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Wander’s Fenway at bat: deconstructing a work of art

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Wander Boy prevails

Tamp Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Yesterday, Wander Franco broke open a tie game with a two-run home run. That alone is exciting. But when it comes on an 11 pitch cat-and-mouse game of an at bat, it’s worth looking at more carefully.

Wander had already faced Houck two times when he came up in the sixth inning; he had struggled against Houck like other Rays hitters. The xBA his two batted balls was 0.120 and 0.040 respectively.

To start this third at bat, Houck got an easy strike with a 4-seam fastball again.

The second strike of the AB was foul at another 4-seam fastball. Then, Wander spoiled 2 more 4-seam fastball strikes.

The count was 1-2. Wander did well enough to instill in Houck the idea that fastball would not work

Houck chose a different pitch. His backfoot slider was able to induce an empty swing against a LHB. Wander was almost fooled, too. That’s a relief. Houck would have thought that sliders would be effective against Wander.

2-2. Houck tried to throw a inside 4-seam fastball to ring up Wander. It could have happened because it was after Wander was surprised by the inside slider.

But, Houck’s command wasn’t perfect, and Wander hit 4th foul at 4-seam fastball easily. He’s saying “You know, that pitch doesn’t work.”

It’s 2-2. I thought he’d choose the inside slider again. But, Houck threw a splitter. This unexpected choice could have embarrassed Wander.

However, it wasn’t the best pitch he could throw. I think Houck had to throw that uncomfortable pitch because Wander made things difficult. Nice Try, Houck.

3-2. It’s time for the pitcher to be pressured. Houck had to throw the best pitch he had.

He already knew that a 4-seam fastball would not work against Wander. So, he had to choose a slider. Then, Wander spoiled two well-commanded sliders. Stressful... I don’t want to be Houck in this situation.

3-2, again and again.

Sliders didn’t work and 4-seam fastballs didn’t, too. Splitter? Houck wouldn’t want to allow a BB.

He threw a sinker. He had deceived Wander with a sinker in his previous at-bat. The red circle was that pitch. And most Rays batters were fooled by this sinker, expecting a 4-seam fastball. It wasn’t a bad choice.

But, I am Wander Boy. We already know the result.

If Houck had commanded the sinker well, would Wander be fooled? Maybe..

Wander pushed him into a corner with great eye after 0-2. This was a desperate situation for a pitcher. It was hard for Houck to throw the best one.

It’s a long journey, but not long enough to explain the greatness of Wander. Thank you for reading this. I wanted to remember his great battle this way and share it with you.

  • note : It was originally the tweet thread and was edited to a more accessible version for this site.