ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Cash didn’t sleep well Tuesday night. Actually, not much at all.
His decision to lift dealing Rays starter Blake Snell in the sixth inning of Game 6 of the World Series backfired when reliever Nick Anderson turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit the Rays couldn’t overcome as their season came to a crushing end. The Rays manager’s mind was still spinning hours later. A couple of Netflix movies, aptly named Close and Extraction, didn’t help.
“It was agonizing,” Cash told the Tampa Bay Times before Wednesday’s flight home from Dallas. “The decision was agonizing. The loss was agonizing. The different thoughts that run through your mind, the what-ifs, are really challenging.”
With the long night and much of Wednesday to think it through, Cash still feels he made the right decision.
“Was it a mistake? No, I don’t think it was a mistake. And I’m not trying to be hardheaded,” he said. “I was committed and felt good about the decision. I just hate the outcome.”
The reviews haven’t been great, either. Cash’s decision being scrutinized, criticized and ridiculed by current and former big-leaguers, media and fans across Twitter, including accusations he was carrying out scripted orders from the front office, all of which he understands comes with the job. (And, for what it’s worth, he’s been reading some of it.)
Cash has also heard from many friends in the game, such as Indians manager Terry Francona.
“Everybody has been super supportive, certainly through text messages,” Cash said. “But totally understand that maybe that’s not the norm on the internet.”
Rays general manager Erik Neander said the decision was totally Cash’s, and the team remained fully behind him.
“Kevin is an incredible leader, and he’s fully empowered to manage the game as he sees fit. His preparation and guidance is second to none, and speaking on behalf of the entire organization, there’s no one we trust more to make these decisions,” Neander said Wednesday.
“He’s true to himself and his methods. Over time, he’s consistently prioritized the best interest of the team, no matter the risk for second-guessing. So many of the challenging decisions he’s made during this incredible season have worked out for the best and led us to the World Series, but (Tuesday) night came with a more heartbreaking outcome.”
The move was made, basically, to keep Snell from facing Mookie Betts, the dangerous hitter atop the Dodgers lineup, for a third time, which is a common analytical base for decisions across the game.
That the Dodgers had the tying run on base with Betts up, as Austin Barnes had singled with one out, seemed a trigger point.
It was made despite the fact that Snell was pitching like his 2018 AL Cy Young award-winning self, that the lefty had struck out Betts his first two times up, that Betts has hit better against right-handers, and that Anderson has struggled in the postseason and was a bit out of gas, as he acknowledged after the game.
Cash knew all that, of course, but said his belief in going to Anderson in that situation overruled what he was seeing from Snell, who was dominating into the sixth, with nine strikeouts and no walks to go with the two hits, on just 73 pitches.
The decision also was a reaffirmation of how much faith Cash still had in Anderson, much as he stuck with struggling Brandon Lowe throughout the postseason, and he hit two homers in Game 2.
“There really wasn’t too much concern,” Cash said. “There wasn’t another option. It was Nick. We were going to get through that inning one way or another with the combination of Blake and Nick.”
That Anderson wasn’t up to the task, allowing runs for a seventh straight game, Cash said was his fault for riding Anderson hard in the previous two rounds against the Yankees and Astros before facing the Dodgers.
“We’re asking Nick to come in and pitch against the three best lineups in baseball, and right through the teeth of the three best lineups,” Cash said. "There were no soft landing spots for Nick at one point in this postseason.
“I think it’s unfair to be critical of Nick and his performance. Its way easier to recognize, look at what they asked him to do, look at what I asked him to do. So if there is blame, it’s wearing him down and pitching him in the highest-leverage situations every time that he was called upon in the game. That I can deal with.”
Cash also was concerned during his restless night with what some might think the decision said about Snell, who was professional but clear in his postgame comments that he believed he’d earned the chance to stay in.
“The biggest thing that went through my mind besides the loss was in whatever way basically I made the decision, and it was insinuating that I didn’t have confidence in Blake,” Cash said. “And that’s not the case. It was saying that with Mookie coming up a third time off Blake, I had a lot of confidence in Nick.”
In the Google-driven world, Cash’s name will start showing up on lists of World Series managerial miscues. While he doesn’t consider it a mistake, he sees only one way to address it: win the next one.
“You don’t want to do anything and be known for a negative,” Cash said. "You’d like to have a positive. I feel like we’ve done enough things as a group that there’s a lot of positives to pull from.
“But I also respect the fact that the circumstance and the position and everything that took place (Tuesday) night, we’re going to need to find a way to win a seven-game series at the end of the year.”