ace starter into a game in the seventh inning. The choice to bring Kevin Brown into the game was controversial and interesting. Most people seem to think it was reasonable, close out the series with your best, let him go two, then Hoffman for one, wave to the fans, spray champagne, and talk about your wonderful team chemistry with Joe Morgan, tossing in phrases like "nobody thought we could do it" and "I'm so proud of these guys."
Unfortunately, it didn't work. Brown got through one inning fine, then a walk, a dribbler, and a mistake left them behind 5-4. In a state of shock, the Padres decided to allow two more runs, which turned out to be decisive when they came back with two in the ninth.
Was it right? I think so. He was fresh, he was ready, and a win there leaves them with Brown starting game one of the Series, the best possible result. When you have a chance to get everything you want, go for it. A bigger question is why he was so conservative in his use of Hoffman, not using him to get the last five outs. Still, that looks like a second guess to me. The bigger question is, what now?
Do you start Kevin Brown in game six, even though he just threw 40 pitches, or do you come back with Sterling Hitchcock on three days rest, with a well-rested Brown in reserve for game seven? Let's look at the possibilities.
Brown in game six:
PRO: He's had a day to recover from the relief outing. It gives Hitchcock his normal rest in case of game seven. It also will enable him to start game two of the World Series on three days rest, the alternative to his starting game two would be Jack Hamilton, or Hitchcock on three again.
CON: You may not have to start him at all. If Hitchcock pulls it off, you have Brown for game one. If it's game seven, you have a very well-rested Brown against Maddux, a favorable matchup on their recent form. If those pitches took anything out of him, there's a question of how long he can go, which leaves you with the middle relief you weren't excited about in game five.
Hitchcock in game six:
PRO: It gives Brown extra rest and preserves the hope of his starting game one of the Series. He's not a power pitcher, he may be effective on three days rest.
CON: He never starts on three days rest, he will probably be less effective, almost certainly have less stamina. There just isn't a lot of likelihood of his winning, which means he would be starting game two of the Series on three days rest or only get one start.
Now a lot of you may be saying, first things first, win the LCS, then worry about the World Series. I would agree if this was a clear-cut choice. In this case, if Hitchcock had his normal rest, I would go with him. But I think starting Hitchcock is close to giving up on game six, and starting Brown gives you all the best possibilities short of that. Remember, Hitchcock already beat Maddux once, he could do it again. I'd start Brown in game six.
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