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Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Ten years ago today, it was not a fun day to be Jason LaRue. For at least one inning, it was a flatly miserable time to be Cincinnati backstop Jason LaRue.
On Aug. 14, 2002, the first inning of the Reds-Diamondbacks game was the kind of thing that gives catchers nightmares.
Pitching for the Reds that day was young Jared Fernandez. That’s a name that should make the blood run cold for any backstop. It’s not that Fernandez was mean or cruel or evil. No, Fernandez was something much worse—a knuckleball pitcher.
And as all catchers across all baseball history can attest, nothing is harder to catch than a knuckleball. Former defensive specialist catcher Bob Uecker once quipped that the best way to catch a knuckler is wait for it to stop rolling and then pick it up. For LaRue, that line wouldn’t be a joke but sad reality.
Leading off the top of the first, Arizona’s Tony Womack hit one to left for a single. This was bad news. Now any ball LaRue didn’t stop would cause Womack to advance.
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for that to happen: two pitches to be exact, and he was on second thanks to a Jason LaRue passed ball. Making it even worse, the next batter hit a grounder that could’ve maybe been a double play, but ended up as a runner-advancing productive out.
Then Junior Spivey singled in Tony Womack for an unearned run. Fortunately for LaRue, Fernandez soon picked off Spivey so for a few minutes LaRue wouldn’t have to worry about any passed balls.
But then Fernandez walked Matt Williams. And the pressure was back on LaRue. Things didn’t go well.
Two pitches after the walk, a knuckler got away from LaRue for a passed ball. Williams went to second. On the very next pitch, it happened again. Williams scooted to third and LaRue now had three passed balls on the day – and it was still just the first inning.
Two pitches later the ball made it to the backstop again, allowing Williams to score. At least this time it wasn’t a passed ball. This time it was a wild pitch, so LaRue was still at three passed balls on the inning. But in a single five-pitch plate appearance, three balls went to the backstop allowing a runner on first to score. Yeesh.
Oh, and that run scoring wild pitch? It came on ball four, so there once again was a runner on first base. Fortunately for LaRue, the misery soon ended as Steve Finley flew out on the second pitch to end the inning.
After that, LaRue settled down. I don’t know if he just cleared his head or got a bigger glove or Fernandez eased up on the knuckler or what, but there were no more passed balls. There was one more wild pitch, but no more passed balls. That inning was like a scary story for catchers. It’s the sort of things backstops tell each other around the camp fire at midnight. And it happened exactly 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.
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Yankees 8, Rangers 2: I suppose the critical mass of people mocking the Yankees' pickup of Derek Lowe was just too delicious for God or Loki or Fate or whatever controls our world to pass up, because He/it/whatever decided to play it funny with us and allow Mr. Lowe to toss four scoreless innings in relief against the AL's best offense. And his sweat is in such high form that it doesn't look like he missed a single outing. A pro's pro.
Nationals 14, Giants 2: An annihilation, as the Nats rack up 21 hits. The bottom part of the order did the damage here, with Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina each driving in three and Kurt Suzuki driving in four. Only one home run in the game -- Espinosa's. It was just a constant onslaught.
Phillies 4, Marlins 0: Cole Hamels with the seven hit shutout. Man, that's gonna make him even more expensive in free agency. Oh, wait. Sorry. Was on autopilot there for a minute. I think Hamels made a good move signing that deal and that he belongs in Philly, but I gotta say, him not hitting the market is gonna make this winter a lot more boring.
Padres 4, Braves 1: Eric Stults and two relievers shut the Braves down. I loved him in "Killing Zoe."
Blue Jays 3, White Sox 2: Adam Dunn had two homers, including the game-tying yiketty in the ninth, but Carlos Villanueva was otherwise strong. David Cooper won it with an RBI single in the 11th.
Dodgers 5, Pirates 4: The Dodgers have won four of five and are closing in on these Pirates for the wild card and, for that matter, the Giants for the division. I've been expecting them to fall off all year and they just haven't. Shane Victorino homered and drove in three.
Twins 9, Tigers 3: So apart from that one home start a week ago Friday, Anibal Sanchez has not exactly been bringing the noise since he came over from Miami, eh? He was lit up for five runs on 12 hits in five and a third innings, raising his post-trade ERA to 7.97. Ryan Doumit was 3 for 4 with three driven in.
Cubs 7, Astros 1: When the Cubs and Astros get together you can throw out the record book! I mean, you really, really should throw it out, because if the fans got wind of how bad these two teams are, no one would come to the game. Ah, I keed, I keed. here the irresitable force of stink (the Cubs) displaced the immovable object of stank (the Astros) behind seven innings of solid work from Jeff Samardzija, who struck out 11. Anthony Rizzo was 4 for 5.
Rockies 9, Brewers 6: Mike Fiers was a disaster (2 IP, 9 H, 8 ER). The Brewers chipped back slowly after finding themselves down 8-0 but the hole was too great.
Rays 4, Mariners 1: Seven straight for the Rays and ten of 12 overall. This one came behind yet another strong pitching performance, with Alex Cobb allowing one run on four hits over seven. Jose Molina stole a base. His second of the year. That's something.
Indians 6, Angels 1: Justin Masterson tossed six scoreless and C.J. Wilson drops his fifth straight decision. The Angels are two and a half out in the wild card, eight back of Texas.