Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Epic Collapse: Sept. 17, 1964--Quick Hook, Unintended Consequences

The Phillies lost Bunning's first game on short rest, but won the next day in the first of four games in LA, beating Don Drysdale, against whom Bunning would have pitched on normal rest.  The win bumped their lead up to 6-1/2 games with 15 remaining, but manager Gene Mauch made another pitching decision that would have unanticipated bad consequences down the road: burning two pitchers in one start at a time when his starting rotation was hurt by injuries to Ray Culp and Dennis Bennett and his team had a comfortable lead in the standings.

Sept. 17, 1964--Quick Hook, Unintended Consequences

It was Art Mahaffey's turn to take the mound, but his two previous starts had gone badly. Mahaffey had given up three runs while getting only two outs in the first inning before being summarily removed by Mauch against these very same Dodgers in a 3-2 loss in Philadelphia on September 8, and lasted only two innings (giving up two runs) in his next start on September 12 in a 9-1 loss to the Giants in San Francisco.

Having lost confidence in Mahaffey, Mauch decided to start rookie Rick Wise in his stead in the first of a four-game series in Los Angeles. Having turned all of 19 just days before, Wise was making only the eighth start of his career. In August, Wise had pitched effectively into the eighth inning in back-to-back starts, but he had not pitched well in his two previous starts.  In his most recent start, ten days earlier in Philadelphia against these same Dodgers, Mauch yanked him out after he surrendered two walks and a single to the first three batters he faced; all three scored as Wise's successors on the mound had to get all of the requisite 27 outs.

So here was Wise again against the Dodgers, and he already had a 3-0 lead when he took the mound for the bottom of the first, but his day began much the same as his last start. Two singles, a walk and ground out resulting in two runs convinced Mauch he had seen enough of the young rookie. With left-handed batters Johnny Roseboro and Ron Fairly up next for LA, Mauch called on veteran southpaw Bobby Shantz to get out of the inning rather than let Wise try to work his way out of trouble and see if he might settle down. Managing every game to win, it appears not to have mattered to Mauch that he had a depleted starting rotation, but also still the lead in the game and a six-game lead in the middle of the final month that had most people thinking--1964 World Series in Philadelphia.

It seemed like a brilliant move at the time. Shantz pitched into the eighth inning and gave up only one run of his own while the Phillies held on for the win. However, with Bunning and Chris Short his only two healthy starting pitchers, Mauch had no pitchers to spare. Instead of showing commitment to the decision he made to start a young rookie in a late-season game during a pennant drive, Mauch replaced him in the very first inning--in effect, using two pitchers in one "starting role" that day.

The unintended bad consequence was that Bobby Shantz, who faced 25 batters in relief of Wise, was unavailable to pitch in dire circumstances two days later--the subject of my next post on the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies.

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