Tuesday, August 25, 2015

16Ks and What Do You Get?

There are a lot of reasons to go to a ballgame. Spending time with friends and/or family. Satisfying a craving for ballpark hot dogs. Watching the actual game. You know, all sorts of things.

And then once in a while. you go and you see something magical.

Saturday night, Matt Moore set the Durham Bulls' team record by striking out 16 Columbus Clippers in 6 innings of work. That's 16 out of 18 possible outs made by strikeout, if you're not big on math, and one of the other two outs was a caught stealing. That's a rare performance at any level, and to see it from seats pretty much right behind home plate was astonishing.

Moore's down with the Bulls in hopes of finding his command and the couple of miles off his fastball he lost recovering from Tommy John surgery. He used to sit 93-94 in the majors; Saturday night he was mostly at 91-92, cranking it up to 93 for big pitches. As for his command, well he certainly had it against Columbus as he toyed with a lineup that didn't offer much resistance; they struck out once against reliever Robert Zarate, and three times against Durham closer Kirby Yates in the 9th.

They took him out after 6, still wary of that injury. He made one mistake, a two-run homer to dead center, but otherwise was magnificent. The line of "K" banners along the railing above the outfield wall was long enough that some fans didn't believe it; others kept losing track trying to count how many "K"s there were.

And yeah, it's easy to say "big whoop, minor league team strikeout record, not exactly going to get ESPN cutting in to follow that one", right? Overmatched minor leaguers against a big league ace, of course they're going to get smoked. But it was still magical to watch.

That's the other reason to go to the game, of course. The chance to look back and say "I was there when..." I saw David Price pitch here, and Hellickson and McGee and Odirizzi and, yes, Matt Moore, among others. I saw Melvin Upton Jr. and Desmond Jennings and plenty of others. Over the years, I saw Steve Carlton's last one-hitter, and his record-setting strikeout. They're all magic, they're all treasured, and they're all brought out on rare occasions when appropriate as reminders that on any given night, anything can and will happen on the field.

Moore is almost certainly headed back to Tampa in a week, when rosters expand. He's proven everything he needs to prove here. His command is back, if not flawless; his velocity is creeping up into its old range. Time to go and do things on the big stage.
But that one August night will always be here, no matter what.
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