Braves pay price after pinch-hitting for Miller
SAN FRANCISCO -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez knew there would be some second-guessing his decision to pinch-hit for Shelby Miller with his team trailing by just one run in the eighth inning of Thursday night's 7-0 loss to the Giants.
"There are so many different ways you could go through that inning," Gonzalez said. "It's kind of fun [to have that challenge]. Obviously, we didn't make the right decision."
After the Giants gained a 1-0 lead with Brandon Belt's one-out homer in the seventh inning, Gonzalez had an immediate decision to make regarding Miller, whose spot was due up second in the eighth inning. The dominant right-hander had totaled just 86 pitches through seven innings and he stood as a better option than any of the middle relievers in Atlanta's bullpen.
Belt's home run stood as the only blemish on the line produced by Miller, who posted a 1.20 ERA and limited opponents to a .167 batting average in five May starts.
When Andrelton Simmons opened the eighth with a single, Gonzalez gained further reason to keep Miller in the game because he now had an opportunity to simply bunt Simmons into scoring position. But instead of playing for the tie, Gonzalez inserted pinch-hitter Pedro Ciriaco, who nearly grounded into a double play before being stranded at second base.
"You don't want to give outs away," Gonzalez said in reference to the sacrifice bunt option. "It's a tough decision, no matter how your offense is [performing]. It's also dictated by how your bullpen is. Do you want to go for the win or go for the tie? Do you want to leave Shelby in there and let him keep pitching. There's really a lot of stuff in the air because he's pitching so good."
After Miller took his Major League-best 1.48 ERA to the clubhouse, the Giants erupted for six eighth-inning runs against Brandon Cunniff and Donnie Veal.
Had Miller remained in the game and proved successful with his attempt to bunt Simmons to second base, Giants left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt would have entered a more challenging situation. But instead, Affeldt entered with a runner at first base, prompting Gonzalez to pinch-hit for leadoff hitter Jace Peterson with Jonny Gomes, who has totaled just 13 plate appearances dating to May 11.
Gomes' strikeout against Affeldt left him with just two hits in his past 12 at-bats against left-handed pitchers. Peterson has batted just .217 against left-handers this season, but he has four hits and just two strikeouts in the 15 at-bats he has recorded against them in May.
"There are so many different ways you could go in that inning," Gonzalez said. "It would be one of those things that when you sit back at home, you'd have a tough time going to [sleep]."