You certainly can’t blame John Farrell for his post game comment “it’s not been a good night.” He’d just seen his Boston Red Sox get pasted by their AL East arch-rival – the New York Yankees – in an ugly affair that took a marathon 3 hours, 51 minutes to complete. His much-vaunted lineup had seemed disinclined to swing at any of C.C. Sabathia‘s sluggish offerings (seriously, someone get C.C. a feed bag of Captain Crunch quick – he looks horrible right now), Jacoby Ellsbury was lacing hits seemingly every time he came up to bat, and Boston’s starting pitcher Felix Doubront was abysmal; it most certainly was not a good night – at least from his perspective.
But for the objective fan of baseball (like me), woah boy. Never before had the end of a 14-5 game been so exciting, completely because Farrell had actually prefaced his lament with a phrase that is like catnip to an impartial observer: “Any time you end up with a position player on the mound (it’s not been a good night).” Position player + pitching = high comedy. In yesterdays instance, having already used three relievers to combine for 5 1/3 innings, first baseman/occasional outfielder/pinch-hitter/NON-PITCHER Mike Carp was asked by Boston to stretch his valuable versatility even further, and climb the mound for the top of the ninth. And thus, as is always the case whenever a position player is summoned to the bump, an otherwise-boring game suddenly became must-watch (mlb.)TV.
It all started so promisingly – after being cheered voraciously to the mound by the remaining Fenway faithful, and walking Mark Teixeira, Carp (somewhat hilariously) induced a 6-5-3 double play from the second batter of the inning, Brian McCann; Carp would later acknowledge “That was cool right off the bat.” Unfortunately (for him and the Sox at least), that would be the highlight of the inning, because with two outs and none on, the wheels officially came off – and the exceptional performance began.
Mixing a genuine 66 to 70 mph knuckleball with what appeared to be both a four-seam and two-seam ‘heater’ (offerings that apparently ranged from 79 to 84 mph), Carp would walk the next four hitters – pushing across a run – before getting pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson to pop-up to David Ross for the final out. Though he didn’t cede a hit, Carp would face seven batters, and throw a total of 38 pitches – only 15 of which were strikes*! The resultant plot graph of his pitch location was a masterpiece in horrible command/beautiful entertainment:
More than simply that analytical equivalent to the Mona Lisa though, Carp’s outing provided additional entertainment value thanks to the trolling tweets, inspired trivia questions, and exquisitely tongue-in-cheek scouting analysis that followed. Furthermore, though Carp was quoted post-game in saying “Obviously, I’m not taking it too seriously out there,” the shaking off of his catcher at least once and look in at the umpire when he disagreed with a non-strike call suggested otherwise – only adding to the mirth-factor of his pitching debut.
Now this is not intended to bash Carp – he actually looked incredibly comfortable in an otherwise tough spot, and admirably saved an already-taxed Boston bullpen from further embarrassment – but his appearance last night was brilliant in its exceptionally farcical nature. The Yankees looked genuinely unwilling to swing in fear of inciting a brawl (or just couldn’t reach that far outside the zone). It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a position player seen on a mound this year either, nor will it likely be the last, but Mike Carp’s outing may well be the funniest come seasons end.
Only if you’re not John Farrell that is.