4/25/07 vs. Baltimore and post Yanks stuff
I’ll try and grab some Q & A from the last post over the next few days if time permits (which it does more so on the road than at home).
So what did we learn from the Yanks series? They can hit. So can we. Mariano, like every other reliever in baseball, can have issues pitching on a weeks worth of rest. Love to hear all the doomsayers talking about his demise. Check back in September when he’s sitting on 40+ saves and a 2 ERA.
Alex Rodriguez is hotter than hot. The amazing thing, and people might find it hard to believe but I got to see it up close and personal, was that Barry Bonds spent an entire season that hot. When players of that talent level get hot it’s pretty amazing to see. They do things that you know no other person on the planet is capable of doing.
In a series where our starters gave up 16 runs, we still swept them. That’s not a bad thing. Say all you want about so and so is hurt, we don’t have this guy or that guy, but the games still count so no one really cares. They aren’t going anywhere. Obviously they aren’t at full speed due to missing Matsui, Mussina, Wang and Pavano but they are still going to win games. I just think it’s going to be tougher this year because every team in the AL East can hit, and that’s where we play a huge majority of our schedule. Having to get 3-4 innings from your pen every single night this early is catastrophic to bullpens as the season progresses. That was as big a factor this past weekend as any I think, our starters threw 20 2/3 innings and we didn’t have to drain the pen every night. Those innings will be huge later in the season.
I was getting ready for this game and hearing that there was potential rain incoming. As someone who thrives on routine I was less than happy to hear it, but figured I’d do what I needed to, to be ready. Nothing happened and everything went off on time.
Verlander, Harden, Hernandez, Burnett and Cabrera. If I had to list the 5 most electric arms that are starting pitchers in the big leagues that would be my five. There are a ton of incredible arms, young ones, starting to make their mark, but if you want to talk about pure stuff, velocity, this would be my list. These five guys can hit 100 mph on any given night. You can clamor on and on about bullpen guys that throw 99-100mph, but when a guy can hit 100mph on pitch 100, that’s pretty damn impressive. Daniel was starting tonight and I can imagine that this guy is in no way a comfortable at bat for anyone. He’s progressed immensely over the last two or so years. You could almost see him run off the track in prior years. He could sail for 3 innings, punch out 5 guys, and then walk the park. It’s not that uncommon, but it is at this level. To do that at this level you have to have some pretty incredible stuff to hang around and be given repeated chances. I don’t know him well but I’ve heard he’s a hard worker and a great kid. I remember hearing when Leo got this job, and my first thought was, actually the hope, was that he wouldn’t get this kid straightened out too fast. Well from what I’ve seen before, and tonight, I’d say he’s close. He’s starting to harness the fastball inside the zone. Certainly much more than he has in the past and I think it’s now only a matter of time before he starts putting up some incredible numbers. That all being said I was hoping he’d fall off the wagon tonight. He didn’t and ended up pitching a good game. He had to pitch around some walks but he made his pitches. Though he ended up with the loss he could have won that game on most nights.
Angel Hernandez was behind the plate. I’ve known Angel a long time. Angel certainly is not a pitchers umpire, but I don’t think he’s a hitter’s ump either. Angel makes no bones about his strike zone. He’ll go up and down but you won’t get much corner, if any. He was consistent all night tonight. I thought I threw one ball that was called a strike (first FB to Payton leading off the 2nd inning) and I didn’t think he missed a strike all night. At the end of the day you can NEVER have a problem with a consistent umpire, regardless of his strike zone.
First inning starts with Brian hitting a 1-0 fastball to left center for the first out. My curve ball felt fantastic in the pen but the first two to Markakis were balls, bad misses too. Run the count full and he gets out in front on a 3-2 curve ball for an F-7. After going to 1-2 on Tejada I run a good FB in on his hands and jam him badly, but Angel calls catchers interference. I call BS. No way he hit the catchers glove and Angel was the only one who heard it. Wrong. Angel was right, Tejada barely nicked Tek’s glove and Angel heard it. Umpire 1 Me 0. Huff takes a curve for strike one, and after fouling off an 0-2 FB he hits a fly ball to center to end the inning.
If I am not going to throw 95mph anymore, I need to get ahead in the count. Velocity makes up for location when you hit a certain number. When you are below that number you better be locating. Maddux is the best I’ve ever seen at it. Wells is pretty damn good too. 17 of 28 first pitch strikes tonight. Definitely too few, but what’s even worse is 7 2-0 counts. Ball one can be mitigated with a good 1-0 pitch but 2-0 is bad news, regardless of who’s hitting. I know I am not the 95mph guy anymore, but I can live with it because I can command the baseball. The command is still not where I want it to be and I know that because of the counts and a few other things I notice during the course of the game.
Payton gets to 0-2 and hits a split to third to lead off the second inning. Kevin comes to the plate and I know based on the video I’ve been watching that he’s creeping way up on the plate. Kevin hooks the ball foul about as often as the sun comes up. Even with a leak he has immense plate coverage and can still pull a bullet. My goal was to keep the FB out of the middle of the plate tonight and up until the last one I threw him I did. First AB he fouls strike one, a fast ball in, down the third base line. Next pitch is a 2 seamer in that jams him to short. First faux pas of the night occurs next. Two outs, no one on, and I walk Patterson. Ball four was the only pitch that was even close to the strike zone. Gomez comes up and I miss badly with ball one, throw a CB for a strike and misfire by about 4 feet, the 1-1 fastball. He cues it to first and Youks catches it to end the inning.
Bako starts the third inning by taking a FB in for strike one. I throw a good 0-1 curve that gets the desired result, a routine ground ball. Unfortunately the ball is hit in just about the perfect spot and rolls into right for a single. Now we’ve just taken a 1-0 lead on Alex’s HR and I’ve got the lead off man on, no outs. Brian takes a fastball for strike one and then grounds a splitter to 2nd that Alex and Julio turn into a DP. Huge break. Markakis ends the inning hitting a 1-1 split to short.
Tejada hits a 1-1 split to center to lead off the fourth. Aubrey hits a very good first pitch slider that Youk snags but can’t hang onto, ball rolls into right and he ends up with a double. In my mind the game changes on the next AB. Even though it’s still 1-0, Julio makes a phenomenal play on a slow roller. I didn’t think he had a chance when it went by me and the out is huge. Instead of first and third one out, I have two outs and a runner on third. Still have to deal with Kevin but doing it with two outs is an enormous change. The approach and selection of pitches changes dramatically with 2 outs in that situation. We battle for five pitches and he lays off a front door slider on 1-2. I throw a good split next and he chases it down. When you are pounding a RHH in with fastballs, the split becomes twice as effective if you can keep it middle of the plate and get it below the zone.
Patterson flies to left on a first pitch fastball, Gomez grounds to short on a 2nd pitch curve. I know my pitch count to this point is not high but this inning, if I can end it now, will give me a shot to finish the game. Instead I go 0-2 on Paul and proceed to throw 4 straight balls and walk him. Again two outs and no one on, walk….. I start Brian off with 2 fastballs to go 2-0, and John makes a trip out. He says something I need to hear, it works and we end up striking out Brian on a 2-2 fastball away.
Sixth inning starts with Nick hitting a 2-2 split to short for the first out.
In baseball we use a term called ‘get me over’. You never throw a breaking ball saying “I just hope I get this one over”, or a fastball for that matter. However the difference is that at times you get into a situation and you DO think “throw this pitch for a strike”. Instead of making the pitch with conviction, you just ‘make the pitch’. You tend to know the minute it gets hit, what you did, but you still do it from time to time. Well I did it. After going 2-0 on Miguel, one of the best bad ball hitters in the game, I went to curve ball, and threw what can only be described as a hanger. I knew when I let it go that I didn’t finish it, and was praying that it went to the backstop or something, but it didn’t. The ball hung on the inner half of the plate, up, and he crushed it. The reason it’s an inexcusable mistake is that it’s a 1-0 game. You cannot make even one pitch without total focus and commitment. Obviously looking at it now it’s a lot less painful than it could have been, but at the time I thought it was going to be a huge mistake. After that I fell behind Huff 3-1 and got him to ground out on a split. Payton ends the inning swinging at a FB away for strike three.
The mistake becomes a lot less painful as we hit for over a half hour in the top of the 7th. My biggest concern was getting out to the mound fast enough to get as much throwing in as I could to get warm. Having a three run lead this late changes everything about some guys, and nothing about others. Fact is that it does give you breathing room. That doesn’t mean you relax, but to me it’s always changed some things about how to approach hitters and counts.
Kevin takes a fastball and fouls off the next one to go 0-2 and then I get a bit too much of the plate and he hits a liner to Mike for the first out. We literally played him in a no doubles defense given how we were pitching him and having Mike back I think helped out. Patterson hits a first pitch fastball for a pop up to get a quick second out. I’m now thinking a CG is a legitimate possibility. I fall behind Gomez on two bad fastballs and then misfire the third one and he hits a single to left. Bako hits a first pitch fastball down to right for the second single in two pitches. Now I am in perfectly good position to piss away a good night. Fortunately Brian gets the first pitch a little off the end. It went farther than I was hoping it might but I could tell by the sound he didn’t square it up. Camden was playing bigger tonight than it does during the summer. The ball ended up on the track and the inning was over.
I knew I was around 100 pitches but I felt great and was thinking I’d get through at least eight if I executed. Tito had other plans and despite the argument he was not letting me go back out.