Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bard gets upper hand on Teixeira -- this time

Daniel Bard was waiting for Mark Teixeira on Saturday.

"I wanted him," he said.

Most relievers know ahead of time, as they're warming up, which hitter they're probably going to face. Billy Wagner had walked Nick Swisher, fanned Robinson Cano and hit Melky Cabrera in the hip with a fastball -- and that meant Bard had to start throwing.

Derek Jeter was at the plate and Johnny Damon was on deck, but Bard had a pretty good idea of who he was going to face if he got into the game.

"I can't remember who was hitting, exactly," he said from the Red Sox clubhouse after the game. "It lined up where I was going to face either Damon or (Teixeira). I figured they'd let Wagner pitch to Damon, left on left. But I wanted one of those guys."

Bard had a rough go of it the last time he pitched at Yankee Stadium, retiring Jeter and Hideki Matsui on groundouts but surrendering back-to-back solo home runs to Damon and Teixeira, home runs that turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit.

Teixeira in particular had been of some annoyance for Bard. Two weeks after he hit his home run, he rolled a single through the right side of the infield -- and that made it two hits in four career at-bats against Bard. He was on the verge of starting to feel pretty good about his ability to hit the hard-throwing righty.

"I feel confident facing him, and I want him to know that," Bard said. "I just don't want that home run to be the last thing on his mind when he walks up to the plate."

That home run on Aug. 9 came on the second of back-to-back sliders. The seeing-eye single on Aug. 22 came on a changeup, a pitch Bard only pulls out in rare circumstances.

When Damon blooped a two-run single into right field, Francona summoned Bard -- and Bard this time brought the heat.

"I just wanted to challenge him," he said. "I don't know if he was sitting on (the slider) last time or not, but he was able to lengthen the bat out and get the barrel to it. I didn't want to give him a chance to do that this time."

The first pitch he threw to Teixeira was a 99-mile-per-hour fastball up and in. Teixeira fouled it back.

The second pitch he threw to Teixeira was a 97-mile-per-hour fastball up too high. Teixeira let it pass.

The third pitch he threw to Teixeira was a 98-mile-per-hour fastball up and in. Teixeira fouled it off.

The fourth pitch he threw to Teixeira was a 100-mile-per hour fastball in on the hands. Teixeira got a little bit of it but not enough to do anything, grounding it softly to second base for the third out of the inning.

Bard now has seen Teixeira five times. Teixeira has seen Bard five times. Bard is learning how to get Teixeira out. Teixeira is learning how to hit Bard. Given the prominent role the Red Sox expect Bard to have in their bullpen for the next six years, at least, it's a one-on-one showdown that promises to get more and more fascinating.

"You could argue for hours whether facing a guy more times favors the pitcher or the hitter," Bard said. "You've got to constantly change the way you approach a guy unless it's proven you can constantly get him out the same way and he can't adjust.

"But (Teixeira) is too good of a hitter. He'll adjust, and I'll have to keep pitching him different sequences."

Postscript: Teixeira adjusted. Bard had to face him again on Sunday and threw him the same up-and-in heat -- and Teixeira hit it into the right-field stands.

1 comment:

Kerri said...

great post, Brian