People don’t like Brian Wilson. Baseball fans are straight up put off by Brian Wilson’s whole…thing. His shtick or his persona or the cut of his jib; whatever it is, it is unpopular with a large swath of the baseball watching public.
This widespread antipathy towards Brian Wilson thirsts for comeuppance and, in the 8th inning of the lid-lifter in San Diego, got exactly what they wanted.
After two incredible pitching performances from starters Hyun-Jin Ryu and Andrew Cashner, Brian Wilson entered with his Dodgers nursing a one run lead in the 8th inning. His task — get three outs when facing the 8, 9, and leadoff hitters — did not seem particularly arduous.
But then Padres manager Bud Black called upon Seth Smith to pinch hit for San Diego’s third-string catcher (the starter on this fine night). Seth Smith is a man of many talents, most notably smashing right-handed pitching.
Three pitches into his plate appearances against Wilson, Seth Smith got a gift. It was a spinning, hanging, do-nothing slider that Smith did not miss. Even a little. He got it all.
It was a terrible pitch but recognizing a bad pitch and hitting a bad pitch into deep space are not the same thing. But if we’re dishing out blame, most of it falls on Brian Wilson’s broad shoulders. On a beard-based blame scale from clean shaven to Duck Dynasty, assess Wilson one bike messenger worth of fault.
The next batter was another pinch hitter, Yasmani Grandal. Despite jumping ahead 1-2 in the count, Grandal walked on six pitches. The 2-2 pitch was close but Wilson and the Dodgers didn’t get the call. Blame game – barely employable blogger beard. All Wilson, once again.
The Padres get exceedingly National League over the next few hitters. After Grandal’s walk, leadoff man Everth Cabrera gets ahead 2-0 in the count and then decides it’s a good time to bunt. Now, the speedy Cabrera’s bunts are not necessarily free out giveaways but his interest was moving Grandal into scoring position. Which he did, getting himself on base as Brian Wilson the fielder did Brian Wilson the pitcher no favors with a rather pathetic fielding error. Beard blame: precision-etched and close cropped. Not as obvious but still clearly a beard.
And then things get weird.
Because BUNTS! the next hitter, Chris Denorfia, ALSO squared to bunt against a pitcher yet to record an out. Denorfia failed in his selfless effort, bunting through the pitch, but it was not for nothing. Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe charged hard to field a potential sacrifice but the bunt never came. Unfortunately for LA, nobody covered third base so Grandal just took it. A delayed steal, the first of his professional career. At any level! Beard of blame? Recently enlisted Army serviceman (ie. none.)
And then the Dodgers let Cabrera steal second base. And then Denorfia wins a decent battles against Wilson and scalds a liner back up the box, cashing two runs. Beard status? Unnamed villain, Homeland season 2.
The final batter Brian Wilson faced on this evening was Chase Headley. After Wilson missed inside and out, he grooved a pitch to Headley that he crushed, bouncing it off the person of Adrian Gonzalez for an “error.” The ball was hit right at A-Gon but also right on the button. Blame beard: 90s goatee aka the Canadian passport. It’s over. Dodgers manager Don Mattingley stomps out to the mound and Brian Wilson is headed for the “showers.”
25 pitches, just 12 strikes and only two swings and misses. Brian Wilson did not record an out so he is credited with zero innings pitched, three runs (two earned), two hits (one home run), one walk and two stolen bases allowed.
Brian Wilson threw all of 15 innings over the past two years. He pitched for the Dodgers in Australia, then once in an in-between Spring Training game, then last night. These aren’t excuses, this is just evidence of a pitcher lacking recent game experience. Last night, he didn’t have “it.” He had no control and it didn’t look like much feel and he also didn’t have much in the way of fortune.
Brian Wilson is good. Good enough to earn $10 million. But on this night, with a few more people watching than normal, he was bad. Very bad. Ungood. Look at this strike zone plot from Brooks Baseball – very few of Wilson’s pitches were over the plate or even on the edges where Wilson must work to survive.
It’s one outing but for the national TV audience, it was just what the doctor ordered. There was no small amount of pleasure taken from Wilson’s terrible outing, even if he is only mostly to blame. The Dodgers have nothing to worry about and the Padres and their fans can already count 2014 as a success.