Games » Tampa Bay RaysOct1
I’ve said Bruce Chen is a magician. I must be right, for last night he made the Tampa Bay Rays offense disappear. Bruce absolutely crushed it: a victory, a shutout, a complete game, a quality start, seven strikeouts, less than 12 pitches in four innings, seven innings without a walk and only two hits, one of them a bunt and all without throwing a single pitch over 90 mph.
In fact, that’s what he threw: a single pitch at 90 mph and everything else was slower. He broke down more swings than Charlie Lau. The Rays were taking hacks that came in three parts: 1. Start 2. Stop 3. Try to start again. Then, once he had them thinking about how to slow their swings down, he’d lock them up with an 88-mph fastball.
Brayan Pena said that he and Bruce modeled their game plan on a Baltimore Orioles pitcher who had a good outing against the Rays, Brian Matusz. They looked at the video to see what worked and brought the same strategy into last night’s game. Clearly, the Rays need to get a hold of that video and destroy every copy.
Pena also said Bruce strayed from the game plan in the ninth inning, going inside on Carl Crawford. Crawford had home run distance, but hit it just foul, denting a fan in the process. Brayan took a quick trip to the mound, reminded Bruce to stick to the plan and a couple pitches later, Crawford popped up to short.
If you saw Bruce point at Brayan after that play, that was a thank you.
A BRIEF TIMEOUT: You sure hear a lot of negative stuff about athletes, lots of it deserved. It’s really nice to see two guys who’ve had their struggles handle success so graciously. Pena was explaining their approach, but then threw all the credit to Chen. Chen talked about what a great game Brayan called, thanked his teammates for their efforts, said he loved the organization, appreciated getting a chance when no one else would give him one and talked about his desire to be back next year.
OK, I’ll soon be back to being cynical.
By the way, if you saw Bruce peering back at his defense every time a new hitter came to the plate, that’s his way of figuring out how to pitch the batter. The defenders stand where the batter tends to hit Chen’s pitches. Of course Bruce could look at the spray charts himself (see, I told I was going to be cynical), but this is a shortcut that works for him.
By the end of this extraordinary performance, it sounded like a Springsteen concert: 23,374 fans chanting “Bruce.” This is one of the reasons I love baseball: even a last-place team can provide a special night.
And this was one of them.
10 more starts
Bruce Chen started 23 games and won 12. He had a lead late in two other games and the bullpen came in and gave it up. Bruce could easily be 14-7 right now, which makes you wonder: what would his record be if he’d started 33 games like Zack Greinke? Next season I’m guessing somebody’s going to find out.
Whoever it is, they better have a good third baseman. Chen acknowledged that just about everybody pulls him and he faces mainly right-handers. Josh Fields had three rockets hit his way last night, handled two of them and the third was the one solid hit Bruce gave up.
It makes them who they are
Jon Miller, the TV announcer, once played a game of Strat-O-Matic baseball with Cal Ripkin Jr. on a team flight. Miller beat him. Cal got up, went to his father, Cal Sr., on the same flight (I’d like to think that was obvious), and said, “What did I do wrong?”
Cal Sr. showed him. Cal Jr. then went back to Jon Miller and beat him three straight times.
I’ve been lucky enough to know quite a few professional baseball players. If you asked me describe the entire group in one word it would be “competitive.” These guys compete at everything. If most of us were cut from the freshman basketball team at our high school, we’d go home and figure out what we were going to do now that we weren’t going to be basketball players. Michael Jordan went home and practiced.
OK, so how does this relate to the Royals? Since Jarrod Dyson’s arrival, he’s wowed everyone with his speed. Ned Yost has called his play eye-popping and said they better figure out Gregor Blanco’s second-best position because Dyson’s an incredible centerfielder.
So how do you think that makes Gregor feel?
Last night it made him feel like going second to home on a ball that never left the infield, scoring the first run of the night while the Rays turned a double play. In the third inning it made him feel like stretching a double into a triple right after Dyson tripled. I’ve got no way of knowing what’s in Blanco’s head, but don’t be surprised if he’s feeling competitive.
Jarrod Dyson is showing just one more way a player can make an entire team better without doing anything that will show up in a scorebook.