Who’s got the ninth? It’s anybody’s guess …
On Friday and Tuesday, Joe Smith pitched the eighth inning and Ernesto Frieri handled the ninth because the better part of the lineup — 2-3-4 on Friday, 1-2-3 on Tuesday — was batting in the eighth. But on Wednesday afternoon, Mike Scioscia threw a monkey wrench into any theory that Smith would be pitching against the better part of any lineup, when he had Frieri face the top of the order in the eighth and saved Smith for what ended up being 4-5-6 — and could’ve easily been 7-8-9 — in the ninth.
The score — 4-3 on Tuesday, 3-0 on Wednesday — surely played a factor.
“With the game one run yesterday, we liked Joe’s sinker against the bigger guys,” Scioscia explained. “Also, give guys a different look. We had the leeway if Ernie made one mistake it wasn’t going to hurt you as it might have last night.”
This much is clear by this point: There’s no hard-and-fast rule for who will be used in a save situation on a given day, be it Smith or Frieri. It’ll depend on matchups, sure, and it seems like Scioscia still trusts Smith more than Frieri. But the score will play a factor, as will giving the same hitters different looks and, certainly, the state of each reliever.
Scioscia would eventually like to have one closer, and he’d ideally like it to be Frieri so that he can maximize Smith’s versatility, but this is officially a closer-by-committee situation.
“To me, it relates to my early days with Cleveland, when I pitched the fifth, sixth, seventh and never knew when I was gonna pitch,” Smith said. “I was ready to pitch the eighth [on Tuesday]. I thought the phone call was going to be for me.”
“I just want to pitch,” Frieri said. “Especially in a close game.”