He's not exactly intimidating, either -- 36, clean-cut, droopy-eyed, with a fastball that tops out around 87/88 and a flat splitter, he resembles a smarmy British tutor more than a professional ballplayer. Yet he does his job with surprising efficiency and has done it for so long that he's getting paid $3 million this year to pitch in the American League East. And his ERA is 3.39.
He's a siphonophore, people! An invertebrate who lures in victims with a benign bioluminescence, only to eat them up when they get too close. In other words, he wants to sneak in first-pitch strikes, then force you to swing at his ensuing barely-off-the-plate fastballs that tempt like Rita Hayworth in Gilda. The Royals fell into this trap, except they weren't getting out on just the good pitches -- those beckoning fastballs -- but on everything, from ugly slow curves to other junk that don't have a name.
In his complete game win -- I just shuddered -- Steve Trachsel scattered five hits and three walks, getting into trouble only twice, in the 7th when he gave up his only run and in the 8th when he induced a bases loaded fly-out from Mark Teahen. You knew the Royals were in trouble when they started the game thusly:
David DeJesus: pitch 1, ball
pitch 2, ground out to second
Mark Grudzielanek: pitch 1, strike (looking)
pitch 2, line out to second
Mark Teahen: pitch 1, strike (looking)
pitch 2, strike
pitch 3, ground out to short
That's seven pitches, six strikes. The Royals came out for the 2nd with a concerted effort to be more patient, but the result was another 1-2-3 inning. Then Ryan Shealy, the potential tying run who may need a few Little League lessons in sliding, was thrown out at home after Jason LaRue missed a home run by inches. And that was the ballgame, because Trachsel settled down and retired the next nine of 10 batters.
Ending this post here would save us some pain, but as I gave up watching this for RSTN (at least with my full attention), I feel a need to trudge on.
Until Alex Gordon walked in the 7th, Trachsel fell behind in two-ball counts on five occasions. With one exception -- a Shealy single -- the Royals bailed him out each time: ground out on 2-0, line out on 2-1, pop out on 2-1 and ground out on 2-0. The old man didn't throw more than five pitches to any hitter until the 7th, Gordon's walk. I almost think the Royals were aggressive at the plate not because they were desperate to bust out of their funk -- they've now lost the last five by a combined score of 45-11 -- or because of the weather, as Trachsel is quoted as saying, but because they were afraid of striking out to the man who doesn't strike anyone out. Like in Little League, when a girl's on the mound and batters are all too happy with ground outs, so the Royals used 0-2 swings on 2-1 pitches, and the result is an illusion of dominance for the man on the mound.
Buddy Bell, what have you to say?
"We helped him early on, swinging at the first pitch. We've got a bunch of guys who are -- I hate to say this -- trying to do too much. I have a hard time believing that you can do too much, but we've got guys who are just trying to put all of us on their shoulders. And it doesn't work that way."
Those guys lifting others above their shoulders, apparently, are Grudzielanek, Tony Pena Jr. and Gordon. I think they need more help.