Nats' Chico Has Wild Night in Miami
Sunday, April 22, 2007
MIAMI, April 21 -- Get used to it, because Matt Chico said it has happened before, and it's likely to happen again.
"I've never seen it," center fielder Ryan Church said.
Get the gruesome details of the Washington Nationals' 9-3 loss to the Florida Marlins on Saturday night out of the way, and there are plenty. Chico, a rookie left-hander, walked seven men -- tying the most by a major league pitcher this season -- including the opposing pitcher. Twice. On a total of nine pitches. He threw 59 strikes and 53 balls.
"It was just one of those days where I was just having trouble finding the zone," Chico said, "and I started to press a little bit more trying to throw strikes."
Those numbers had everything to do with why the Marlins ended their six-game losing streak, and why the Nationals must wait until Sunday to try to clinch their first series win of the season. But next month, next week, even by Sunday, this game will be long forgotten -- except for one pitch. Flip on "SportsCenter," because it just might be playing right now.
It came in the bottom of the first. Chico's control problems already were established, because he walked the first two men he faced. With one out and the count 1-0 on cleanup hitter Josh Willingham, catcher Brian Schneider called for a change-up. Chico gripped the ball with his left hand, and prepared to throw. But as his arm whipped through, the ball was no longer there.
"It's just one of those things," Schneider said.
Instantly, Chico transformed himself into Nuke LaLoosh, the gas-throwing, who-knows-where-it's-going minor league pitcher played by Tim Robbins in "Bull Durham." His arm followed through, but the ball shot off to the side.
"It just missed," Church deadpanned. "Schneider was set up outside."
The ball carried over the Marlins dugout. It reached the stands. The second row of the stands.
"It usually happens to me about three or four times a year," Chico said.
"He's done it in the bullpen before," Manager Manny Acta said. "It's not any physical [or] mental thing."