Some pitchers are poker players. Their faces tell you nothing, or a message that they want you to receive. Jimmy Key might have been a boiling cauldron of emotion on the mound, but you would never know it by looking at him. Dave Stewart's death glare was dishonest but quite effective in producing somewhat intimidated hitters. Other pitchers show anger, frustration and other lively feelings more readily on the mound. Yesterday's game in Toronto featured high anxiety from Josh Towers.
Towers had pitched a brilliant game through 6 shutout innings, allowing
2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. The club led 1-0.
After inducing a routine fly from Jose Guillen, Towers struck out
Adrian Beltre. With two outs, Richie Sexson walked. Jose
Lopez came to the plate, and Troy Glaus conventionally guarded the line
with the tying run on first. Lopez fought off a couple of tough
pitches and then grounded one into the hole which Glaus got a glove on,
but could not handle for an infield hit. John Gibbons came to the
mound and signalled for Casey Janssen, who had been warming in the pen,
to pitch to pinch-hitter Ben Broussard. The camera panned to Josh
Towers and all one could see in his face was anxiety. The crowd
gave him well-deserved recognition for his fine outing as he left the
mound, but the anxious expression did not leave his face until Janssen
induced Broussard to pop up.
It was an anxious moment for the team, but not exceptionally so. For Towers personally, though, it was a moment of high anxiety. If those runners came around to score, he would be charged with 2 earned runs and potentially get an L next to his name despite the great outing. For a pitcher on a short leash, the simple statistical look at the game- 6.2IP, 2ER, loss vs. 6.2IP, 0ER, win matters significantly to his season and his career. It is unfortunate that the simple statistical look can be so deceptive.
On another note, home plate umpire Tim Timmons seemed to me to have a generous strike zone especially on the outside black of the plate to right-handed hitters. Both Towers and Seattle starter Jeff Weaver exploited the strike zone effectively, and the result was a pitcher's duel, similar to the one that Towers had with Paul Byrd a couple of weeks ago right before the All-Star break. It did make me wonder whether control pitchers are better able to take advantage of a generous side-to-side strike zone and power pitchers better able to take advantage of a generous high strike zone. If that were the case, it might be a factor in deciding whether to pull a starting pitcher in a questionable case. Research will be required to answer that question.
King Felix faces the Doctor in less than half an hour. It should be a treat.