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Blog Entry

Kaz, we hardly knew ye ... but for one loooong AB

Posted on: May 20, 2010 2:49 pm
 

Scuffling badly and sinking quickly, the Astros on Tuesday bid farewell to infielder Kaz Matsui, releasing him into the great beyond.

Matusi's Astros legacy?

Well, he said hello in the spring of 2008 by missing several days after being unforgettably diagnosed with, and it pains me to type this, an anal fissure.

He essentially said goodbye last Saturday in San Francisco with a memorable 15-pitch battle with Giants closer Brian Wilson.

It was the longest at-bat in the majors since last July 16, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, when Luis Rodriguez, then of San Diego, battled Colorado's Matt Daley for 16 pitches.

It also was a duel that Wilson, who eventually got Matsui to fly to left with two out and the bases loaded to nail down the save in a 2-1 Giants win, will not soon forget. Even as Matsui fades away and searches for his next job.

"It was definitely the longest at-bat I've gone through at any level," Wilson said. "I've probably gone eight or nine pitches a few times, but to have someone foul off eight pitches in a row. ..."

The at-bat also was a textbook illustration of how, while starting pitchers need three or four pitches to work through lineups, relievers -- closers especially -- usually work with just one or two pitches. Wilson threw 14 fastballs to Matsui, mixing in just one other pitch: A slider at 2 and 2 for the eighth pitch of the at-bat.

I talked with Wilson the other day about the at-bat and we ran through it:

"I went to 0 and 2 right away with fastballs up and away," Wilson said. "Then I threw another fastball up for a ball, and then another up for a ball."

Three of those fastballs were clocked at 98 m.p.h., the fourth was 97.

Wilson's strategy was simple: Blow the ball by the light-hitting (.141) Matsui.

However ... Wilson pumped three more 98 m.p.h. fastballs, and Matsui fought off all three with foul balls.

After the first foul on the 2 and 2 count. ...

"When he fouled that off, I kind of laughed," Wilson said. "I was like, 'OK, let's put it in play.'"

Little did he know.

Seven fastballs into the at-bat, the count still 2 and 2, Wilson changed gears: His eighth pitch was a slider.

"I was going to try and sneak back door and try and catch him off guard," Wilson said. "I'm pretty sure I did. But he still got a piece of it."

Next pitch, back to the fastball, a 98 m.p.h. heater that missed for ball three.

That was it for any semblance of creativity: The next seven pitches were all fastballs between 96 and 98.

The thinking there?

When the slider missed for ball three, Wilson felt he was too close to the edge of the cliff to chance throwing another slider.

"I'm not going to walk in the tying run with a slider," he said. "No."

So with the runners going, Matsui fouled off four more fastballs.

Finally, he flied to left. Ballgame.

"It was fun," said Wilson, whose enjoyment of the moment undoubtedly was directly related to his success.

Funny thing was, very next day, the two staged an encore. Matsui came back to the plate as a pinch-hitter with two on in the ninth, two out and Wilson trying to preserve the Giants' 4-3 lead.

This time, he fanned Matsui on seven pitches.

"Of course he'd come to the plate against the next day," Wilson said, chuckling. "That's how it works, isn't it?"

Matsui was hitting .141 with just one extra-base hit in 78 plate appearances when the Astros released him. Chances are, Wilson will remember him far longer than Houston fans.

Likes: This look at Bryce Harper, the probable No. 1 pick in the draft this summer, from Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post. ... The Pepsi commercial, geared around the "Refresh" campaign, featuring "conversations" between major leaguers, such as Yankees ace CC Sabathia and pitching coach Dave Eiland meeting at the mound during a game. Sabathia suggests putting an organic garden in the bullpen, while Eiland counters with a suggestion of arranging a group hug for all New Yorkers. ... Throwback Pepsi and Throwback Mountain Dew. Real sugar, like the old days, instead of corn syrup. A far cleaner drink with no filmy aftertaste. I dig each of them and wish they would be permanently available in the grocery stores instead of just temporarily. ... The Rolling Stones re-issue of Exile on Main St. Haven't picked it up yet, but with special packaging and 10 bonus songs, it's gotta be cool. Will pick it up soon. ... Long bicycle rides.

Dislikes: Still not thrilled with interleague play, and here it comes again this weekend. ... Can't believe I haven't been to In-N-Out burgers since I've been home from spring training. That's so weak. ...

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Stacy, do you remember when I mowed your lawn?
"Your mom came out with just a towel on
"I could tell she liked me from the way she stared
"And the way she said, 'You missed a spot over there'"

-- Fountains of Wayne, Stacy's Mom

 

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