Usually, I like to stay within the realm of the current week for the namesake of this series, but a buddy of mine pointed me to this one after catching up on priors and said it deserved a look. Call it a favor to a friend, but we’re briefly traveling back in time to bring you this week’s at-bat, and to quote the great Justin Paradis, this one is a “deep cut.”
The date is April 13th, the Angels are at Wrigley Field for a early inter-league matchup with the Cubs, and they’re commanding a 6-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning with flamethrower Hansel Robles entering from the pen.
After a very quick out to start the inning on a first-pitch flyout by Javier Baez, Robles looked primed to mow down the bottom of the Cubs lineup, but instead was forced to battle. Jason Heyward ripped a two-strike double on the fifth pitch of the next at-bat and Willson Contreras immediately followed with a fierce battle that saw him escape an 0-2 hole and scrape an infield single down the third base line (also on fifth pitch). After getting a key strikeout of Kyle Schwarber (you guessed it… on the fifth pitch), Robles walked David Bote on (yup) five pitches. Can you count by fives and add one? That’s 21 pitches in high leverage with the once-distant tying run coming to the dish in the form of the nine-hole hitter. That hitter? Mark Zagunis.
How many pitches does Robles have left? Can Zagunis lock in for a critical two-out hit?
Angels lead 6-2, bases loaded, two outs, Robles vs Zagunis… here’s your at-bat of the week.
Pitch #1, 0-0
Right out of the gate, Robles decides to challenge Zagunis at 96.8 mph with some serious tail action and Zagunis watches it cruise down the pipe for a strike. Knowing what Robles can pump, Zagunis appears to be getting his timing dialed.
Pitch #2, 0-1
Creative approach from Robles here, as he immediately messes with Zagunis’ timing and lets this slider cut to the outside corner, but I’m surprised to see Zagunis watch this one go by. Perhaps he got his foot down a little too soon, but not only is Zagunis now in an 0-2 hole, but he’s been sped up to 97 and slowed down to 89 in the process. He’ll have to quickly calibrate if he wants any hope of surviving the at-bat.
Pitch #3, 0-2
Great pitch from Robles. He dials this one up to 97.7 and elevates it to add some effective velocity, messing up Zagunis’ timing even more. Zagunis is actually lucky to be as late as he was, as this one trickles harmlessly foul instead of softly into the mitt of the first baseman.
Pitch #4, 0-2
Robles decides to stay inside, but loses this one a bit. This is a ball out of the hand and Zagunis effortlessly watches it into the mitt.
Pitch #5, 1-2
This is another solid pitch from Robles. He starts it on the inner half (where he had just thrown a couple heaters) and cuts this one back over the plate, but he can’t quite get the bite he was looking for at the bottom of the zone. This seems like a defensive swing from Zagunis. It looks like he’s expecting this ball to tail inside again, but he’s able to flail late and get a piece of what would’ve been strike three to stay alive.
Pitch #6, 1-2
Now THIS is an excellent pitch, and one that Zagunis does extremely well to lay off of. He wants to swing, and Robles serves this scintillatingly over the middle third of the plate, but Zagunis bears down and lets this heater sail by.
Pitch #7, 2-2
Robles lets it rip again, but it catches just a little too much of the zone and Zagunis is able to foul it back. Again, how Zagunis is coming off the bench and effectively oscillating his timing between the 97-98 cheddar and 89-90 sliders is beyond me. Robles knows that he threw a pretty good pitch and he’s clearly irritated thinking that he could have gotten Zagunis on that one, but on to pitch eight they go.
Pitch #8, 2-2
Bang! Again, Robles is unable to get any bite on his slider, and he hangs one middle-middle that Zagunis lines into centerfield for a clutch two-run, two-out knock.
Zagunis not only delivered runs in this situation, but also turned the lineup over and chased Robles from the game. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Cody Allen made quick work of Daniel Descalso and the top of the Cubs lineup was only able to manufacture one more run in the ninth inning. But nonetheless, this was some serious clutch hitting and a valiant effort from both Robles and Zagunis in the most intense moments of the game.
If you see an at-bat during the week and believe that it deserves to be highlighted as the “At-Bat of the Week,” please tweet me @dannyhottakes.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)