One of the many things you learn playing baseball – perhaps playing any sport – is to accept what is out of your control. Sometimes the ball has eyes and finds the gap. Sometimes you hit into a double play with the bases loaded.
I went 0-fo-5 yesterday after a good game at the plate on Opening Day. But believe me when I tell you there was no difference – meaning that I wasn’t “on” one day and “off” the next. I felt good last night. I hit the ball well. Some days it goes right at people. Some days it gets through.
That’s baseball. A few inches one way or the other, and it’s a different game. Randy Johnson’s pitch to Gallardo last night, for example. We wanted a fastball higher than the letters on his chest so he would chase it for the third strike. The ball wasn’t as high as it needed to be. That kid is a good hitter, too, don’t forget. But if the pitch is just a little bit higher, we get him.
This game so often comes down to the slightest of margins, the tiniest bits of bad luck.
To tell you the truth, I never thought we were out of it last night. I always expected we’d come back. But we’re going to have many more chances, so you can’t dwell on what didn’t work for us last night. You have to just get ready for today’s game.
As for Tim on Opening Day, I was thinking he might have a tough day even when we were warming up in the bullpen. When he walked the first batter and hit the third, I went out to talk to him. I’m not going to tell him anything about mechanics, of course.
“Keep battling,” I said. “Keep grinding it out. You’re going to get out of it.”
He didn’t have command of his fastball or his curveball. Usually if one isn’t working, he has the other. But people have to remember this kid is a human being. He’s not a machine. I admired how he kept fighting out there. That’s one of the beautiful things about baseball. The days when you really aren’t at the top of your game are the days when you test yourself the most. Those are the days you earn your money.
And afterward I told Tim that sometimes you need to struggle to come back stronger. You have to keep it all in perspective, too, which is tougher when you’re young. There are way more important things to worry about than giving up some walks or going 0-for-5.
Today was the worst kind of reminder of that. I keep thinking about Nick Adenhart, the young Angels pitcher killed by a drunk driver last night. It’s the kind of news that gives you the chills. Makes you shake. We’re playing a game, but once those lights go out in the ballpark, it’s real life out there. I keep thinking how you can be doing everything 100 percent right, but some other guy right next to you isn’t doing the right thing and you pay the price.
I keep thinking that if Adenhart’s car had entered the intersection two seconds earlier or two seconds later, maybe he goes home thinking about his next start.
The slightest of margins, the tiniest bits of bad luck.