When you look back at Drew Hutchison’s start in Atlanta, you could be forgiven for thinking that the kid threw a pretty good game, but two mistakes that wound up in the seats killed him.
You’d be right — the kid did throw a pretty good game, and was hung with the loss because he gave up a three-run homer to Dan Uggla with two out in the third inning. He also coughed up the first home run of Andrelton Simmons’ career, a solo shot that led off the seventh.
While the Uggla home run was massive, what Hutchison did the batter before allowed it to happen, and that’s what he’s going to have to watch out for as he advances in his big-league career.
With a man on first and two out in a 0-0 game, Hutchison missed with four straight fastballs to Brian McCann, putting the Braves catcher on for his only walk of the game.
Sure, McCann is a multi-time all-star, a power threat and a guy who belongs in a position of prominence in the Braves lineup, but he’s not someone to avoid at all costs by any means. McCann has also been slumping pretty hard lately, with just seven hits in his last 48 at-bats as he came to the plate. But Hutchison, who relies so much on his control, simply didn’t throw McCann a strike, allowing the inning to be extended for Uggla, who ran into one three pitches later and put it in the seats.
One of the reasons I put so much emphasis on a hitter’s ability to take a walk is because walks kill. They extend innings, they turn over batting lineups, they allow teams to put together rallies without having to rely on getting multiple hits. Whether you’d like to believe it or not, there’s a large element of luck involved in getting a hit, provided you don’t hit it out — hard line drives can go right at a fielder and defenders can make sensational plays, just as little broken-bat loopers can fall in and swinging bunts can result in base hits. If a hitter walks, that element of luck is removed, as is the fact that it’s really hard to get a hit — after all, even the best generally fail 65 per cent of the time. Walks are great if you’re on offence, and they tend to kill you on defence.
I’m not going to get all hyperbolic on you and say that a lead-off walk almost always scores, or that a two-out walk almost always leads to a big inning. Neither of those things are even remotely close to true. But what walks do accomplish is allow free opportunity for further good things to happen offensively, and the Blue Jays have been the most generous team in the major leagues this season as far as handing out free passes is concerned.
It might be a little nit-picky to get on Hutchison for that walk, since it was his only one in the entire game and he’s allowed just 2.95 walks per nine innings this season, which is quite good. But the base on balls has been a major issue for the Blue Jays all season, and the one Hutchison bequeathed upon the Braves Saturday afternoon wound up being kind of huge.
The series wraps up Sunday afternoon with Ricky Romero getting the call against one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, Julio Teheran, who is being called up from triple-A Gwinnett to fill in for Tim Hudson, who is out with a sore ankle. Romero seems to be over the control problems that plagued him throughout the month of May, having issued a total of just two walks in his last two starts, and this will be the last time a Blue Jays pitcher has to swing a bat for a week.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Edwin Encarnacion make his first big-league start in left field in the series finale, what with the overall lack of offense in this series so far and Rajai Davis having re-aggravated his injured left hand striking out in the fifth inning Saturday afternoon. We’ll be on the air at 1:00 p.m. ET with a full pre-game show ahead of a 1:35 first pitch.