The curious usage pattern of Darren O'Day

One of the things from yesterday's game that I think is noteworthy is that Ron Washington and Mike Maddux decided to use Frank Francisco to protect a 1 run lead in the 8th inning, when Frankie had pitched on both the previous two days.

This was only the second time all year Frankie has been used three days in a row, and the other time, in May, he struck out the side against the Cubs.

Obviously, the move didn't work out as well this time, as Frankie allowed three baserunners (error, single, HBP) before being removed in favor of Darren Oliver.  Oliver, of course, hit a batter on 0-2 and then walked a batter after going up 1-2, to allow the go ahead run to score.  After a popup, Darren O'Day came in, allowed a bloop single, then ended the inning with a ground ball.

What got me thinking, though, was that the decision to bring in O'Day with a deficit seems to be a recurring theme with Wash and Maddux.  It was curious to me that the Rangers would choose to go to the well with Frankie for the third day in a row -- he now 2nd in the A.L. in appearances, behind lefty specialist Randy Choate and tied with lefty specialist Will Ohman, and his past issues with injuries would seem to suggest that he's being ridden pretty hard.  Why not bring in O'Day (or Oliver) to start the 8th, instead?  Oliver hadn't pitched the day before, and O'Day hadn't pitched the previous two days.

It may be that, with lefty Nick Markakis starting off the 8th, the Rangers didn't want O'Day to be matched up with him.  Nevertheless, it continues a usage pattern of late that suggests that, for whatever reason, the Rangers don't trust O'Day to protect a slim lead.

Looking at the game logs, this dates back to late May.  On May 22, O'Day came into a tie game against the Cubs, in the 10th inning.  He got no one out, allowed three runners, and was pulled with the Cubs up one.  His next time out, on May 25, he was brought into a game with the Rangers up 1, and allowed both an inherited runner and a runner of his own to score, blowing the save.  Then on June 1, he came in with a 3 run lead, and was yanked after one-third of an inning, having allow a run home and with two runners still on base.

Since that June 1 game, the Rangers seem to have decided that they aren't going to go with O'Day to protect a slim lead.  O'Day has appeared in 14 games since then, and the Rangers have trailed in 10 of them, and been up by at least 5 runs in the other 4 games.  Interestingly, O'Day has been great in that span, walking just 2 and striking out 10 in 13 2/3 innings, while not allowing any runs. 

I'm not sure if this is by design or just coincidence, although the decision to go back to Frankie for a third day in a row in the 8th inning last night, rather than a rested O'Day, suggests it is a conscious decision.  The Rangers seem to have decided that, if there's a lead to be protected late, they are going with Alexi Ogando, Frankie Francisco, and Neftali Feliz.

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