When a pitcher opens up it usually doesn’t mean he went on “Oprah” and declared his love for Katie Holmes. When a pitcher opens up it means his front side (the side with the glove on it) is doing something too soon or too violently and that’s screwing up his arm side (the side holding the baseball).
Thursday night Wade Davis opened up.
That meant his front side was opening too soon and too strong. And that meant his arm side was late; Wade’s arm side literally couldn’t catch up with what his glove side was doing.
I could try to get even more technical, although we’re rapidly approaching the limits of my expertise, but the end result of all this was the ball was missing what Wade was aiming at and it was missing it to his arm side. After the game, Ned Yost gave a more scientific explanation: Wade Davis was out of whack. (Which now makes me wonder if anyone is ever in whack … but I digress.)
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Wade knew something was funky when he threw a cutter; a pitch halfway between a slider and a fastball. When thrown by a right-handed pitcher, it’s a pitch that should move away from a right-handed batter; but when Wade threw his cutter it was moving toward a right-handed batter —completely the opposite of what a cutter is supposed to do.
So pretend you’re Wade Davis — you’ve got a one-run lead, 36,318 fans are screaming at you and you just discovered you’re pitching in Bizarro World; left is right, up is down and for all you know, white is black.
What do you do?
Those of us pretending to be Wade Davis would probably panic. The real Wade Davis came up with a plan: slow down and calm down. Trying to throw the ball harder was going to just make things worse, so Wade backed off.
How the eighth inning went
The inning started with a single to Gerardo Parra. Then Jonathan Lucroy flew out to right field and Wade was a third of the way through his eighth-inning obstacle course. But with Ryan Braun at the plate, Parra stole second base; the Brewers were a hit away from tying the game.
Wade got Braun to hit a groundball to short, but Alcides Escobar couldn’t handle it and now Wade had the tying and winning run on base.
Adam Lind, the Brewers cleanup hitter was at the plate and Wade walked him on four pitches. Now the tying and winning run were in scoring position and the Brewers were one hit away from taking the lead. To make things even more interesting, Wade then went 3-0 on Aramis Ramirez. Davis had thrown seven straight fastballs and missed the strike zone seven times in a row.
Miss the strike zone an eighth time and the Royals’ lead would be gone.
But the eighth straight fastball was a called strike and the ninth straight fastball was popped up on the infield; now there were two outs and Scooter Gennett was at the plate. Six more fastballs in the upper 90s to Gennett and the count was stuck at 2-2. Gennett had fouled off three fastballs in a row and that’s when Wade Davis threw an 85-mph curveball.
The change in velocity was too much for Scooter; he locked up and took a called strike three and Wade and the Royals were out of the inning.
Wade got away with a mistake
After the game I asked Wade how he knew it was time for the curve and Wade said he didn’t even want to throw it when he threw it. Wade had two strikes on Gennett and he was trying to bounce the curve out in front of home plate — and missed his target by 4 or 5 feet.
Another reporter came over to Wade’s locker and said Gennett did not appear to be looking for that pitch and Wade smiled and said not too many hitters look for high curveballs. It started out above the zone and dropped in at the last moment.
If you didn’t like this, you don’t like baseball
After Wade got the lead to closer Greg Holland, the Brewers were pretty much cooked. Holland had his good stuff and it was business as usual: Holland got the save and the Royals won the ball game.
As I was watching the eighth inning — an inning filled with tension and suspense — I was thinking that if you didn’t like this, you don’t like baseball. Afterward, I told Wade I didn’t know how it was for him to be in the middle of all that, but for a fan it was incredibly entertaining. As Wade Davis walked off he said: “Nobody comes here to see 1-2-3; give ’em a show.”
Thursday night in the eighth inning of 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, that’s just what Wade Davis did.