Even though April saw the Rangers at their 2015 worst, they did manage, somehow, to win seven games. In one of those games, Elvis drove in two runs. Of course, he also had five errors in April that cost the Rangers a lot more than two runs, and batted just .230 with an almost-hard-to-be-much-lower .265 on-base percentage. But in that one 6-2 win on April 11 against Houston, Elvis went 1-for-4 to raise his average to .167.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE SITUATION.
Ah, those left-handed sidearmed pitchers. They are a rarity. When they deliver the ball to the plate, it gives a left-handed batter fits because the ball rotates differently, it has very uncommon movement.
The physics of it are this: The four-seam fastball, when thrown by a typical overhand pitcher, seems to “hop” or rise on its way to the plate because the ball is rotating backwards, lowering the air pressure above the ball. It’s the same basic principle that makes an airplane fly.
That same pitch, however, thrown by the sidearm pitcher causes a horizontal rotation, so rather than moving up, the pitch moves sideways. That sideways movement is not normal, so it’s very difficult to pick up in the batter’s box.
Apparently it’s hard to pick up if you are a first baseman as well.
With bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning and the Rangers clinging to a 2-1 lead, the game very much undecided, Astros manager A. J. Hinch brought in left-handed sidearmed specialist Joe Thatcher to face left-handed DH specialist Mitch Moreland.
That is a smart strategic move.
The movement on a left-handed sidearmer’s fastball is very hard for a left-handed hitter to track. Which explains why Moreland swung and hit a weak dribbler right back to Joe Thatcher, who picked it up cleanly and turned to first base to make a throw with plenty of time.
Apparently Thatcher throws the same way he pitches.
Because that same movement that is so vexing to a hitter is also vexing to the first baseman trying to catch the throw. And an easy out turned into a costly error by Astros first baseman Chris Carter, who has as much trouble catching throws from a pitcher as he does hitting pitches from them.
Carter dropped the ball that was thrown right to him, even if it was tailing away. And, instead of the threat ending with Texas leaving the bases loaded and Houston being down only one run, the Rangers got a gift insurance run, then put the nail in the coffin when the next batter, Elvis Andrus, slapped a bases loaded two-run single into left field.
A 2-1 lead suddenly became 4-1, then 5-1, and eventually a 6-2 win.
Joe Thatcher learned that you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
Elvis learned that, with a guaranteed contract, it doesn’t matter whether you hit less than .200.