Thursday night's Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park was a blowout, a slopfest and an epic slog all in one, but the reward for anyone who endured it long enough was the sight of reserve outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp pitching the ninth inning for Boston. Granted, his 38-pitch inning didn't exactly accelerate the proceedings of a three-hour, 51-minute contest, but it did break through the tedium.
Taking advantage of four errors, a wild pitch and a passed ball, New York had pounded Red Sox starter Felix Doubront to build a 7-2 lead after three innings and took a 13-5 lead into the ninth. Instead of digging further into his bullpen that had already used three pitchers, manager John Farrell called upon Carp, a 27-year-old righty who had last pitched in high school.
Relying primarily on a four-seam fastball (average velocity 81.4 mph, peaking at 84.2; all velocities via BrooksBaseball.net ) and a knuckleball (average velocity 67.8 mph), Carp showed a simple delivery but had a hard time finding the plate, even with some generous called strikes from home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi. He walked Mark Teixeira on six pitches but appeared to be in good shape when Brian McCann grounded his batting-practice fastball to Xander Bogaerts to start a double play; even down eight runs, Boston had an infield shift in place.
Carp squandered that good fortune by walking Brett Gardner, Brian Roberts and Yangervis Solarte on 17 pitches to load the bases. He wasn't fooling anybody; the Yankees looked at 15 and fouled two off, while Carp shook his head incredulously after not getting a called strike on a borderline 2-0 fastball to Solarte. He walked Jacoby Ellsbury as well to force in a run, but only after similarly peering in to second-guess Cuzzi's called ball on a borderline 1-1 knuckler and then getting a makeup call on a 3-1 fastball to prolong the agony. By that point he had little reason to carp about being squeezed (sorry, my Borscht Belt act is a bit rusty).
Facing Kelly Johnson, Carp floated a 2-2 knuckler to the backstop for what should have been a run-scoring wild pitch, but catcher David Ross retrieved the carom quickly enough that Roberts held at third. Two pitches later, Carp induced Johnson to foul out to Ross, ending the ordeal. Here are the "highlights":
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Not that another run would have been of any consequence, but Carp was just the fifth player since 1914 to walk five or more hitters in an outing of one inning or less while allowing just one run. The most recent prior to him was reliever Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, who did so on Aug. 12, 1987 against the Brewers while pitching for Texas.
Carp was the first Red Sox position player to pitch since Darnell McDonald took the loss with a three-run 17th inning on May 6, 2012; Orioles slugger Chris Davis was the winning pitcher in that one. He is the third position player to take the mound this year, with all three outings coming during an eight-day span, and with Boston and New York having found the shoe on the other foot prior to Thursday night. On April 17, White Sox infielder Leury Garcia allowed two runs in the 14th inning of a game against the Red Sox, taking the loss, while on April 19, Yankees infielder Dean Anna allowed the final two runs in the eighth inning of a 16-1 blowout at the hands of the Rays. Within that same timespan, veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur tossed scoreless innings in two appearances on April 20 and 22 for the Padres' Triple A affiliate in El Paso.
Last year, 12 position players took the mound a whopping total of 14 times, with Skip Schumaker and Casper Wells pulling double duty; the latter did so with two different teams. Here's how those outings and the ones from this year stack up:
|Player||Date||Tm||Opp||IP||H||R||BB||SO||Pit-Str||Max velo (mph)|
Lest you feel as though you're missing something from the above linescores, all of the runs were earned, Recker was the only one to allow a homer and both Garcia and Wells were charged with losses, the latter in his outing for the Phillies. Note that Carp threw more pitches than anybody but Wells and tossed the most balls of the bunch. Johnson, a backup catcher who also pitched for the Mets in 2012, liked the experience so much that he's now undertaking a conversion to pitching with the Padres at age 31. Carp has no such plans, telling reporters after the game, "I'd prefer to hit no matter what, so I'm never going to take it up … It was a cool experience to add to the resume."