One of my favorite games in recent memory was a pitching duel between Yu Darvish and Dan Straily back in 2013. Straily was fresh up from AAA after being demoted for ineffectiveness, and Darvish was at the peak of his crazy strikeout powers. Yoenis Cespedes was the only guy who was able to get anything off of him, hitting a solo homer in the early innings (try not to cry). But after that there was nothing - both pitchers were untouchable, and Dan Straily ended up winning the game for the A's, 1-0. Dan Straily outdueled Yu Darvish.
It felt more significant at the time than it turned out actually being - Straily has never returned to his 2013 form and he's currently languishing in the Astros AAA system - but man, it felt like a coming of age, something significant. Like we were seeing a pitcher develop before our eyes into something great. Like a Pokemon evolving. It's been stuck in my mind for the past two years.
This game was basically the exact opposite of that duel- Albert Pujols took the place of Yoenis Cespedes, launching a first inning home run that ended up being the only run scored of the night. Both pitchers, C.J. Wilson and Kendall Graveman, were simply incredible, and the pitching duel remained intact until the late innings.
But man, when you're on the other side of it, it's nowhere near as fun. As much as I'd like to see the A's win, I'm just glad this game is over.
This was incredibly boring. Mind-numbingly boring. The type of boring where you just fall asleep mid-game (I did for fifteen minutes! Luckily nothing happened, because nothing happened this game). This game is why people don't like baseball. This was a dang ordeal. Nothing happened at all.
Having an ace on the mound with strikeout potential can make 1-0 games bearable, but there's not a lot of aesthetic quality to Kendall Graveman's pitches. He's just a really good sinker-baller. Not a lot of fun to watch sinker-ballers.
Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson's entire gameplan was 89 MPH fastballs into the zone, followed by sliders out of the zone. It's the most basic, predictable format for a pitcher to fall into, and it worked! The team had no business looking this hopeless to a guy with both subpar stuff and subpar control, but somehow, C.J. Wilson pulled it off.
It doesn't hurt that he had the BABIP gods on his side tonight. Numerous balls were scorched and somehow found infielders' gloves. Brett Lawrie murdered one directly to 3B. Billy Burns hit a ball as hard as he possibly can, and ended up grounding into a double play. Most importantly, Stephen Vogt smashed 95 MPH linedrive directly to the 1B Efren Navarro with two on and one out in the 7th inning. A go-ahead double off the bat turned to a line drive double play, potentially the most frustrating play in baseball. If the baseball gods were just, the A's would have at least scored one run in this game.
Unfortunately, the baseball gods are cruel and vindictive. You knew this, because you've been watching A's baseball in 2015.
This game did feel significant in at least one way the Straily/Darvish duel did, however - it felt like the coming-out party for a young pitcher. Kendall Graveman pitched the best game of his career, striking out seven over eight innings and walking none. He looked really shaky early, but gradually settled in and unleashed some of the best stuff he's ever displayed at the MLB level. He allowed some singles, sure, but he looked in control from the 3rd inning on.
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. It certainly feels like it is. I really like Kendall Graveman. I really hope he's not the new Dan Straily, but I have a good feeling he isn't.
Then again, I had a good feeling about Straily himself, so maybe no one should ever listen to me.