Why Gerrit Cole Never Came Into Game 7 of the World Series

Yesterday, I wrote about the decisions A.J. Hinch and the Astros made in Game 7 of the World Series. Zack Greinke started the inning, gave up a one-out homer to Anthony Rendon that cut the Astros’ lead to 2-1, and then walked Juan Soto. At that point, Hinch opted to take Greinke out and bring in Will Harris; Howie Kendrick proceeded to hit a two-run homer to give the Nationals a lead they would never relinquish. In my piece, I argued that Hinch should have left Greinke in to finish the seventh, but before I got there, I discussed whether Greinke should have started the inning to begin with, and the team’s bizarre handling of Gerrit Cole as a potential reliever:

That leaves Gerrit Cole. It’s not clear why Cole was only going to be available for the ninth inning if Houston got the lead. He was warming earlier in the game. He was pitching on two days rest, so it’s possible he was only going to be available for an inning, and it seems reasonable to want to put him in at the start of an inning so he can be better prepared for it, but having him only available in the ninth to close out a World Series win is an odd choice and makes one wonder if the decision wasn’t entirely baseball-related. In any event, if Cole could have only gone one inning and needed to start it, then sticking with Greinke to start the seventh was completely reasonable.

We now have some answers, though they cause more questions.

As I said before, I think Cole starting an inning is a reasonable request. The other request is a little more bizarre, though it would have ensured that Cole only pitched if it was really, really important, instead of just really important, like being down by one run in the eighth inning. (Maybe Cole would have changed his mind if presented with that situation.) But these rules also serve to raise questions about the Cole versus Greinke to start the seventh inning conundrum. If Hinch was going to pull Greinke in the seventh inning if he got into trouble, going with Cole to start the inning might have been a more compelling option. Given how well Greinke was pitching, I don’t think that would have been the right call, but given how quickly Greinke was pulled, giving Cole a clean start to the seventh probably would have been a better choice. This is especially true if Hinch had some concerns about how Cole would throw from the bullpen on two days’ rest. Pitching him earlier in the game would have provided the team more leeway to figure out pitching alternatives and come back on offense if it was clear that Cole wasn’t pitching well.

In short, Greinke was pitching well enough through six to get the seventh inning. A rule that probably should have been modified given the circumstances prevented Cole from pitching the important eighth inning. The rules were weird, but I’m not convinced it’s what caused the Astros to lose the World Series. Pulling Greinke mid-inning (and not scoring more than two runs) probably bears a greater responsibility when it comes to missing out on another championship.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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3 years ago

Just some thoughts….Why was he warming up mid inning several times?

Anyway, it’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback but after Greinke gave up a homer and a walk in the 7th, it’s no surprise Hinch went to what had been an excellent bullpen. Sometimes a batter just hits a pitcher’s pitch and it hits the foul pole…

If Cole was only meant to go one clean inning, he should have been used as an opener. Empty the bucket against the top of the Nats’ lineup and then hand the ball to Greinke and ride him as long as he goes.

3 years ago
Reply to  RMD4

Harris had a 183/269/333 slash line vs R (263 wOBA). Not exactly a scrub.

I’m not arguing he’s better than Cole (243 wOBA vs R) but I was completely comfortable bringing in an ace reliever to face righties.