If last night’s decision by manager Gabe Kapler to bring Seranthony Dominguez in for a second inning of work felt like an ominous case of deja vu, you weren’t crazy. It wasn’t all in your head. For most of us watching, seeing Dominguez back on the bump to face a good Cubs lineup for a second inning of work after he had mowed down Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryan and Anthony Rizzo felt like a disaster waiting to happen.
After sitting in the dugout for a few minutes after an impressive 7th inning, Dominguez marched back out to the bump for the 8th with the Phillies holding a precious 3-1 lead and promptly walked the first two batters. It was clear whatever effectiveness he had shown in the previous inning had evaporated as he watched the Phils hit in the top of the inning.
After a sacrifice bunt put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out, Dominguez gave up a two-run triple to Daniel Descalso (on a ball that probably could have been caught but would have resulted in a sacrifice fly at best), with the go-ahead run scoring on a throwing error by Jean Segura.
Suddenly, the Phils were down 4-3 and everyone was second-guessing Kapler, myself included. Why bring Dominguez back out for a second inning when his first inning had been the best of what had been a tough season for him so far (5.03 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 4.58 BB/9)? Why press your luck?
It’s possible there were extenuating circumstances. It’s possible Pat Neshek unexpectedly told Kapler that he couldn’t get loose and the Phillies were forced to use Dominguez more than they wanted. But if that wasn’t the case, the decision to use Dominguez for a second inning clearly pushed the envelope given his struggles so far this year and some big missteps in 2018.
But in order to be fair, how much of our resistance to Seranthony pitching a second inning was based in reality? How much has he struggled in multi-inning apperances throughout his brief career?
Last year there were 16 instances in which Dominguez pitched more than one inning and he had a 2.10 ERA in those 16 outings. Five of them came in his first 12 appearances, all of which he was unscored upon. However, there were a handful of instances after that in which he did falter in his second inning of work.
June 6 vs. Chicago Cubs
Otherwise known as “The Jason Heyward Grand Slam Game”, Dominguez was called in to pitch the bottom of the 8th of a 3-3 game and retired Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contrereas in order. He was then brought out to start the bottom of the 9th and allowed a leadoff walk to Kyle Schwarber, struck out Javier Baez and and allowed a single to Albert Almora, giving the Cubs a 1st and 3rd situation with one out. Three batters later, Adam Morgan would give up Heyward’s grand slam.
June 10 vs. Milwaukee Brewers
In his next appearance, Dominguez pitched a perfect 7th inning, retiring Manny Pina and Eric Sogard on strikeouts and getting Orlando Arcia on a groundout. He came out for the 8th inning and struck out Lorenzo Cain, gave up a single to Christian Yelich, struck out Jesus Aguilar, then gave up a single to Travis Shaw and an RBI single to Ryan Braun that cut the Phils lead from 4-2 to 4-3. He retired Jonathan Villar to end the inning and the Phillies hung on to win 4-3, but it was clear he battled through a rocky second frame.
June 17 at Milwaukee Brewers
Two outings later, facing the Brewers again, Dominguez relieved Adam Morgan with one out in the bottom of the 7th and gave up a single to Jesus Aguilar then retired Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez with the Phillies trailing 8-5. He then came out for the bottom of the 8th and retired Manny Pina and Ryan Braun swinging but then gave up back-to-back walks to Eric Thames and Christian Yelich. Victor Arano had to get the final out of that frame.
Those are three games clustered together that likely stood out in the memories of fans watching last night. Then there was...
September 11 vs. Washington Nationals
He was relatively effective in his next seven multi-inning appearances until a heartbreaker of a game against the Washington Nationals in Philadelphia on September 11. Dominguez entered the top of the 8th of a game the Phillies led 5-3 and retired Trea Turner on a double play grounder and a groundout of Bryce Harper. But he was brought back out for the 9th, with a 6-3 advantage, and walked Anthony Rendon, threw a wild pitch, walked Juan Soto, struck out Mark Reynolds, gave up an RBI single to Matt Wieters to make it 6-4, got Ryan Zimmerman on a groundout, gave up an RBI single to Andrew Stevenson to make it 6-5 then walked Adam Eaten to load the bases for Trea Turner. Luis Garcia relieved, walked in the tying run, and Juan Soto gave the Nationals the 7-6 victory with a leadoff homer in the 10th.
That was his last multi-inning outing of the season. Each of his last six appearances were one inning apiece.
So, in four of Dominguez’ 16 multi-inning appearances last year, Dominguez pitched poorly in that second inning of work, with a couple of those losses among the most crushing of the season. However, in three-quarters of those appearances, Dominguez did just fine. It’s those heartbreaking outings that resonate in the minds of fans most clearly and why so many people, myself included, thought it was a bad idea to bring Seranthony out for Round No. 2.
Fortunately, unlike last year’s debacle in Chicago, Dominguez’ stumble at Wrigley Field was overcome thanks to some clutch hitting by Maikel Franco, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. It’s always nice when the offense can bail everyone out.
Based on his previous results, it’s right to wonder if the Phillies’ desire to use Dominguez as a multi-inning reliever is the right one. He has had some very large stumbles in those situations, but he’s also, more often than not, emerged from those outings unscathed. But until Dominguez shows the type of consistency necessary for him to be dependable in single inning performances this year, it would be wise to hold off in using him for multiple innings unless there was no other choice.