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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Pitcher's Duel at Coors

And who says fans don't like pitcher's duels? Tonight I scored the Rockies 1-0 victory over the Padres at Coors Field. It was the first 1-0 game here and the 847th played in the regular season (there were also two post season games played in 1995 and neither went 1-0). That is a record as you can imagine. The next longest streak of non 1-0 games belongs to the Philadelphia A's of the American Association who went 635 games between 1882 and 1891.

Jason Jennings got the win and pitched 7 innings. He was in and out of trouble all night but was helped by three double plays. He threw 110 pitches but only 63 were strikes. For the Padres Brian Lawrence was impressive. In 7 and one third innings he threw just 74 pitches, 49 for strikes and was keeping the Rockies off balance with his three quarters delivery and variety of breaking balls. Each pitcher only struck out one batter in the game.

The Rockies got their run in the 6th when Aaron Miles bunted for a single with one out (incidentally Miles was hitting leadoff with his 2 walks in 179 plate appearances). Luis Gonzales then doubled to the 420 foot mark in left-center as Miles came all the way around to score.

There was an interesting managerial decision however. With the 1-0 lead Rockies manager Clint Hurdle brought in right-hander Jay Witasik to pitch the 8th when the Padres were due to send Brian Giles, Ryan Kleso, and Mark Sweeney, all lefties, to the plate. Although Witasik has pitched well the logical choice in that situation to me would have been left-hander Brian Fuentes. But I assume that since Fuentes has been tagged as the "closer" Hurdle felt uncomfortable bringing him in an inning other than the 9th. If so, that's really dumb. Clearly, the numbers 3, 4, and 5 hitters coming up in the top of the 8th inning was the highest leverage situation of the game. Why not use your best pitcher, especially if he has a massive platoon advantage? Fuentes had a .190 SLUG and .271 OBP against lefties. Hurdle's discomfort may be related to the fact that if he does bring in Fuentes and he fails in the 8th, he'll get second guessed by most of the media. If he leaves him for the ninth and Witasik blows it nobody will say a word (except me). By the way, if you're interested in relief usage patterns and leveraged situations (aren't we all?) in the era of the closer you should check out The Hardball Times Bullpen Book. Fascinating stuff.

As it turned out Witasik walked the leadoff hitter but then retired the next three in the 8th. Fuentes had some trouble in the 9th as he walked the first two batters before striking out the next two. Gonzales then booted a slowly hit ball by Eric Young to load the bases. Then on a 2-2 count he struck out Brian Giles on a foul tip. The 30,228 fans were rocking the ballpark in the 9th and (almost) everybody went home happy. A great day at the ballpark.

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