• Apr
    21

    Our Closer has "The Moment"

    We have found a closer

    If anyone had any doubts as to whether Chris Ray was good enough to be a closer in big games, they should be convinced now.

     

    The 24-year old closer took the mound in Yankee Stadium with the top of the Yankees order coming up. After sawing off Johnny Damon for the first out, Ray walked Derek Jeter then allowed Gary Sheffield to hit an absolute frozen rope to center field to put runners at first and second with one out.

     

    With Yankee Stadium rocking, and Alex Rodriguez at bat, a lesser pitcher would have just wilted, but not Ray. After getting behind Alex Rodriguez pitching coach Leo Mazzone came out to calm him down a bit. All Ray did is come back and blow Rodriguez away a few pitches later for his first strikeout and second out of the inning.

     

    This brought Jason Giambi up to the plate and after getting behind 2-0, both Jeter and Sheffield took third and second base uncontested in a strange double stolen base. With the winning run on second now, Ray walked Giambi to set up “the moment.”

     

    “The moment” is when a player does something to show he’s in the major league role to stay.

     

    Hideki Matsui stepped to the plate with a perfect night, two hits including a nice opposite field double and two walks. Lesser pitchers start to wilt. Pitching on the corners, Ray throws all fastballs to run the count to 2-2. He rares back and throws a 96 MPH fastball on the outside part of the plate that Matsui starts to swing then checks. After an appeal is denied, the count runs to 3-2.

     

    So here it is, loaded bases, bottom of the ninth, 3-2 count, Yankee Stadium with one of the top hitters on the team up. I don’t know Chris Ray, but I know as a kid I had this scenario running through my head a thousand times. Guess what, each time I got the strike out.

     

    With the crowd standing, everyone I think expects Ray to throw his 96 MPH fastball and dare Matsui to hit it. He goes into the full stretch, the runners go, but Ray doesn’t throw his fastball, he throws a back door slider that Matsui watches for strike three.

     

    Are you kidding me, a backdoor slider in this situation? That’s guts. You have to give props to Ramon Hernandez for calling it and of course to Ray for throwing the perfect pitch in the biggest situation of his professional life.

     

    It may have been in, Don “six pack” Stanhouse fashion, but we have our closer folks, and he’s special.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.

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