Last night I Shouted that Karns' two-strike love with his curveball was driving me nuts. Twice in the 3rd inning he had guys to two-strike and eventually walked them because (in my view) He Just wanted To Get Them Out With The Curve!!!! It was almost as if he believed that he could set the rest of the game up IF he just eephused some guy into the ground in the 3rd or 4th inning. He couldn't find a barn door with it, especially as an out pitch, yet he kept chucking it, almost insisting that it was his out pitch.
Maybe on another night. Not last night. I honest-to-goodess felt that he lost his rhythm and cool by loving his curve so much. And once rhythm and cool are gone, well then even Kipling knew things were going to be a struggle.
I thought Clevenger was terrible through that stretch, btw. We were up 5-0, nobody had put good wood on the fastball and yet he kept putting down two fingers in two-strike situations. If Karns was shaking off the two-strike fastball then Clevenger should had sauntered out to the mound and, in a realpolitik manner, have politely explained: "Your curveball is crap tonight, this ain't spring training and we've got a big lead so at two-strikes I'm just putting down one finger and you hit the mitt. Got it meat?"*
OK...Maybe not the meat part. But back in the Johnny Bench-Thurman Munson day, before SABR-dudes tried to quantify pitch framing, folks looked to a catcher's pitch calling abilities as some/much of the difference between a Dick Dietz and Johnny Greatest Ever. IMHO, Clevenger "Dietzed" it last night, in that regard....at least when Karns was on the hill. What do you bet that Bench "straightened out" a Don Gullet a time or two?
A sizable part of greatness (or pretty goodness) on the mound isn't just the quality of pitches that you have but also the presence of mind to know when you don't have a pitch that particular outing: See Felix. I thought Karns was too much in love with his "curveball as out pitch" and it just happened to be a fickle little tart last night. It was running around on him. But his heater was pretty darn good early in the game, you will remember. Seems to me that I read somewhere that staked to a 5 run early lead you started challenging hitters, making them beat you with the ball in play. Wasn't that the idea, going all the way back to Three-Finger Brown? But that curveball is kind of the Karns trademark, or was when we got him. He likes it. It is his Precious.
Staked to that lead,Thurman Munson would have fired a return throw right at his noggin, with heat and intent to get his attention, then would have put one finger down time and again..
Didn't Crash Davis do something like that to Nuke Laloosh?
Sometimes a pitcher has a wiggly weapon that he's too in love with.....even on nights when it is elsewhere. On those nights, just show it sparingly and then go with what you've got working. It isn't like Karns has a Moyer-like fastball, after all.
So, that was my diagnosis last night...starting from the back to back walks, both when he was ahead in the count with 2 strikes, in the 3rd. Even the 1st one was bothersome.....but the 2nd drove me bonkers. I'm laying 60% of the blame at the feet of Karns and Clevenger gets the rest.
Both seemed to be enamored with the "art" of pitching. forgetting that they were in the middle of a battle with the enemy on the run.
At that point Patton, Grant, Jackson and Sun Tzu would have smashed into the Cards with the heavy stuff.
Brigidier General Pinella and Major Munson would have, too. I have the sense that Gunnery Sarge Zunino would have, as well.
One of those guys would have helped us last night.
God bless Monty, by the way. Not Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, mind you...but the one that we have. He pitches with a purpose.