I think this every time I hear it from a broadcaster or a journalist, but I absolutely love that Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put it in words on his Twitter feed this afternoon:
My definition of a great at-bat: One pitch, one swing, damage … The “great at-bat” and “great piece of hitting” crowds are entertaining. It’s as if they’re actually educating those around them. #strokers
The “strokers” tag is the topper. Made Diet Coke shoot out my nose just now.
And of course Strauss is right. There’s always a smugness to that “great piece of hitting” exclamation, as if the guy saying it is seeing something you didn’t. Sure, he made an adjustment or something after 15 foul balls because he couldn’t turn on the fastball, but let’s lighten up on that sort of praise. As Strauss says, a truly great piece of hitting is when the batter rips a line drive that almost decapitates the third baseman and leads to the hitter being intentionally walked the next seven times he comes to the plate because he has put the fear of God Almighty in the opposition.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.
Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.
The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.