Game 2 of 3
To simply state that a change of scenery has no effect upon a pitcher's performance is one of the greatest of all fallacies. Sure, we can't measure how this works...we can only analyze in hindsight how a park, a coaching staff, a change in mechanics, or even a pitcher's general health can count among the many factors that ultimately draw a big composite red line between time period A and time period B.
Eric Stults is one of those pitchers; a buff, pre-geriatric tough-guy type of pitcher from Indiana who posted a career 4.84 ERA and an 8-10 W-L record with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2006-2009. After spending 2010 with the NPB Hiroshima Toyo Carp, his 5.07 ERA, 6-10 record didn't necessarily scream "BUY" when he opted to return to the States, but the Colorado Rockies gave him a chance in 2011, signing him to a Minor League deal that found him on the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox roster as a reliever, appearing in 52 games (primarily in middle relief). In July of that year, the MLB club purchased his contract, and a few weeks later DFA'd him, sending him back to AAA for the remainder of the season. The Chicago White Sox came calling in 2012 with another Minor League deal, albeit short-lived...the Padres selected him on waivers after Chicago DFA'd him and he posted a formidable 8-3 record with a 2.92 ERA in 18 games (4 of them as a reliever).
Stults suddenly became a fairly reliable and consistent part of a rotation that needs more mercy than it can afford; he's off to a somewhat uneven start in 2013, entering today's game with a 3-3 record and 4.57 ERA in 8 starts.
But hey...it's only the middle of May! Plenty of starters are experiencing the same exact thing, right? Well, Jordan Zimmermann isn't.
Stults faces Washington Nationals ace Jordan Zimmermann, which is not great news (he's 7-1 in 8 starts with a remarkable 1.69 ERA, and the Nationals have won every game he has won), but Stults is holding his own in May (1-1 with a 2.95 ERA) and the Padres' defense has committed no errors in the past few weeks.
The Padres get to Zimmermann early, with a lead-off HR in the second inning by Yonder Alonso...a tater that makes it all the way up to the Porch in deep right field.
Everything is cool immediately thereafter, but the Nationals put the recently-stellar Padres defense to the test in the top of the 3rd, and the result is, literally, a no-go, and then a go...2 Nationals runners in scoring position with one out quickly develops into an inning-ending LIDP of the weirdest kind.
To set the stage, Danny Espinosa (he of the worst swing in baseball) is called out on strikes. Kurt Suzuki finds Stults behind the count and walks on a 3-1 pitch. With Suzuki on first, Zimmermann squares up to bunt, and knocks the first pitch he sees cleanly to Stults, who throws a low sinker to Jedd Gyorko, covering the bag...
...and Gyorko misses the catch, it goes "right through the wickets"!!
It's Gyorko's first MLB career error.
Also, hopefully, his final Bill Buckner moment.
Zimmermann cruises to second base, Suzuki to third, and now skit is gettin' real. Denard Span looks at ball one, called strike one, and ball two before he smacks a liner, straight into Stults' torso!
Still not having touched the ground, the ball caroms neatly into the glove of Alonso, who touches the bag to record the out on Span...
Without even blinking, Alonso suddenly bolts across the infield...whassup, Yonder?
It happens too fast for us to catch it, but when he checked the runner at second, he found there was, indeed, no runner at second at all...
Suzuki is running back to third, and Zimmermann has made it there already, and is just kind of standing around behind Chase Headley (who now realizes why Alonso is making tracks his way)...
We can see it now...Zimmermann, Suzuki (who is now thinking about going...back to home?!?), and Alonso is gaining on them...Headley is like, "whadup?"
This next screenshot is worth it's weight in laughter gold...Alonso is ready to pounce on one of these guys, and seeing as how he's gaining on them to within an arm's length, Suzuki changes direction again, heading back to home, and now Zimmermann finally begins to move....and Headley is just hanging out, waiting for the pizza and beer to show up for the party.
Alonso darts left, tags Suzuki...
Zimmermann looks back, "wait what"...
Alonso points to Suzuki so that 3B umpire Vic Carapazza can see "hey, bro, I tagged 'im" - Carapazza points at Suzuki...
...and gives him the FIST of OUT! TOOTBLAN! (Tag, not throw)
One of the weirdest double plays you'll see all season, trust me!
SCOREKEEPER'S NOTE: How was this scored? LIDP 1-3, and here's why...the ball never touched the ground (even after the Stults carom, BTW yes, he's OK, thanks for asking), and Alonso was the last receiver to handle the ball, Suzuki tagged out at home.
The Nationals still can't find a way to score, not until the top of the 6th when Left Fielder Steve Lombardozzi scores Suzuki on an RBI single to tie the game. The Padres add an unearned run to Zimmermann's line when Pinch Hitter Alexi Amarista reaches on a fielder's choice bunt, then scores on a pick-off attempt error by Zimmermann attempting to catch Cabrera (who reached on a single) stealing second base. The 8th inning ends with the Padres up 2-1, and both Stults (8IP, 4H, 1ER, 2BB, 5K) as well as Zimmermann (8IP, 7H, 2R, 1ER, 6K, 1HR, 1HB) are done for the day.
Huston Street walks Lombardozzi to bring the Nationals within threat distance to lead off the 9th, but Lombardozzi is erased on a strike-em-out-throw-em-out play with Ryan Zimmerman swinging through desperation. Street follows by walking Adam LaRoche, but Ian Desmond pops out to Gyorko to end the game.
I watched the Fox Sports SD broadcast with Dick Enberg and Mark "Mudcat" Grant. #shadows mentioned 7 times.
My scoresheets, using my new pitch-counting method! Read about it HERE, download the scoresheets for free HERE!