Thursday, September 19, 2013
Wednesday's wild card story: Clutch hits
By Mark Simon
There were three highly entertaining games on Wednesday night that played a significant role in the AL Wild Card race. While the Kansas City Royals- Cleveland Indians game was decided early, the contests between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers would come down to pivotal late-game matchups.
Orioles vs. Red Sox
Key at-bat: Chris Davis vs. Franklin Morales
Situation: Tied in the 12th inning; bases loaded, two outs.
Davis entered 2-for-his-last-15 against left-handed pitching and he was facing a pitcher who had retired the last 11 left-handed hitters he faced.
But Davis got a hanging curveball on a 1-2 count and was able to ground it just past Dustin Pedroia for a two-run single. Davis has now gotten three straight hits against Morales.
He was fortunate to sneak that one just by the diving Pedroia. The Red Sox second baseman leads major leaguers at that position with 17 Defensive Runs Saved.
Yankees vs. Blue Jays
Key at-bat: Vernon Wells vs. Steve Delabar
Situation: Yankees down a run in the eighth inning, second and third, one out.
The Blue Jays probably felt pretty good with reliable All-Star Steve Delabar trying to protect a three run lead in the eighth inning, but Delabar has been rather shaky lately. Right-handed hitters, who were 17-for-84 with 30 strikeouts against him prior to the All-Star Break, entered this at-bat 11 for their last 30 against him.
Wells has had trouble with right-handed pitching all season, hitting .210 against righties entering Thursday. But down in the count 0-1, he was able to drill a line-drive double to plate the tying and go-ahead runs.
It gave Wells’ his first multi-hit game since August 13 against the Angels.
Rays vs. Rangers
Key at-bat: David DeJesus vs. Joe Nathan
Situation: Rangers up a run in the 11th inning, man on second, two outs.
Nathan was a strike away from putting the Rangers a game ahead of the Rays in the AL Wild Card chase, but he couldn’t sneak strike three by DeJesus.
Nathan may end up kicking himself for his pitch choice—-a curveball that hung in the upper-half of the strike zone, one DeJesus was able to ground past Nathan for the game-tying hit.
The curve is Nathan’s third option in two-strike situations (like this one). He typically throws it about 14 percent of the time (his other pitches are split between fastballs and sliders).
The Rays would win in the 12th with Nathan out of the game, on a game-winning hit by Desmond Jennings.
The other key to the comeback was Freddy Guzman’s stolen base, which put him in scoring position. Guzman was making his first appearance in a game since appearing for the Yankees in the 2009 ALCS.
Guzman is on the Rays’ roster for his speed. He had 73 steals in 82 attempts in 99 games in the Mexican League prior to joining the Rays.