It's hard to blame the manager when the team plays defense with all the grace and agility of a Nimitz-class carrier and the focus and resolve of a 4-year-old whose on his sixth pixie stick of the last 10 minutes, but...
What the hell was Manny thinking?
The game was lost in the seventh inning, when right-handed reliever Saul Rivera faced off against left-handed slugger Ryan Howard. Howard's three-run bomb deep to the opposite field was something half the crowd probably saw coming.
But it had its roots in the previous inning.
Julian Tavarez, a righty, got the first two outs of the sixth inning after walking the leadoff batter. Tavarez isn't a great reliever, but he's been effective his last few outings.
Jimmy Rollins, a switch-hitter was at the plate, and Acta came out to bring in a left-handed reliever -- one of three in his pen.
He wouldn't have the platoon matchup. All it would do is force Rollins to switch sides of the plate. But it'd also mean that the Nats would have a young, inexperienced pitcher going against a former MVP without the platoon advantage, either.
Worse, with the pitcher's spot coming up next inning, it was going to be one batter and done for the pitcher.
Acta chewed through a left-handed reliever there, even though a lefty would be more needed in the next inning to get through the Utley/Howard/Ibanez axis of leftism.
Instead, we got a righty facing them. Two homers and four runs later, the game was over.
Acta is terribly inflexible with his relievers. Rather than looking for matchups, or finding places for his mostly so-so hurlers to pitch to their strengths, he has defined roles.
Saul is his "seventh-inning guy." Joe Beimel is his "eighth-inning guy."
It's an extension of the inflexible closer's mentality that often left the team's mediocre relievers gacking up leads in the 8th inning because it wasn't yet the closer's time to pitch.
Neither Rivera nor Beimel are pure shut-down relievers. They shouldn't be used as such.
Manny doesn't have a ton of horses out there in the pen, but if he's going to misuse the few he does have, why should the team bother to get him any?
Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment. He had to edit out all the swears.