ATLANTA -- Looking back on the troublesome six-run eighth inning the Yankees produced against his club in Tuesday night's 6-4 loss, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wished he had brought in right-hander Cristhian Martinez instead of fellow righty Cory Gearrin to face Nick Swisher.
Gearrin's struggles against left-handed batters were extended, as Swisher greeted him with what proved to be a game-winning two-run home run. One night earlier in his season debut, the sidearmer allowed hits to two of the four left-handed batters he faced.
There is no guarantee things would have turned out differently had Martinez been brought in to put the switch-hitting Swisher on the left side of the plate. But Martinez had limited left-handed hitters to a .220 batting average at the big league level this year.
Gonzalez said that the decision to pull starting pitcher Mike Minor after he allowed a one-out single to Derek Jeter in the eighth inning was based on something pitching coach Roger McDowell spotted during Russell Martin's at-bat to open the inning. Gonzalez did not elaborate on what McDowell saw.
With Eric O'Flaherty's left elbow ailing, Gonzalez turned to Jonny Venters, who allowed a single and issued a walk before allowing Alex Rodriguez's game-tying grand slam.
There was no need for the Braves to even contemplate bringing closer Craig Kimbrel into the game before the Yankees loaded the bases, and that occurred so quickly, Kimbrel would not have had time to get his arm warmed up before the damage was done. Kimbrel's only two-inning appearance in the closer role occurred last April 21, when he blew a save opportunity against the Dodgers in the ninth inning, then pitched a scoreless 10th.
"It's not about the pitch count and the stressful innings," Gonzalez said when asked about Kimbrel making a multi-inning appearance. "[John Smoltz] would do it all the time. But Smoltzie was a starter, so he knew how to come in, sit down and go back out there. That's the only thing that is the unknown with a young reliever."