In baseball, you rarely lose a game because of one thing that one player does. That is both comforting and frustrating for players, especially young ones trying to make it at the highest level. Such is the case with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Tyler Skaggs, in the major leagues while only 21 years old. His start on Friday night against the San Francisco Giants was a perfect example of that.
His line in the box score was four innings and five runs allowed. Through the first two innings, he was solid. Then the third inning happened, when there were a few examples that illustrated what manager Kirk Gibson after the games, "we made it harder on ourselves."
He walked the opposing pitcher to lead off the inning. He got Angel Pagan to line out to the outfield. Then Marco Scutaro hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Shortstop John McDonald made a great play, diving to make the stop. He wanted to get the double play and, while on the ground, flipped the ball with his glove to second baseman Aaron Hill. Hill was unable to catch the ball cleanly and everyone was safe. With Cain being the runner, McDonald easily could have gathered himself and gotten the force out.
"It was a tough play up the middle," Skaggs said after the game. "I'm just glad he got a glove on it." So instead of either being out of the inning or a man on first with two outs, there were two men on and only one out. Skaggs allowed a hit to Pablo Sandoval to load the bases for the Giants' best hitter -- catcher Buster Posey.
Posey hit a grounder to third. Ryan Wheeler threw home to try and get Cain at the plate on the force. It was close, but the umpire signaled that Cain was safe. Both Gibson and Skaggs said, "I thought he was out," after the game. A run was in. "They got the call on that one," as Gibson described. "Then he (Skaggs) made a mistake to (Hunter) Pence -- that's the big one," said Gibson.
That's when the game was decided. Pence hit a 2-2 fastball into the left field seats for a grand slam.
"He fought off two really good pitches before that and I threw a pretty good curveball that I thought was a strike, but you've got to tip your hat to him," Skaggs described. That curveball would have been strike three. Two pitches later, it was 5-0.
A leadoff walk to the pitcher, a tough play that ends up getting blown, a questionable call at the plate and a possible third strike, and even still Skaggs could have gotten out of the inning with just the one run. As Gibson said, "All the other stuff happens, he throws hims a high fastball right where you don't want to throw it."
In the end, that is on Skaggs. However, you could sense the internal battle that a young player goes through. He was frustrated because he felt his effort was good enough, but then, due to outside circumstances, he was in a position to have to perform more, only he made mistakes that also cost the team.
"I pitched good enough to make some good outs there," he said after the game. He also pointed out that he thought that the out was made at home, that he thought he made good pitches to Cain, but the result was a walk. He also believed that he had struck out Pence, which was not called. So you can see how he was pointing out things that weren't his fault.
At the same time, on three different occasions he accepted responsibility for the loss. He said his performance "was unacceptable," that it was his mistake and that it was his fault.
It is a tough lesson to learn for anybody, but especially youngster who still has to prove himself at this level.
After Pence's hit, he quickly settled down to retire the final two batters. In many cases, he probably would have been pulled then. However, Gibson felt Skaggs should get out there for another inning, which ended quietly.
"One of the reason we let him go back out for the fourth was because we though that he needed to do that and build some character," explained Gibson in his postgame remarks. "He had to get back on the horse and he needed to go make good pitches, which he did."
"As a young pitcher, you've got to learn how to get out of jams like that," said Skaggs. "I was fortunate enough in my first two outings to get out of jams, but this one I thought I got out of it, but it's my fault."
He will get it. He will know how to balance the individual performance with what the team actually this.
"We left 15 on, we were 2-16...we certainly had our opportunities."
"We made it harder on ourselves"
"We didn't make some plays. He didn't cover first. He made it tough on himself. It was just a mental error. He's young and some of the things you don't want to make an excuse for it. He though the ball was going to foul and he didn't get over there. He'll learn from that and you know that going in. The play at second base we tried to get two on, instead of getting an out, that worked against us. There were a couple of other plays, the one at home -- I though he was out, they got the call on that one. Then he made a mistake to Pence -- that's the big one. All the other stuff that happens, he throws him a high fastball right where you don't want to throw it. That was their big blow.
"That whole inning kind of exploded. It is what it is," Skaggs said. Hopefully, he now has great experience in facing adversity. He knows that he has to step up, even when it isn't his fault. The team knew that in advance, being that he is a young player. But like with all players, growing pains are a part of it. Hopefully it means that in 2013, they will be good to go.
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