5/12/07 vs. Baltimore
Great day to pitch today. Great weather, sold out park and a 13 run outburst should always add up to great days at home. Problem is that as the starting pitcher you need to actually be IN The game when your team scores the runs to get credit for the win, or not crap away two leads before hand.
There will be some comments in this wrap up pertaining to balls and strikes but before they are made I’ll throw in a disclaimer. Chris Guccione is a very good umpire and a good guy. I’ve had him a few times in the past and he’s always very consistent on both sides of the plate. Never usually wider than the corners but always consistent on the plate.
Every umpire in this league misses calls, we all know that. It doesn’t matter if the Apostle Paul is umpiring, when a call gets missed in a crucial part of a game there is anger on one side of the field. There were 7-8 pitches today on the inside part of the plate to left handed hitters that went one way or the other. In the first there was a fastball in to Markakis that was a strike and it was called a ball. When I asked if the pitch was up and was told it was off the plate in I was caught off guard as I thought the pitch had a lot of the inside corner.
Usually when a guy is inconsistent on the corners, and by corners I mean the ball catches more than just the black of the plate, you can throw 10 pitches to that spot and it’ll go 50/50 balls and strikes. Rarely will a pitch on the corner of the plate be continually called a ball. But the main problem is that not getting one side of the plate can handicap the pitcher since hitters can eliminate that corner and look for the ball on the other corner.
In his defense though I didn’t see the pitch called in to a LHH for a strike pretty much all day.
None of that is the reason behind me pitching so poorly, not by any stretch, but when you start to realize how crucial every single pitch and call is to the pitcher and the hitter you get a better understanding of how important umpires are to the game. The difference in batting average from a 1-2 count to a 2-1 count is almost .200 percentage points, a huge swing.
Warmups went fine and the work we’ve done over the past six days on refining the slider and working on some statistical information were put into the pre-game plan ‘Tek and I went over.
One of today’s oddities is that anytime you face Steve Trachsel you have to be ready to sit for a good long while between innings. When he gets runners on the game slows down immensely. It’s a method that works for him but you know going in the game is going to run a bit longer than normal.
Brian Roberts leads off by taking a called third strike on a fastball away for the first out. I then work a deep count and walk Markakis on a 3-2 split. Start Tejada off fastball, supposed to be in but ends up middle, and he flies out on a 1-1 pitch to right field. Hernandez grounds to short on a 1-1 split to end the inning.
Of the 10-12 fastballs I threw this inning I missed location on at least 5. Still fighting the fastball command but getting good results so far.
The second inning starts with Aubrey Huff grounding to short on a 1-1 fastball away. Trying to finish off Mora with a fastball up and in and instead leave it middle away and he lines it to center for the second out. Jay Gibbons hits an 0-1 split, in a pretty good spot, to left field. I can see Manny tracking the ball and think it’s going to be the third out but the ball keeps tailing away from him and lands for a double. Payton takes a fastball in for a strike, swings over a split and then I leave a fastball middle out that he hits hard to center to end the inning.
Third inning starts with me telling Youk to be ready for the drag bunt. Patterson did it to me two times last year and he’s done it a few times already this year. Sure enough he drags, but lays it down perfect. I think Youk is taking it himself so I slow down (bad move on my part) and Corey beats it out for a single. Brian hits a single to center on a fastball that was not away nearly enough and it’s first and second no outs. Regardless of where the runners are after this next at bat I need that first out here. Markakis ends up grounding to first and we don’t turn two so now we have first and third, one out. Miguel ends up running the count 3-1 and then tops a split to third that Mike and Dustin turn into a great 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Huge swing right there.
Hernandez leads off the fourth by grounding another split to short for the first out. Huff foul tips a change up to start the AB, takes a fast ball away for strike two and then chases a split for the strike out. We get to two strikes on Mora, and he chases a fastball that was supposed to be up and in but instead is up and away for the third out.
In what seemed like a 40 minute half inning we take the lead in the bottom of the fourth on Mike’s sac fly. JD comes a few feet away from a three run homer after a long at bat right before that.
Jay swings at the first pitch of the fifth and hits another double to left to start the inning. After getting Payton to ground to short and Patterson to line to center for two outs I have a chance to NOT squander the lead. I end up leaving a split way up in the zone on the outer half of the plate, which in some situations is not that bad but when you’ve worked someone almost exclusively away up to that point it tends to turn out bad for you. Brian doubles off the monster to tie the game. I end up getting Nick to pop to first on a fastball in on his hands to end the inning but I’ve still given away another lead.
We end up grinding 3 runs out and knocking Traschsel out of the game in the bottom of the fifth. My thought process was that I’d gotten this far with incredibly inconsistent command and a ton of first pitch strikes, so if I bear down early and locate better we’re going to get some quick outs because I don’t foresee them taking as many early strikes as they have to this point.
How’d that work for me? Three pitches into the sixth and we have bases loaded, no outs. Tejada starts the party off by hitting a pitch above his belt, on the black in, to center for a single. Pitch was supposed to be away and down. Hernandez hits the ‘new and improved’ slider to right for another single. I didn’t think the location was that bad but he did what he needed to. Huff singles to left on a first pitch back door slider that was belt high more middle than anything.
Time to regroup. The game gets won or lost in these next few hitters and I have to make some pitches. So I promptly go 3-0 on Mora……
End up coming back to strike him out swinging on a fastball away for the first out. Gibbons runs into a length at bat and fouls off some good pitches. Watching the replay after I came out and the pitch he hit to left was better than I thought. Shin high, outside black to just off, and he still gets enough on it to get it into left field. I’m fit to be tied at this point.
My game ends after the next hitter. We get Jay to a 2-2 count and freeze him with a fastball away that doesn’t get called. The next pitch is what we call an NCP, which stands for “non-competitive pitch”. A pitch thrown so horrifically bad that you have less than a zero percent chance of the hitter swinging.
So you can see the missed strike is a minute portion of what happened in this game. I had ample opportunities to make pitches and get outs and didn’t execute. But on a day like today when it comes at the point it did you never fail to ask ‘what if?”.
Fortunately this is the 2007 Sox and our bullpen has been lights out. Javy comes in and does about as good as anyone could ask in stopping the bleeding and in my mind pretty much winning us the game. Two ground outs yielding only one run and we get to hit with the game tied instead of being down 2+ runs.
Our half of the inning features another huge hit from Alex Cora to break the game open and put us up three. I don’t think there is anything harder to do in baseball than be a good pinch hitter, especially in the AL. He’s been incredibly vital to our good start in about every possible way a position player can be.
I heard in the post game that in the game today their staff threw over 200 pitches in eight innings to our staff throwing 146 in nine. Our lineup, since I have been here, does that as well as anyone. They can wear a pitching staff down in one game.
Josh aims for #8 tomorrow. I said in spring training and I will say it again. Not only is it great to watch but he’s starting to stamp himself into the upper echelon of pitchers in the game. I know it’s only 7 starts but what he’s doing is not a ‘hot streak’ or a few lucky breaks. What he’s doing is maturing on the mound, game by game, and getting better and better.
He’s always taken his starts and the game very seriously but he’s got more experience now and he’s learning how to apply the lessons he’s learning game to game.
I’ll try and grab a few questions if time permits over the next few days.
One more thing for anyone that did inquire about the apology I posted. The ownership of this team, to my knowledge, has NEVER asked a player to say anything publicly, nor has the manager. There were some upset people, and rightfully so, as what I said had far reaching implications inside the clubhouse with the media. When you say something that sees the media asking teammates and your manager to comment on you’ve usually said something stupid.
I think in my twenty years I’ve only ever seen a club ask a guy to apologize for something he said once or twice? It doesn’t happen even remotely close to as much as people in the ‘conspiracy theory’ camps would like to believe it does.
I didn’t need to be asked, I realized about 3 seconds after I said it that it was something that should not have been said.