In the final game of the Mariners series, the Rays had bases loaded with two outs. Brandon Maurer, who had previously walked the last two batters he faced, faced off against Yunel Escobar. According to Fangraphs, Escobar's at-bat would be the highest leverage situation of the whole game (with an Leverage Index score of 3.57), and both batter and pitcher did little to alleviate the tension. Let's take a look at the at-bat, pitch by pitch.
Strike 1. John Buck catches the ball like he's got a glove on a spring. I understand and agree with the griping about Molina, but let's appreciate that he is a rock behind home plate. His glove never wobbles when he catches it and he always gives the ump a great view of the ball. I wonder how much of framing is just catching the ball cleanly.
Escobar is down in an early hole, not the kind of start you'd want to see from a guy who walked the two guys before you.
Waste pitch that hits 95. I don't think Maurer had hit 95 up until that point. Classic sign of a guy just straight up emptying the tank. Maurer knows that this is probably his last batter.
Maurer's curveball had been making the Rays look foolish for the whole game. They'd been watching it float in for strikes for 4 innings, but this one floats just outside. Seriously though, it's a great pitch, I could watch it for hours.
Foul back. Boring. No commentary. Moving on.
This is my favorite pitch of the whole at-bat. I have no freaking idea how Escobar even touched this.
The last fastball Maurer threw was 92 MPH, and his fastest pitch until then had been 95. But out of nowhere, Maurer uncorks a 97 MPH (!) fastball up and inside and somehow Yunel fouled this out-pitch, this aberration, behind him.
At this point I rewound and started gifin' this at-bat, because I just had a feeling something pretty cool was going to happen here. If Escobar wasn't going to get fooled by this pitch (wherever it came from) it would have taken something pretty incredible to strike him out.
Similar spot, much lower velocity. Maurer really wanted that last one, I think. Escobar, after being down 0-2, manages to work the count full.
This ball is hit foul just into the stands, and I thought that it was caught for sure. But instead it landed safely between a guy with sunglasses and a guy wearing a backwards Mariners cap.
Ball four. Fox-Trax shows that the pitch was actually closer than it looked in this GIF, but, again, John Buck didn't really do it any favors by catching it like Mr. Miyagi. Wax on, wax off, Rays up 1-0.
Maurer was pulled after this at-bat and he took it out on inanimate objects. With slow motion we can check out his perfect smashing form. Plus it looks like he's throwing things on the moon, and Moon Baseball is a recurring dream of mine.
Look at that three-quarter arm slot as he whips those towels into that bucket of bubblegum. To be fair, that was a frustrating at-bat, and he can be forgiven for blowing off some steam. Escobar is like a pebble in your shoe that no matter how you try to walk, you can't keep it from digging into the bottom of your foot. Eventually you just have to give in and take your shoe off. But Brandon Maurer couldn't take his shoe off. He was pitching in a baseball game. What are you even saying.
This at-bat would actually prove to be enough, as the Rays would go on to win 2-0 on the heels of a terrific performance by Odorizzi, meat-loafing the series from the Mariners.