Toronto starter José Berríos took the mound in Wednesday's Game 2 against the Minnesota Twins and held his former team in check over the first three innings. He was in fine form with his current club’s season on the line.
The 29-year-old righty had surrendered just three hits while striking out five to begin the do-or-die contest. And yet, manager John Schneider went to the bullpen following a leadoff walk to Royce Lewis in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Despite Berríos’ modest pitch count of 47, Schneider called upon Yusei Kikuchi, opting for the lefty-lefty matchup with Max Kepler and Alex Kirilloff due up next. That gamble catered toward analytics rather than trusting the eye test.
Schneider’s unpopular decision, of course, was heavily scrutinized amongst the Blue Jays fan base.
They just pulled Berrios after 47 pitches of 0 run ball!!!!! Thanks analytics nerds. You are smarter than all of us. This puts Kikuchi in such a bad spot. The geeks at their computers have no feel for the moment. This is just terrible. Just awful. #nerdsruinbaseball
— Ken Reid (@SNKenReid) October 4, 2023
Kikuchi in for Berrios right now would be an impeccable feat of overmanaging
— Jori Negin-Shecter (@JNeginShecter) October 4, 2023
It's as if the Blue Jays wanted to create the most fan angst possible this off-season.
— Ben Ennis (@SportsnetBen) October 4, 2023
Everyone who had a hand in this decision needs to be fired.
— JD Bunkis (@JDBunkis) October 4, 2023
I’m at a loss for words!
— Ricky Romero (@Ricky_Ro24) October 4, 2023
Jays gave Jose Berrios 131 million dollars in order to take him out of the most important start of his life after 47 pitches of shutout ball.
— Sid Seixeiro (@Sid_Seixeiro) October 4, 2023
Kikuchi, making his first relief appearance of 2023, proceeded to allow a hard-hit single and a walk to load the bases with zero outs for All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, who singled home the game’s first run. Willi Castro drove home another by hitting into a double play.
The Blue Jays couldn't muster any offence of their own, with the 2-0 score holding up for the remainder of the contest as Minnesota swept the series.
One factor that likely led to Kikuchi’s arrival from the bullpen was that left-handers slashed just .214/.270/.389 against him during the regular season. Berríos, meanwhile, allowed a .261/.323/.450 slash line.
"We had a few different plans in place."
Toronto Blue Jays Manager John Schneider on the decision to pull José Berríos early in the game. pic.twitter.com/yC8XYB3NWR
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 5, 2023
"I hated it, frankly," Merrifield said, per Sports Illustrated's Mitch Bannon. "It's not what cost us the game, but it's the kind of baseball decisions that are taking away from managers and baseball."
Schneider's decision to pull Berrios comes on the heels of another scrutinized pitching decision in Game 2 of the 2022 AL wild-card series against the Seattle Mariners. Kevin Gausman was removed from that contest, which sparked the Mariners' dramatic comeback.