Ace Pitchers Break Out the Lumber
It was a big weekend for pitchers who stepped into the batter's box. Well, for two pitchers, anyway. And for very different reasons.
The first big bottom-of-the-order hit came in San Francisco. On Friday night, Giants starter Madison Bumgarner stepped to the plate in the 4th inning with two outs and the bases loaded. On the first pitch he saw from Colorado Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, Bumgarner jacked a grand slam (and his third career home run) deep over the left field wall:
Talk about helping your own cause. Before Bumgarner cleared the bases, the Rockies led, 3-2. At the end of the inning, the score was 6-3. San Francisco would go on to win, 6-5, making the Giants' pitcher's grand slam the difference maker. It was the first grand slam from a Giants pitcher since 2000, and the first pitcher in the bigs to do it since… last season. Cubs pitcher Travis Wood belted that one.
The other pitcher-hitter story of the weekend came in San Diego, where the Detroit met the Padres for an interleague series. Because the game was played in a National League park, the pitchers had to hit. Which meant Tigers ace Justin Verlander had to swing the lumber — something he doesn't do very often. In fact, he was 0-26 coming into Saturday's game. But then he got the monkey off his bat, er, back! In the second inning, he hit an 0-1 pitch up the middle for a single — and his first career hit. His teammates sure look happy for him:
Verlander got a second hit in the fourth inning (despite almost getting gunned down at first by the right fielder). After the game (a 6-2 Tigers win, by the way), Verlander said his last hit came in high school. "It's been nine years in the big leagues now [without a hit]," Verlander said. "[The Padres] probably weren't thinking about that but I sure as heck was. I was watching that ball like a hawk."
So Verlander might not win a Silver Slugger any time soon. But he must feel great to not have a goose egg in his career hitting stats line.
Photos: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images (Bumgarner), Denis Poroy/Getty Images (Verlander)