In the fifth inning, Eduardo Nunez hit a line drive back up the middle. It caught Jake Odorizzi on the right ankle, with his foot planted in the final stages of his follow through.
As a baseball fan, you see pitchers get hit low all the time. It’s generally not a big deal. They are stunned for a second, and then they chase after the ball to complete the play and get the out at first base. The manager and the trainer come out to the mound, but while the pitcher surely has a nasty bruise, he’s a tough guy. He tells them that he’s okay and then he keeps pitching.
Jake Odorizzi acted differently. He yanked his foot off the ground, and stuck it straight back. He let himself fall onto his front, making sure that the right foot never touched the ground. And then he put his face in the dirt and did not move.
The manager and the trainer came out to the mound, and without much fuss they helped him off the field. Not once did Odorizzi put his right foot down.
Odorizzi is an athlete’s athlete. Perhaps his best “tool” is an elite physical intelligence that once enabled him to learn an entirely new pitch, “Thing 2”—a splitter that would become the butter to his high fastball bread—in a single spring. So it should come as no surprise that when he knew something was wrong he protected his foot by falling in an athletic, intentional manner. But by the same token, it was obvious that something was wrong.
According to Alex Corddry during the broadcast, the X-Rays were negative, and Odorizzi has a right ankle contusion. He is day-to-day. That’s good. It looked much worse.
Outside of that line drive, there was also a game.
Odorizzi worked through an inefficient, harrowing first two innings without giving up any runs. Nunez lead off with a single, and then Andrew Benintendi hit a low liner just over third base that hit the umpire, turning a sure-thing double into the corner into a single. Nunez advanced to third on a flyout, but was out at home, running on contact on a chopper to third. Good play from both Evan Longoria and Wilson Ramos. Mitch Moreland lined straight into Odorizzi’s mitt, and the Rays escaped.
Inning number two took a lot of pitches, but was far less dramatic.
But in the third inning, it caught up with Odorizzi. Benintendi hit a fly ball to the wall in left field. Corey Dickerson was there, but he mistimed the wall, knocking into it before getting his glove on the fly ball. The ball actually bounced off the wall just above his glove, without Dickerson ever having the chance to jump, and ended up a double.
Benintendi found his way to third, with two outs, before coming home on a play that should have ended the inning. Moreland grounded hard down the first base line, and Trevor Plouffe made a great play to dive and stop it. He dropped the ball on the transfer, though, and then had to flip it quickly. His flip forced Odorizzi to reach off first, and Odor couldn’t make that play. The ball knocked off the thumb of his glove, and the run scored.
The fifth inning was probably going to be Odorizzi’s last anyway, with his pitch count nearing 100, but after he left due to injury, it turned into a disaster. Dan Jennings came on, and, through a combination of hits, intentional walks, wild pitches, and passed balls, five runs scored.
The defense was a disaster in the eighth inning. Errors, passed balls, wild pitches. Two runs.
This was not a good game. Very sloppy. It looked bad. Let’s hope it’s only a contusion.
Some other notes:
- Before the start of the fifth inning, the broadcast showed footage from an old James Sheilds complete game. It’s interesting how memory fades. Of course I know that James Shields had a great changeup, but when I saw it back on the screen again, darting down and away, my reaction was “Holy $#!* that guy has a great changeup.” Remembering the thing is not the same as seeing it.
- In the sixth inning, Adeiny Hechavarria hit a towering home run into left field. That’s unusual. Call it news.
- Then Brad Miller did the same thing. Much less newsworthy, but nice to go back-to-back.
- Mallex Smith does not have a strong arm. He should understand that, and should not try to gun down the lead runner with long, difficult, low probability throws. Be easy. Throw to second and keep the second runner from advancing. Carl Crawford had a weak arm, but it always graded out well because he fielded the ball quickly and then made the right throw. Mallex can do that.