Last year Dale Sveum had to play bullpen roulette for the first half of the season, and you almost had to feel bad for the first year manager. It did not matter who was called upon but it would seem like they would disappoint. This year Dale Sveum has had similar issues to deal with as several important cogs have been unreliable, but Dale Sveum did have better options at his disposal tonight.
Pulling Matt Garza after five innings was the right call. This was Garza’s first outing back. While he was dominant, he was far from efficient. Calling upon Hector Rondon in the sixth inning was not a terrible decision. I personally liked the idea of piggybacking Carlos Villanueva given that he is stretched out, but I won’t quibble with the choice of the largely effective rule 5 pick in the sixth inning.
Rondon, of course, struggled, ended up only retiring a single batter and leaving the bases loaded. Dale Sveum made a good choice at this point by going to James Russell. Russell didn’t get two close calls against Pedro Alvarez and ended up walking in a run. Sveum at this point jumped up and made the switch with a right handed batter coming to the plate. This is where Sveum needed to make a different call.
Shawn Camp was brought into the game, and gave up the grand slam to give the Pirates the 5-3 lead of the game. This did not make sense since Sveum had decided to manage the sixth inning like the eighth inning. That was the right call after all, but he needed to go to his eighth inning reliever. Kyuji Fujikawa has largely been solid since his return, and would have been the best call in the situation. Perhaps it would have turned out the same, but he was the best option available at the key moment of the game.
Now the question becomes if you have burnt Russell and Fujikawa in the sixth, who handles the seventh and eighth innings? You could have tried to piece it together with having Shawn Camp and Carlos Marmol pitch, but the best call would have been going to Carlos Villanueva for two innings. The results could have been the same, but Fujikawa and Villanueva would have given the Cubs a far greater chance of getting the ball to Kevin Gregg with a lead in the ninth.