On April 22nd, Joel Peralta won a game for the Mariners over the Angels. That would be largely hyperbolic if it were not statisticly verifiable. It probably shouldn't have been his job, and roughly a month later being a Seattle Mariner was literally no longer his job. That night, however, the 40-year old journeyman reliever thumbed his nose at baseball royalty and lived to tell the tale.
Here is the LL Recap.
I’d be lying to you if I said Peralta entering the game brought me anything but consternation. This was one of the only games in April I was able to watch, having allowed myself to leave my senior thesis-induced cage for a sanity break of baseball. Hisashi Iwakuma was starting, so I felt decent about the M’s chances, even though he'd had his spot in the rotation bumped up to give Félix an extra day off to shake a flu. Kuma did his job, going eight(!) innings on just 89(!?) pitches, but left the game with a 2-2 tie due to two solo homers from the Angels. A scoreless top of the 9th put the Mariners back out on defense to try and extend the game to extra innings. Joel Peralta entered. He would face Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Kole Calhoun.
In my sleep-deprived stupor, I remember adjusting my head against the stone-filled couches in our community area as Peralta took the mound. The only other student in the area was a girl I didn’t know wearing headphones and a big, fuzzy sweater. She appeared to be studying, and seemed blissfully unaware that the Mariners were about to blow a gem from Iwakuma and slip two games under .500 in a season that seemed more like 2015 than 2014 to that point. Some study break.
Peralta starts Trout off with a hanging curveball, middle-in, which the tormentor of Seattle’s dreams mercifully takes as a strike.
77.8 MPH Curveball, Called Strike, 0-1.
Seemingly aware of his flirtation with disaster, Peralta wastes the next two pitches off the plate outside, but Trout takes.
90.6 MPH Four-Seam Fastball, Ball, 1-1.
90.4 MPH Four-Seam Fastball, Ball, 2-1.
Trout knows Peralta’s game, despite just two prior plate appearances against him, and waits for the soft-throwing righty in the twilight of his career to come to him. He is ready for it. Peralta’s next pitch is a strike, low in the zone, but a pitch Trout devours daily. This one dodges his gaping maw narrowly, and his mighty swing results in just a foul ball.
90.8 MPH Four-Seam Fastball, Foul, 2-2.
Trout’s back is, theoretically, against the wall, but Peralta has essentially reached his limit. Nothing in his arsenal is so powerful as to surprise Trout, and he must know it as he steps back into the batt-
90.6 MPH Four-Seam Fastball, Swinging Strike, 2-3. 1 Out.
The art of quick pitching is not unlike the spitball, or a veteran football or basketball player pushing off the defender to create space. It is considered uncouth, low, and even, *shudders* bush-league. It is also the type of thing you do when you are a 40-year old man facing the greatest active baseball player in the world.
The snort of laughter/joy I made startled the girl in the sweater nearby, and I apologized, and she gave me a quizzical look before returning to her work. Peralta went back to work too, and this time, there is evidence. After conquering today’s baseball deity, up stepped the titan of last decade, Albert Pujols. After nine pitches: five four-seam fastballs and four splitters, the count was 3-2. The still-powerful Pujols saw the sixth fastball of the at-bat. With the same gorgeous swing that ended Brad Lidge’s life, he sent the ball flying high into the night sky.
Peralta said after the game that he was planning to quick-pitch Trout, but saw Pujols had advising his teammate against the veteran’s tricks. Perhaps this is why, after this play, you can see smiles break out across the diamond, as Joel Peralta, 40-year old reliever who has played for eight different MLB teams, fooled one future Hall of Famer and gave an earful to a second.
Kole Calhoun would ground out to Robinson Canó. The Mariners would take the lead in the top of the 10th on a Franklin Gutierrez RBI single driving in Ketel Marte (wow), and the most well targeted line drive home run I have ever seen, by Nelson Cruz.
Steve Cishek got the save and the Mariners climbed back to 8-8 on the season, and Joel Peralta received the win. I love baseball because there are enough repetitions in it that over time we can actually make reasonable predictions based on statistical theories. I also love baseball because there are enough repetitions that eventually the most improbable things can come to pass. Earlier this week Isabelle and Andrew wrote on the Leonys Martin walk-off and the Shawn O’Malley home run, each of which were absurd unlikelihoods in that moment. Joel Peralta didn’t last as a Mariner, and he shouldn’t have even been in this position if the team had been more flush with reliever depth. On this night he succeeded anyway, and that’s pretty dang cool.