Tony La Russa took major heat last week for criticizing his player, Yermin Mercedes, for hitting a home run on a 3-0 pitch while his team was up big – then defending an opposing pitcher who threw at him a day later.
The heat has distracted from some of his miscues on the managerial side of things. He had a particularly rough series in New York this weekend, contributing to a sweep at the hands of the Yankees.
In the ninth inning of Sunday’s game, a 5-4 walk-off win for the Yankees, La Russa left Aaron Bummer in after the reliever pitched the eighth inning. Bummer started off the inning by giving up a single to Clint Frazier, who then stole second on a strikeout. Then, La Russa decided to intentionally walk DJ LeMahieu, and left Bummer in the game to give up an infield single to load the bases.
It was at this point that La Russa decided to send in Liam Hendriks, the team’s closer. With one out and no margin for error with the bases loaded, Hendriks didn’t have the control he needed fresh out of the bullpen, and threw five straight pitches out of the zone. Aaron Judge took four of those, and secured his first career walk-off on a walk.
‘‘We liked the matchups in the ninth inning,’’ La Russa said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘And the other thing, you still have to think at some point you may need Liam for more [for a possible 10th inning].
It completed a sweep for the Yankees, which is not the result La Russa was looking for after being at the center of Yermin-gate. Chicago had the best record in the American League earlier in the week, and is now fifth in the AL after dropping three straight games.
La Russa has already had his fair share of managerial blunders through just 45 games so far. Perhaps most famously, he admitted to not knowing an extra innings rule in a game against the Reds. He sent Hendriks out as the second-base runner in the tenth inning, unaware he could swap out a position player if a pitcher made the last out. Hendriks did not score, and the Reds won in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the inning.
The spotlight isn’t going away from the league’s oldest manager, and he has a ways to go to prove his hiring wasn’t a mistake as his young Sox compete for a division title.