In the 7th inning of a 3-3 game - a game in which Carson Fulmer was looking almost human, somehow (6 and 2/3 IP, 3 R, 8 H, 3 BB, 6 K) - Bryan Reynolds lead off with a double. Will Toffey (who had an amazing day, himself, going 4-4 with a HR), followed with an infield single to the shortstop, followed by a Jeren Kendall HBP to load 'em up with no outs.
In essence, all Karl Ellison had to do was make contact to score Reynolds.
Before we get to what transpired, let's do a quick statistical run-down of this inning:
Reynolds lead-off double: 60.94% chance of Reynolds scoring.
Reynolds on 3rd, Toffey on first, 0 out: 85.01% chance of Reynolds scoring.
Reynolds on 3rd, Toffey on 2nd, Kendall on 1st, 0 out: 85.18% chance of Reynolds scoring.
In short, we're feeling pretty good about Ellison's chance of plating Reynolds, even if he's probably the last guy in last night's lineup you would want at the plate. Ellison is batting only .231/.321/.330 on the year, it was a righty-righty match-up, and Ellison has had slow hands (in other words, he's often a tick behind the pitch in terms of recognizing the pitch, speed, and location) at the plate this year. Still, he can hit into a double play and score Reynolds. He can fly out and score Reynolds. He can walk and score Reynolds. He can (though I can't recall us attempting one of these this year) squeeze bunt Reynolds in. In short, all he needs to do is avoid the K, line-out, and pop out, and we take the lead.
Unfortunately, Karl Ellison is pretty much the last guy we want up in this situation. His K-Rate is a massive .309. Yes, he is practically equally likely to strike out as he is to get on base (though he has only grounded into one double play on the year thus far, so that's a plus). In fact, in terms of K-Rate alone, the only guy in last night's line-up you'd want in least would be the guy who had just got plunked - Jeren Kendall and his .357 K-Rate. Of course, Kendall is batting .296/.421/.510 with 0 GDP, so you'd trade that high K-Rate for his otherwise great offensive numbers, and roll the dice on him falling within the 85% success rate of all batters in this situation.
With Ellison? Considering it was the 7th inning of a tie game, Carson Fulmer on the mound (Ellison is Fulmer's private catcher, as he's much much better than Delay at blocking balls in the dirt, and Fulmer's hard-movement slider and curve pound the dirt), and there would be two more chances to get that run in, it's completely understandable that Corbin sticks with Ellison here. Further, though Delay's offensive numbers (.318/.420/.455 with an impressive .182 K-Rate and only 1 GDP) make him much more likely to drive in Reynolds in that situation, it was still a righty-righty match-up, so if Corbs goes to the bench, he's likely to bring in a left-handed batter to face Kentucky pitcher Zack Brown, and bring in Kendall - and his ball-in-the-dirt woes - as a defensive substitute later.
Let's look at the lefties Corbs had available on the bench at the time:
#1 option: Nolan Rogers (65 AB on the season)
Stats: .246/.395/..292, .354 K-Rate, 0 GDP
Verdict: Stay with Ellison. If it was 1st and 3rd, one out, I consider him, as he's likely to put it on the ground, but beat out a double-play. Bases loaded, no outs? Not an upgrade.
#2 Option: Tristan Chari (4 AB on the season)
Stats: .500/.500/.500, .500 K-Rate, 0 GDP
Verdict: Stay with Ellison. There is an argument to be made that the switch-hitting freshman catcher should have gotten more at bats (to see if he will be a viable left-handed option off the bench), but with Kendall and Ellison at catcher, there are no at bats to give. You'd have to trust Ellison's experience here. In fact, pulling him for Chari would likely not even cross your mind.
#3 Option: Joey Mundy (6 AB on the season)
Stats: .333/.429/.333, .333 K-Rate, 0 GDP
Verdict: Stay with Ellison. See above re: experience, but replace "catchers" with "infielders."
So there you have it. When putting in Rogers purely for the righty-lefty match-up regardless of numbers is your only option, you don't have much of an option. Is this a flaw on our team? Surely, but it's far from a fatal flaw. Further, if Xavier Turner comes back soon (as it's reported he might), he might be a bench-option in a situation like this, despite the righty-righty match-up.
So what happened?
Ellison struck out. Horribly. He wasn't close on any of his swings. Ugh.
Back to the game...
Reynolds on 3rd, Toffey on 2nd, Kendall on 1st, 1 out: 65.3% chance of Reynolds scoring.
With bases loaded and one out, Tyler Campbell was at the plate. With the aforementioned lack of lefty bench options, and Penn Murfee coming back to Earth after his season-opening burst of offense, Corbin also likely doesn't even consider going to the bench. Campbell, though he's only hitting .250/.319/.278 on the season, is still likely to drive in Reynolds, as he has good contact numbers. Campbell's K-Rate is a pretty good .222, and he's grounded into one less double play than Dansby freaking Swanson. I can't see Corbs going to the bench here.
Campbell stung one, but unfortunately, it went right to the RF, giving Corbs no chance to send Reynolds. If the outfielders aren't playing shallow, this is possibly a base hit. They were. It wasn't. Them's the breaks.
Reynolds on 3rd, Toffey on 2nd, Kendall on 1st, 2 out: 31.28% chance of Reynolds scoring.
At the beginning of every inning, your lead-off batter has an approximately 26.67% chance of scoring. As such, the bases loaded, 2 outs situation was only about 4.6% more favorable a situation that leading off the 8th tied. So... not great. Further, Coleman decided to add to the narrative tension by working a full count.
Full count. Bases loaded. 2 outs.
Coleman, though I often am befuddled by his baseball IQ, is EXACTLY the guy you want up with this situation. 1) He's got the smallest strike zone in the league (and a pretty good eye). 2) These are the only situations where he looks 100% locked in. He had that, "Fuck you" look in his eye. He knew he was going to get it done. Seriously, go back and watch this at bat. There's no doubt in his mind, and I love it.
So what happened?
Coleman hit an opposite field double to the gap between the LF and CF. The fielder had to slide to keep it from going to the gap, but with runners off on the 3-2 pitch, it didn't matter. All 3 runs scored.
Wiseman followed with a 2 R HR, driving the last two nails in Kentucky's coffin. We would score 5 more times in the 8th, as it's fun to yell "10 run rule!!!"
On the Bump Today (5:30pm CT SECN+):
LHP Philip Pfeifer (3-2, 3.18 ERA)
v. RHP Dustin "Not Wade" Beggs (6-2, 2.84 ERA)
Not Wade Beggs is no Wade Boggs, and the three Smirnoff Ices he downs before this match-up will pale in comparison to Boggs' 64 beers on a cross-country flight to Seattle.