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The Cutoff Man: Pitching dominates + Monday Short Hops

April 19, 2010

Published in The Tartan, 4/19/2010:

Original Short hops restored below

“Half this game is 90 percent mental.” –Former Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark.

Were I ever to have met the late Mr. Ozark, I’d have argued that 90 percent of the game is half luck. The strategy is what makes baseball such an intricate sport, but the true excitement and frustration stem from the skill and luck involved.

All factors were especially apparent in two games on Saturday. The Colorado Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez pitched the first no-hitter in franchise history, shutting down the Braves in Atlanta as the Rockies rolled to a 4-0 win. The Mets and Cardinals, on the other hand, went head to head for 18 scoreless innings before each team scored a run in the 19th. The Mets came out on top, 2-1, after 20 very, very long innings.

The Braves have now been the victims of no-hitters in Atlanta twice in the last six years. Randy Johnson, as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, became the oldest pitcher to pitch a perfect game when he shut down all 27 Braves he faced at Turner Field on May 18, 2004. Having no hits doesn’t necessarily mean a team has poor hitting; it means the guy on the mound is nasty. It also means he’s got a whole lot of luck.

When Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game last July 23 against Tampa Bay, his outfielder DeWayne Wise made a leaping, falling catch to rob the Rays’ Gabe Kapler of a home run and preserve the perfect game. That was pure skill on the part of Wise; it was pure luck on the part of Buehrle.

So it was that Ubaldo Jimenez took the mound on Saturday with Dexter Fowler in center field. The 6’5″ Fowler is known for his speed, and he certainly put it on display to help the cause in Atlanta. With two incredible catches, one of them a completely sprawling, breakneck diving catch, Fowler saved the day for Jimenez and gave him the confidence that he could do something special on that mound.

To me, there is nothing more awe-inspiring than a pitcher throwing a no-hitter, especially a perfect game. My brother Linus was lucky enough to be at Yankee Stadium on May 17, 1998 — Beanie Baby Day — when New York’s David Wells threw a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. My dad was almost as lucky — he got to see the Mets’ Tom Seaver take a perfect game into the ninth inning before it was broken up.

Pitching a no-hitter is the ultimate accomplishment. It shows how dominant a pitcher can be. Every team has great players, and even the lesser players are still good enough to make the major leagues. Everyone is capable of getting a hit. When Wells pitched his perfect game, Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and then-superstar Marty Cordova were in the lineup for the Twins, and both were silenced.

When Jimenez pitched on Saturday, he faced a potent lineup that included future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and the prince of baseball, Jason Heyward. That lineup was silenced as well.

In St. Louis on Saturday, a game that was broadcast on FOX beginning at 4 p.m. ended a little after 11. While no pitcher was perfect, the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia did have a no-hitter through the first five innings. The Mets’ Johan Santana was equally dominant, and after each starter exited after seven innings — Santana with nine strikeouts, Garcia with only one hit allowed — one could not help but think, “What an excellent pitchers’ duel. This is going to be a great finish.”

And it was. Eventually.

Terrific defense helped save the day in this one as well.

The Cardinals loaded the bases with two out in the 10th inning before Matt Holliday lofted a foul pop-up towards the first-base stands. The Mets’ Alex Cora, hardly a first baseman by trade, jumped to catch the ball and landed in the seats, holding onto the ball to end the inning and lengthen highlight reels for years to come.

After the Mets scored in the 19th off the Cardinals’ second position player to pitch in the game, and the Cardinals tied it off the Mets’ closer, one could only sit in awe, agony, disbelief and, for true fans, excitement that a modern-day game was hitting the 20th inning.

Even truer baseball fans appreciated that it was only 1-1. Once the Mets finally put the game away in the 20th, sighs of relief were all the rage. Pitching and defense have been making a comeback, and never was it more present than on Saturday. The Mets are now one of three teams, along with the Padres and the Rays, that have never had a no-hitter thrown in team history. I’m still waiting — eventually some team has to come out of a game hitless at the hands of the Mets.

After all, as Danny Ozark once said, “Even Napoleon had his Watergate.”

Short hops:
 With two wins to open their weekend series against the Reds, the Pirates clinched a .500 record for the second straight week. After a sweep Sunday,
their 7-5 record was good enough to stand alone in second place. … The Toronto Blue Jays finally fell off from their torrid start and are starting to play more like they were expected to. … The only thing longer than a 20-inning game is an extra inning game that gets suspended due to rain and resumed the next day. The Rays won in extra innings on Saturday to finish their previous game against Boston before beating them again in Saturday’s scheduled game as well. … Tim Lincecum of the Giants is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA so far this season.

Tune in next week and check out for daily updates on the happenings in Major League Baseball.

  • Other strange sweeps: The Pirates were not the only ones playing unexpectedly good baseball this past weekend; the Padres and the Indians also swept their respective three-game sets. San Diego managed to do it by scoring five runs in the seventh inning, beginning with three runs off of losing loser Aaron Heilman. Mets fans to this day wonder why we kept giving Heilman a chance but never really let Heath Bell do his thing. … The Indians’ sweep was a little less legitimate, as it came against the Toronto Blue Jays, who continue to fall into the trap of playing like we expected them to.
  • Bleeding Sox: After losing the first three of a four game set to Tampa Bay, the Red Sox are now 4-8 and in fourth place. If they don’t turn it around soon, it’ll severely impede Toronto’s ability to fall lower in the standings. Matt Garza is perhaps the only pitcher in baseball more impressive than Tim Lincecum, as after throwing eight shutout innings he is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA.
  • Livan large: This isn’t so legitimate yet, but until he actually unravels, it’s crazy enough to note that the Major League ERA leader right now is Livan Hernandez of the Nationals, who has yet to allow an earned run so far in his two starts (16 innings), including a complete game shutout in his last outing. Washington’s fifth starter is scheduled to pitch again on Thursday against Colorado. … In other unlikely news, Scott Podsednik of the Royals leads the Majors in batting average at .457, followed by the Nats’ Pudge Rodriguez at .444 and Martin Prado of the Braves at .426.

As always, if you like what you read, please keep coming back and follow the blog daily (there’s a link in the sidebar), and please pass the JOB on to friends to help me get one!

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 3, 2012 7:07 am

    Would you like some help? Close the door after you,please.I felt no regret for it.She really wishes her clock had rung.It’s none of your business!I’m supposed to go on a diet get a raiseI am busy.The brothers differ from each other in their interests.Tomorrow will be a holiday.He sat with his arms across the chest.

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