Blowing a 6-2 lead is nothing new. Some point the finger at Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on that one. They claim he should have called closer Jon Rauch. I just ask why use Ron Mahay in any situation that could possibly matter? All things considered, though, I would like to think a manager could play eeny-meeny-miny-moe and pick a pitcher who could get three outs before surrendering four runs.
In the bottom of the inning, however, Gardy completely mismanaged the situation. One out. Runners on second and third. Nick Punto is on-deck. A rookie infielder playing in his second MLB game is due up. Nick Punto is on deck. To me, there are two perfectly legitimate ways to handle this. (I was not following the game at this point, but from past situations with Gardy, I usually do think of these before he works his madness).
1. Let Plouffe hit. Best-case scenario, he's a hero in his second game and drives in the winning run. Worst-case scenario, he gets out. In that case, there are two outs, runners on second and third, a light-hitting middle infielder at bat, a respectable- albeit not terrifying hitter (Span) on-deck, and Jim Thome and Brendan Harris on the bench. Brewers manager Ken Macha has no choice but to play the Plouffe at bat for this situation. If Plouffe gets out, he's pitching to Jim Thome with the winning run on third. If Plouffe walks, he's pitching to Jim Thome with one out and the bases loaded. Surely, the Brewers don't want that, so Plouffe could probably expect to see mostly strikes in his at-bat. Thome actually could have helped the rookie more by not pinch-hitting for him.
2. Pinch hit Harris for Plouffe. The only difference with this and option 1 is that you have a veteran hitting instead of a rookie.
Instead, Gardy pinch-hit Thome for Plouffe and let Punto strikeout. What troubles me most about this is what it says about Gardy's image of Punto. One possibility is that Gardy fails to see how little Punto intimidates opposing managers. The thought that they might walk Thome to face Punto never crossed his mind. Meanwhile, the Brewers coaches were struggling to keep a straight face. But this is what I expect was going through Gardy's mind:
If I pinch hit Thome-y, then they'll walk him to get to Nicky. But little do they know that Nicky is my secret weapon. I'll have him batting with the bases load, the winning run on third, and one out. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!
Instead, Nicky struck out the game lasted a few more innings and the bullpen is depleted for today. Of course, one irony here is that if they had more bench players, they might have won in nine innings and saved a few relievers for today.