Jazz pinch-hit for vs. tough lefty matchup

2 years ago

ATLANTA — There’s no denying Marlins second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. is becoming one of the game’s most exciting players with a flair for the dramatic. But with two outs in the seventh inning of a one-run ballgame, manager Don Mattingly decided to bring in a pinch-hitter for him.

Braves manager Brian Snitker had turned to his top southpaw reliever, Tyler Matzek, to face the left-handed-hitting Chisholm. Mattingly countered with right-handed batter Bryan De La Cruz, who struck out on three pitches to end the frame. Miami would go on to lose, 3-0, on Friday night at Truist Park.

In this instance, the career numbers supported the decision:

• Lefties have slashed .187/.253/.282 (.535 OPS) vs. Matzek
• De La Cruz entered with a .333/.429/.500 (.929 OPS) slash line in 63 plate appearances vs. lefties
• Chisholm entered with a .239/.277/.409 (.685 OPS) slash line in 171 plate appearances vs. lefties

“We just felt like that was the spot,” Mattingly said. “It was the matchup that we liked and took a shot.”

Added Snitker: “I didn’t know what they would do with him. He’s one of their guys, so I didn’t know how they would play that. Matzek isn’t a matchup guy, so I was fine either way.”

Chisholm’s 1.014 OPS leads all Marlins. He and Jesús Sánchez (.977 OPS) have been Miami’s most dangerous batters with most of the lineup scuffling. At the same time, that pair combined for five of Braves righty Kyle Wright’s career-high 11 strikeouts in the series opener.

Since Spring Training, Mattingly has stated that the club would go with favorable matchups. That is why there is a platoon at third base between left-handed-hitting Joey Wendle and right-handed-hitting Brian Anderson. Twice this season, Chisholm has sat with lefty starters Carlos Rodón of the Giants and Ranger Suárez of the Phillies on the mound. Utility player Jon Berti, a right-handed batter, started in his place and went 2-for-6 with one walk and two runs scored across the two games. Chisholm did face Angels lefty starter Patrick Sandoval on April 12 and went 0-for-2.

“[Mattingly] knows that I’m a guy that wants to be out there every day and wants to win,” Chisholm had said on April 10 after expressing his frustration on social media. “He knows I’m a guy that wants to help the team win. … Everybody knows that I’m a lover of baseball. That’s all I love to do, is play baseball. And if I’m not out there trying to help my team win, I’m mad anyway, even if it is my [day off].”

Both times Chisholm was held out of the lineup, he didn’t enter as a pinch-hitter. San Francisco used two lefty relievers in the first instance, while the other occasion against Philadelphia was meant to give the 24-year-old a day off. It’s part of the plan to keep Chisholm healthy after he landed on the injured list twice and missed another week without a stint in 2021. He appeared in 124 games as a rookie and nearly managed a 20/20 season.

Friday marked the second time this season Mattingly has pinch-hit for Chisholm in the latter part of the game. With the Marlins trailing 5-1 on Tuesday, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol sent lefty T.J. McFarland to the mound with Chisholm, who had been hitless in his two at-bats that evening, due up. Mattingly went with right-handed-hitting Jorge Soler with a runner at first and two outs in the sixth. Soler grounded out.

For his career, McFarland’s righty/lefty splits are drastic:

• .311/.376/.446 with an .822 OPS in 1,129 PA vs. righties
• .255/.296/.373 with a .669 OPS in 791 PA vs. lefties

Mattingly said there will “absolutely” be points this season when Chisholm will get the at-bat in those situations. Chisholm is 1-for-6 vs. lefties in 2022, with an RBI double against Cristopher Sánchez and a sacrifice fly against Brad Hand of the Phillies last Sunday.

“We’ll do what we have to do to try and win games,” Mattingly said. “Jazz and I have talked about this. Jazz is going to be a great player. We’re doing what we do with any of our guys. At this point in his career, we’re going to try to match up a little bit. He’s going to play against lefties. He’s not going to sit against all lefties. He’s not going to get pinch-hit against all lefties. But there’s certain ones — those matchups that are obviously tough for him.”