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John Gibbons's real gaffe in Game 4

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The problem wasn't that John Gibbons used David Price. It was that he used David Price for far too long.

Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

So I have to confess that I barely watched any baseball yesterday. Between being at work for the day games and a family commitment that kept me away from television for most of the evening, I didn't see a single moment of the Blue Jays' convincing win over the Texas Rangers. So I'm really looking forward to watching David Price tomor...huh? What?

Huh.

So...what happened?

Why did John Gibbons replace R.A. Dickey in the fifth inning last night? He had thrown only 78 pitches, hadn't walked anybody, and hadn't allowed an extra base hit. Now that I've gone back and actually watched it, he wasn't even hit particularly hard that inning. Even if he were, he's still up by six runs. Plus, R.A. Dickey had been a horse in the second half, averaging more than six and a half innings per start with an ERA of 3.04. With a cushion like that, even in the playoffs, you can afford to give a starter you trust a little rope. So what the hell, John Gibbons?

"I was really focused in on Choo. He had hit him twice [in the game] and hit him well in his career....And I told Price today if I got him up he was going in. You know, last night he was kind of up and down a couple times."

Honestly, that's not an awful thought process. Gibbons wasn't using Price as a mopup man, but as a fireman, to put out a potential wildfire before it could spread. Once Gibbons decided that Dickey's knuckleball might be starting to go, he got Price up rather than risk Dickey losing control, and Choo is exactly the right batter for Price to come in against. Given how aggressive Gibbons has been about using his bullpen, it's entirely reasonable to think that Price was the right reliever to use that early in the game. Moreover, the move worked. Price did retire Choo and the inning ended without a run scoring.

It's what happened after the fifth inning that's more of an issue. Sure, you need to use Price for more than a single batter, especially when you use him that early. So letting him complete the sixth as well, when he's going to face Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland, makes perfect sense. At that point, after retiring four straight on 11 pitches, Price seems to be cruising. Sure, let him go out to face Elvis Andrus and make Rangers manager Jeff Bannister remove Josh Hamilton from the game. At that point, there's nobody out in the bottom of the seventh and Price has thrown 14 pitches. Mike Napoli is coming to the plate.

Why isn't the move there to bring in Liam Hendricks? Hendricks was dominant in the regular season, and he had only pitched a third of an inning in the series so far. Instead, Price throws five more pitches (now up to 19) and gets the double play. Then you're not going to take Price out to face the lefty Odor, who gets another six pitches (25 total) before doubling. Again, here's another chance to go to Hendricks, but it's journeyman backup catcher Robinson Chirinos. You have to figure David Price can handle that. Nope. It takes another seven pitches to get Price out of the inning and he's up to 32 for the whole appearance.

Then he's back to the lefty-heavy gauntlet of Choo, Beltre, Fielder, and Moreland, so it's understandable why, at that point, Price came back out for that third full inning. He wound up throwing 18 more pitches and giving up three runs overall. Now his status for tomorrow's Game 5 is very much in doubt.

There was a moment when Gibbons should have acted, when his team needed him to act. It was probably when Napoli was up, but definitely by the time Chirinos came to the plate, Price needed to come out.. With his team up by, at that point, seven runs, he needed to make a decision to preserve the option to use a legitimately scary weapon out of the bullpen in Game 5. Instead, he froze. He allowed Price to complete that inning, which forced his hand for the next frame.

Look, it may not wind up mattering. Maybe the Jays or the Rangers put up five in the first inning and Game 5 turns into a complete laugher. Maybe Gibbons's blunder won't come back to bite him. But it is hard to look at the way Price was used in Game 4 and not feel like it was mostly wasted. And that an unavailable or severely fatigued Price could be the difference between advancing and going home for Toronto.