Monday, May 16, 2005

Aaron Sele on the Tightrope 

I did some posting over at Sportspot tonight, and did my best to capture each inning that Sele worked. Unfortunately, I missed the first inning due to a bout of late night hunger from my five year old. So I missed a Jeter hit and Sheffield walk before Sele escaped. Here are my excerpts and thoughts as they happened real-time tonight...

Second Inning
Lets see how Aaron follows up his typical Sele-esque first inning (one hit, one walk, no runs phew!). He's got a 2-0 lad to work with. Here's a pitch by pitch look at inning two.

Tino Martinez up. 2-1 pitch, Tino swings over a high curveball and tops the ball for a routine 4-3 putout. Yankee announcers are ridiculing the state of the field ever since ARod slipped.

The hitter formerly known as Bernie Williams comes in. 1-1 curve juuuust misses low. 2-1. Ugly high (curve that doesn't break or change) to 3-1. Good pitch fouled off 3-2. Fouls off 85 MPH fastball. Shakes off Olivo twice to throw an 89 MPH just wide ball four. There's baserunner one on the inning.

Jason Giambi injects himself into the batter's box. First pitch up and away 87 MPH fastball and Olivo trots out to the mound to explain to Aaron that he is a curveball pitcher, don't try to break 85 on the fastball!. And that Giambi ain't what he used to be. "Quit shaking me off, meat, relax and throw strikes!" 84 MPH fastball down the pipe, strike one. Looked smooth. Pickoff throw not really close (does Bernie steal many these days?) 72 MPH curve that Giambi swings and misses badly on. Giambi fouls off a change. Big hook at 1-2 and Giambi almosts bites as ball dips into the dirt for ball two. 86 MPH fastball on the high inside corner taken for strike three. That was actually a heckuva pitch.

John Flaherty up and gets a first pitch strike down the middle. The hook drops below the knees for ball one. 1-1 pitch is a pretty curve that Flaherty looks at for strike two. That 12-6 dip is very pretty when its working. Almost works on a ball in the dirt as Flaherty checks his swing for ball two. Aaron throws a perfect strike three on the outside corner, but it is called ball three. 3-2 pitch in same location and Flaherty sticks a bat out and dunks a single to left field. John Flaherty is now 9 for 17 lifetime against Aaron Sele, and we now have our requisite two baserunners for the inning.

Derek Jeter up with 2 outs, runners on first and third, and my palms starting to sweat. First pitch is curve down, and second pitch is change low. 2-0 pitch to Jeter is a meatball that Jeter hits sharply right to Bloomquist and Sele is once again out of the inning.

Sele is actually pitching pretty well tonight. Moving the ball around, and facing a bit of a squeeze on the strike zone. The man CAN pitch, even as his arsenal is in decline.

Just not better than at least two players currently pitching in AAA.

Third Inning
Heading into the third and the big "A" has stranded 4 baserunners and thrown 22 of 41 pitches for strikes. Fingernails are dug firmly into stone and I'm not looking down!

"ARods Three Home Run Yankee ClassicJ" premieres tomorrow on YES.

Robinson Cano clues into the fact that Sele is trying to lay in an easy first pitch fastball for a strike and promptly crushes Sele's first offering off the base of the centerfield wall for a standup double.

Gary Sheffield gets a more careful first pitch, and, you guessed it, its a ball. Second pitch curve is in the dirt. Aaron is thinking "Robinson CAN NO just crushed a pitch off me, maybe my time is done. Time to nibble." Sure enough, he can't get Sheff to bite on a pitch just off the plate. 3-0 pitch and thankfully, Gary is taking a pitch down the middle for strike 1. 3-1 pitch and its another curve into the dirt and the second walk of Gary Sheffield.

First and second, nobody out, and Godzilla is up. Yikes. 84 MPH up the ladder and big swing and a miss! Sele needs to be ahead in the count. Ball one is 87MPH and tailing up and away like we saw in the second inning walks. Overthrowing again. 88 MPH fastball - yup - up and away. 86 MPH fastball low and away... no, caught the corner for strike two. Sele taking about 20 seconds between pitches. Inside fastball chopped toward second for the first out, but it moves the runners along.

And here comes ARod. The booing has to end someday, fans. 85 MPH fastball down the pipe and ARod swings through it. Phew! 0-1 pitch is the big hook diving into the dirt, but ARod lunges for it and pokes it foul to give Sele ahead 0-2. Sele's long stare has ARod calling for time, and now Olivo comes out to the mound. "Can we get this guy to chase another out of the zone?" Nope, fastball well away, and its 1-2. 87 MPH fastball down pipe, ripped hard to Beltre, and that will score a run. Its now 2-1 M's, runner on second and two out.

That brings up Tino, and they are going to take the bat out of his hands with an intentional walk. Interesting strategy call. Of course, its apparent that Aaron feels most comfortable with two runners on.

Here comes Bernie Williams who now feels dissed. First pitch breaking ball low for ball one. Uh oh. Fastball low - grounded to first and the M's escape the inning. Phew!

Sele's line through three innings... 1 run on 3 hits with 4 walks (one intentional). Another 10 strikes in 22 pitches gives Aaron 31 strikes out of 63.

Vintage Sele '05.

Fourth Inning
Strap on your safety belt, its time for another trip on Mr. Sele's Wild Ride!

Jason Giambi steps in and tries the Robinson Cano Method for Success by swinging at the first pitch. A Giambiesue dribbler to first.

John Flaherty (9-17 lifetime vs Sele). First pitch is a beautiful curve for a strike. Followed by a change? for ball one. Gets a 84 MPH fastball up and fouled off for strike 2. Sele moving relatively fast and lays in an 86 MPH fastball that Flaherty lifts up to Randy Winn for out number two.

No runners on, two outs? What's going on?

Derek Jeter up and goes for the first pitch inside. Jeter fists it over first base for a single. Ball one dunked in. Tough luck, Aaron, but that's what happens when you're this hittable.

Now, Cano steps in and again goes for the first pitch, but this time Sele is ready and throws it out of the zone. Sele stalls for time with a throw to first. Change juuuuuust misses outside for ball two. 85 MPH fastball that would have been ball two is fouled off. Next pitch, Cano sticks out his bat and pokes a soft liner right at Beltre.

See what Sele has done? By allowing Cano the leadoff double on the first pitch in the third, he now has the more inept Yankees swinging at the first pitch. Genius!

8 of 10 pitches for strikes in the inning keeps Sele's pitch count at 73.

Fifth Inning
Sheffield up and looking to walk again, takes first pitch for ball inside. 84 MPH fastball on inside corner drilled foul. Ugly breaking ball in the dirt goes 2-1. Wow! Made Sheffield looked silly on the hanging curve. Sheff looking for fastball misses with huge swing. Next pitch curveoutside, and then 85 MPH fastball is juuuuuuuuuuusssst a hair outside. Sele still not getting that call and Sheff gets his third walk of the game.

Matsui gets the slow-poke Sele treatment that makes Matsui step out of the batters box for what the announcers are saying is the first time this season. Sele dips a curve in for a strike. Fastball high through the zone is fouled back and its 0-2. DP ball anyone? First, a pickoff attempt. Sele's extra long delay pays off as Sheffield breaks early for second base. Sele eventually sees him, steps off the mound and throws to Sexson to get Sheffield in the rundown! Woo Hoo! 0-2 pitch is a curve in the dirt. 1-2 pitch is that 88 MPH fastball that tails up and away out of thestrikezone. 2-2 pitch is a curve that Godzilla rips right at Sexson, and its out number 2.

ARods up, and the booing comes out. First pitch outside, and the second one is that over-humped fastball tailing up and in for 2-0. Strike one is the 84 MPH fastball on inside corder. Strike two comes with 83 MPH at the knees. 2-2 pitch, and ARod calls time again. 73 breaking ball in the dirt is not even close. Shakes off two pitches, and ARod steps out yet again. Breaking ball low for ball four, and we have our requisite two baserunners on the inning.

Tino Martinez comes up and is unlikely to be intentionally walked again. First pitch Tino rips past a diving Sexson, and Arod holds up at second respecting Ichiro's arm. Might as well have walked him...

Here comes Bernie! Breaking ball for a strike. The humper actually stays down, and Bernie fouls off the 88 MPH offering for strike two. Let the nibbling (and stalling) begin! 83 MPH fastball high is fouled back. And Olivo comes to the mound to talk with Sele. They are not on the same page, or else the strategy is to dull the Yankee hitters. Sele puts a mistake in there, and gets away with it, as the ball is hit to Winn in left.

Three more baserunners, no more runs. Living on the Edge!

Sele has got to be the slowest working pitcher in the history of the game. At least tonight. He is boring the Yankees senseless. Sheffield got so bored he tried to steal second just thinking that Aaron had died.

95 pitches through five innings. Will we see Sele in the sixth? No mention of the bullpen from the Yankees announcers.

Grover was the "Human Rain Delay" in his time. If he stepped into the plate against Sele today, I believe they could have reversed time like in that Superman movie, and maybe spun the world back to the day when the M's decided to sign Aaron Sele. Would they do it again?

Sixth Inning
11 baserunners through 5 innings. 51 strikes in 95 pitches. And 110 minutes to get through 5 innings of 2-1 baseball where the opposing pitcher is cruising.

And he's back for the sixth. And happy to see Jason Giambi. First pitch ball, second pitch tails over for a strike. 1-1 pitch inside for ball two. 84 on outside corner is fouled back for strike two. Throws up a meatball down the middle, and Jason fouls it back. The big hook drops to the dirt, and Giambi graciously flails and misses, and Sele has his 3rd strikeout of the game (2 from Giambi).

John Flaherty looks at strike one, and then looks at ball one away to the backstop. Sele lays in an 84 mph fastball that Flaherty fouls behind him. Changeup tails back and juuust misses the stike zone. Sele goes with what worked last time and just lays up a pitch for Flaherty to hit a mile in the air to Winn... but it goes foul. Will he try again? Yes, but this time Flaherty levels his swing and lines it foul. 2-2 deja vu and Sele sends the old tantalizing slider(?) down and away, and Flaherty flails helplessly.

Sele is looking stronger, but that was Giambi, and a guy who hits AFTER Giambi. Here comes Jeter again. First pitch ball inside. Fastball fouled off, 1-1. 87 MPH fastball just off outside corner. No one is getting that call tonight. Fastball down pipe is fouled off, and now the crowd is actually getting into it, with a 2-strike count. Hangs the 12-6 but Jeter just fouls it back. 2-2 deja vu... another fastball just off the outside corner. Will he find the inside corner for strike 3? Down the middle 86 MPH fastball and Jeter swings... and misses!

Aaron Sele just struck out the side. Wow. If he left now, he would finish with a Quality Start - 6 innings, 1 earned run, despite 11 baserunners.

That inning may have earned Aaron a 7th inning of work (not like we need to save his arm).

The final tally is 6 innings, 6 walks (one intentional), 4 singles, 1 double and 5 strikeouts.

And after 115 pitches, the M's pull Sele just as he is looking his strongest.

In the next inning, Shigetosi Hasegawa stinks and loads the bases. George Sherill makes his major league debut and does the job inducing a double play ball that, first, Beltre doesn't take the easy play of stepping on third, and instead throws home, and then Sexson drops the relay from Olivo. Putz shows up and gives up a grand slam that barely clears Reed's mitt and the wall.

The Yankees lead 5-2 as I post this and the M's bat have been silent. This is an absolute nightmare for Mariner fans. We could lose to the Yankees AND still have to sit through another Aaron Sele adventure in five days.

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