Last night, Lance Lynn intentionally walked the only batter he faced in the game. It seems that the wrong reliever was warming up, which is why LaRussa replaced Lynn after the free pass.
There have been just a few other instances in the playoffs of a pitcher intentionally walking the only batter faced:
Notice that every one of these cases ended up loading the bases (since 2 runners were inherited in each instance.) Probably, a double play was being set up. Also note that the WPA is not very high for any of these walks--a bit negative, but adding the extra force and possibility of a double play prevented the extra base runner from being too much of an added negative.
In the last instance before last night, Allen Watson ended up intentionally walking Lou Merloni, after Merloni pinch-hit in the middle of a plate-appearance that had been begun with Jeff Nelson throwing ball one.
There are a few reasons I can think of why a relief pitcher might face just one batter and intentionally walk them:
- As above, the batter is pinch-hit for (either during or before the plate appearance but after the pitching change) and the manager decides that the matchup is unfavorable and opts to put the guy on.
- A pitcher issues a ball and then has to leave the game either due to injury or ejection. The manager brings in an emergency reliever and simply has him issue three intentional balls while the real reliever who will take over warms.
- There is a miscommunication between the manager and bullpen coach during the most important game of the year, resulting in the wrong pitcher warming up. No wait...that could never happen--it's ludicrous.
Thanks to reader fajita for emailing in about this.