Last night’s 6-5 win over the Rangers was certainly the most surprising victory for the Mariners so far. After entering the ninth inning with a 6-3 lead Fernando Rodney promptly start to light matches all over the mound at Safeco Field by allowing a single, fielder’s choice, single, stolen base, hit by pitch, walk and then another walk.
By that point a chorus of boos was raining down from Mariners fans wearing their fake beard giveaways as Fernando had loaded the bases with Rangers, gave up a run and thrown less than half his pitches for strikes. Life was looking bleak (i.e. familiar) for Seattle as Adrian Beltre stepped up to the plate.
Rodney may have registered the official save but Justin Smoak was the real hero.
After the game Rodney cited overthrowing to explain his struggles. Tying to coax a double play grounder to close out the game Rodney described how the final sequence unfolded:
“It was a good pitch, and (Beltre) hit a line drive to first. Game over.”
Good pitch? Let’s take a closer look:
The pitch was a fastball with tailing action toward the outer edge of the plate. Belt high, 97 MPH according to MLB.tv.
As the blue square located on the right side PITCHf/x confirms the location. Belt high, borderline strike.
While the last pitch thrown by Fernando certainly wasn’t awful (unlike all the lawn darts and airballs on that chart — yeesh) I think it’s incorrect to label it a “good pitch” considering a fastball isn’t the best way to induce a ground ball. But Rodney possessed such awful command last night that he threw only three off-speed pitches, so he was only going to throw hard cheese at the dish.
In my opinion Beltre jumped on a very hittable offering. Though the horizontal location right on the outside may look great at first hand it’s important to remember the fastball was tailing in toward Adrian, giving him a better chance to barrel up the pitch. And throwing a belt-high fastball to Beltre is just lunacy. He’s one of the best fastball hitters in the game. But it just so happened Smoak’s incredible reaction saved the M’s and Rodney for an incredible finish.