Brian VanderBeek

August 5, 2014

Beek’s Blog: The mystery of a three-pitch ninth inning

The approach of the Modesto Nuts’ hitters came into question after Lancaster needed only three ninth-inning pitches to retire the side in a 4-2 game

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Following Monday’s 4-2 loss to Lancaster, I spoke with Modesto Nuts’ manager Don Sneddon about his team’s six consecutive strike outs with runners in scoring position in the fourth and fifth innings.

Those failures shaped the defeat, but I didn’t get the chance until this afternoon to chat with Sneddon about the curious way the game ended. Trailing by those two runs and needing to get a baserunner to bring the tying run to the plate, Modesto hitters Matt Wessinger, Dean Espy and Alex San Juan all swung and made outs on the first pitches they saw.

Three pitches. Game over.

“There are two schools of thought there,” Sneddon said. “One’s from the organization and one is the way I’ve approached it.

“The organization teaches that if you get a good first pitch to hit against a good pitcher, then go after it. I completely understand that logic because you don’t want to get into a hole against a good pitcher.

“My philosophy is a little different. We do something called `catch up.’ If the first pitch is good to hit, then go after it. But if it’s a ball, then you’re taking until you get a strike.

“Wessinger got a good pitch to hit and he missed it. I’m not sure where Espy’s pitch was and whether it was a good pitch to hit, but the pitch San Juan swung at was not good, and he beat himself up after that.”

Those approaches are fine when the game’s not only the line, but doesn’t baseball sense dictate a different approach when your team is down multiple runs in the ninth?

“In the ninth inning, depending on whose you have on the mound, down two runs we’d generally take pitches until we got the first strike,” Sneddon said. “It is frustrating to go down on three pitches with the game on the line, but the approach we bring is always talked about, always a topic of discussion.”

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