It may not be enough to simply keep track of these Vultures. Not all are made equal. Some are the product of good pitching meeting superior hitting. Sort of a tough luck scenario which in any case doesn’t deserve any kind of award. At the other end of the spectrum we have guys giving up three run leads serving meatballs and then come out smelling like roses after the pile of poop they laid on the mound.
We need a Vulture Index. I need to think about it some more and truth be told nothing might come out of it. Having reviewed them for over a year I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Pitching tire fires off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched four-seamers obliterated in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. After the vulture is assigned, these moments are lost in time… like tears… in rain. Time to Write!
April 19th. Tyler Thornburg of the Milwaukee Brewers. I’m going to have start learning the Brewers roster if they’re just going to pass the Vulture torch to one another from week to week. Last week’s winner Michael Blazek relieved Wily Peralta in the bottom of the 6th after Peralta ran out of gas and put two on with nobody out with the Brewers leading 5-2 over the Twins.
Blazek retired the side without further incident. Hey, high leverage situation, bring in one of your top guys. You have a three run lead and the tying run at the plate. What’s this 7th inning guy, 8th inning guy, closer nonsense? Amirite? Then came the 7th inning. Not sure how often Blazek pitches multiple innings but on this occasion his 7th was not as incident free as his 6th inning. He managed to induce two popups and but also allowed a pair of baserunners via walks.
Enter Tyler Thornburg, whose name I am sure matches one of Louis Winthorpe’s so called friends from the movie Trading Places. Tyler is from Houston however and – aside from a very nice sophomore season back in ‘13 (66 IP and 2.03 ERA) – has had a rather unremarkable though productive tenure so far with the Brew Crew. So now it’s his turn to relieve Blazek and with Miguel Sano batting catcher Martin Maldonado tried to pick off Eduardo Nunez at second base but managed to throw it to the outfield instead allowing Nunez to get to third. No matter, Tyler buckled down and struck out Sano (who had a very bad day what with a comical fielding error and coming up empty with RISP).
As with Blazek, Thornburg came out in the next inning (8th) and ran into trouble almost immediately. What is it with the Brewers bullpen? Do they just lose focus sitting on the bench between innings? It started off well enough striking out Arcia, but then Byung Ho-Park did this:
Well it’s still 5-3, you have some margin for error Tyler just don’t let it happen-
…again. With a runner on base. Tie Game. Dang it Tyler. Fortunately for you Scooter Gennett (whose name sounds like a Jetson’s character) singled in Yadiel Rivera to put you in line for a completely undeserving W. You’d better buy Scooter a whole keg Tyler. That performance was just preposterous. Only in baseball do you get to blow a THREE run lead and then get the win.
April 25th. Neftali Feliz of the Pittsburgh Pirates. We all know Neftali Feliz, the once upon a time closer extraordinaire of the Texas Rangers. Then he went to Detroit, the place where all bullpens go to die. He survived somehow after an awful 2015 campaign and then was picked off the scrap heap by the Pirates. Clearly, the braintrust over there has confidence that the Pitcher Whisperer will bring back Feliz to his former glory. So far the results have been promising: career low walk rate, K9 rate in double digits and – with the much vaunted Pirate defense behind him – his H9 rate has returned to his elite levels of yesteryear.
That said, no one is perfect (Shut up 2008 Brad Lidge! Put your hand down, you gave people heart attacks when you were on the mound for crying out loud! I luvs ya, but don’t butt in) and you certainly can’t expect Feliz’s rise from the ashes to keep on going without a few bumps along the road.
Charged with saving a two run lead, Neftali’s night started off kilter by walking Jake Lamb. But then he struck out Nick Ahmed looking. Then Nick did more than just look. He complained. Loudly. To Marvin Hudson. The Umpire. What followed was as predictable as the sun rising in the east. Ahmed was ejected. The next hitter was Tyler Clippard, naturally you expect a pinch hitter for the relief arm. You don’t usually expect another pitcher to come in but Zack Greinke came to the box. And he did this:
I can almost see the tear in Old Gator’s eye. You know if this pitching thing doesn’t work out Zack should consider a career in pinch hitting. Naturally with the tying run on base you expect a pinch runner. You don’t usually expect another pitcher to come in but Shelby Miller did. That bench was certainly tapped out last night!
Neftali was in a jam and things did not get better. David Peralta smashed a line drive to center scoring Lamb. Then Seguera got in on the action with a single tying the game. To Feliz’s credit he bore down and Brandon Dury struck out swinging. Then he (wisely) intentionally walked Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas struck out swinging as well. So if you wanted to try real hard to put a silver lining on Feliz’s performance, you can say he struck out the side… with a few hits and runs mixed in.
Meanwhile we got to see some interesting stuff in the 13th like this:
You know, if that pitching thing doesn’t work out Shelby might want to consider left field. Another fun fact, that run was driven in by Jonathan Niese. Talk about turning back the clock with all this pitcher hitting going on! In the bottom of the 13th with the Arizona offense spent and done Arquimedes saved the day. Wellington Castillo made a game of it with a single, but Jake Lamb couldn’t do anything and Arizona only had more pitching available at the plate. Not every hurler can be Zack Greinke. It was pretty much over. So Neftali gets to buy Sean Rodriguez and Jonathan Niese some beers after all is said and done. Welcome to the club Feliz, welcome to the club.