Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nearly perfect

Zach Stewart had something to
smile about Monday night.
On the spur of the moment Monday morning I decided to hit Target Field for the evening tilt of the White Sox-Twins make-up doubleheader. One attraction for me was to take an in-person look at Scott Diamond.

Diamond was ... OK. He struck out four men in five innings and allowed just two runs,  but ... 10 baserunners is a lot. He had to pitch out of jams in four of the five innings.

Diamond figures to continue to start this month, but at this point it seems safe to say that if he's going to have a major-league career he needs to

  • establish better command of his pitches, especially his fastball; and
  • widen the velocity separation between his pitches.

The radar gun readings at Target Field generally showed his fastest pitches to be 88 or 89 mph. The slower pitches were more like 83 mph, and that's probably not sufficient differential.

Another newbie pitcher I watched with interest was Kyle Waldrop, making his major league debut. True to his reputation, he kept the ball on the ground. Not only did the first six batters hit grounders (five outs and an error by shortstop Trevor Plouffe), I don't think any of them even hit a foul ball in the air.

But once he got into the mid-30s in his pitch count, the White Sox started getting the ball off the ground. Two line-drive singles interspersed with a ground ball single and a walk added up to two earned runs and an unimpressive line score. He looked better than that to me.

But neither, of course, was the pitcher of the day. That was Zach Stewart, a rookie righty for Chicago who came oh-so-close to a perfect game.

I started thinking about the possibility of a perfecto after he got the first nine hitters. I told the guy standing next to me (I had a standing room only ticket) after the fifth that if Stewart got through the seventh inning and Joe Mauer's third plate appearance, he'd get it.

And when Mauer lined to short to end the seventh, I was quite certain.

Danny Valencia proved otherwise with an opposite-field double to open the eighth. Stewart had to settle for a one-hitter in which he allowed just the one baserunner.

That was the lineup to have such a game against. What with injuries, the second game of a doubleheader the day after a flight from California, and the expanded September roster, the Twins sported a lineup that would have raised eyebrows in spring training. (Teams are supposed to have at least three regulars in their exhibition lineups; this lineup had two, Mauer and Valencia.)

I don't say this to belittle what Stewart did— he pitched a whale of a game. There were few truly hard-hit balls by the Twins, and those that were hard hit weren't going to be hits because they were hit at infielders.

But there's been altogether too many games with too little offense and too many weak at-bats.

1 comment:

  1. It's pretty sad when I get such great satisfaction from a Valencia double that turns out to be the only hit of the game. But that's all I can do now, look for whatever little light there is in a game.