The Situation: Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, 0-2 count on the hitter. The defense is ahead by 1 run in the top of the 8th inning. The 9-hitter is up, and is 0 for 3 already for the day.
The Play: The pitcher knows that he can get himself out of a jam right here. He doesn’t want to mess around at all with the 9-hitter because he knows that the top of the order is on deck. The catcher calls for a changeup outside. The catcher taps the ground with his mitt and sets the target just off the plate. The pitcher knows that if he throws the pitch right in the corner of the strike zone, there’s no way the hitter can hit it. He delivers the pitch and even though it’s on the outside, he misses just a little up. The hitter reaches out and pokes it down the line. A run scores and the inning continues.
The Outcome: The top of the order comes up with runners on base and does the damage the pitcher was worried about. By the time the inning is over, the team on defense is behind.
What went wrong: The pitcher got greedy in a situation that he should have controlled. Even though the pitcher is in a jam, he has to recognize that with an 0-2 count, he doesn’t have to throw it over the plate to be competitive. Sometimes, bottom of the order hitters are the most dangerous when you put them in protect mode because they’re forced to shorten up and just put the ball in play. In this situation, the pitcher has to remember that he can afford to try to get the batter to expand the strike zone off the plate or in the dirt. In this situation, the 0-2 pitch needs to be a true “chase pitch” out of the strike zone down or off the plate, not a pitch that he has a real shot of hitting. Using an extra pitch to set up the hitter can help get a safer out in situations like this. This is not about “wasting” a pitch, but rather making a competitive chase pitch and understanding that a ball doesn’t hurt. If you find yourself in this spot, don’t let the situation take control. Think the game and execute your plan.