BOSTON — There were a few unusual aspects of Xander Bogaerts’ game-winning hit Tuesday night against the Miami Marlins.
First, you hardly ever see a batter drive in three runs with a single. (Bogaerts said he hadn’t seen it happen since Little League.)
Second, hitters hardly ever are tasked with facing a pitcher like Carter Capps.
Capps, a 24-year-old Marlins reliever, employs one of the strangest deliveries in Major League Baseball, practically crow-hopping toward home plate before uncorking a fastball that touches 99 mph with regularity.
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Hitting a 99-mph fastball is difficult enough, even for big leaguers. Hitting one that comes out of the pitcher’s hand a half-second late and a half-step closer to the plate can be downright baffling.
“That was the strangest (delivery) I’ve ever seen,” Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts said. “But hey, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
After Travis Shaw, Ryan Hanigan and Betts all reached base to load the bases in the seventh inning, Marlins manager Dan Jennings called on Capps, Miami’s second-best reliever behind closer A.J. Ramos, to face Bogaerts, who’s been one of the American League’s most successful bats with runners in scoring position this season (.379 with RISP entering Tuesday).
The result was an eight-pitch at-bat in which Bogaerts jumped ahead in the count 3-0, took strike one and then fouled off three straight fastballs before smoking a 99-mph heater into right field. Betts, who had been able to get an early jump thanks to Capps’ elongated motion, sprinted all the way around from first to score what proved to be the deciding run in a 4-3 Red Sox win.
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“That’s really funky,” Bogaerts said after the game. “I’d never faced that guy before. I mean, I’ve seen him on TV a few times pitching against against other teams. I mean, you don’t know what to expect until you’re up there hitting. I kind of was tracking the first pitches. I’m lucky enough he threw balls, so I could see them pretty good, and then I put a pretty good swing on the last one.”
While Capps, who boasts a 1.54 ERA and 0.86 WHIP this season, is known for his ability to throw gas, Bogaerts said he was more concerned that the right-hander might try to sneak an off-speed offering by him.
“I mean, I’ve faced some guys who throw really hard,” the shortstop said. “Like (St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor) Rosenthal I faced a couple of times. But they have normal deliveries. This guy has a weird thing going on right there. I was just hoping he wasn’t throwing a slider right there, because I hadn’t seen one in that at-bat, so I didn’t even know what it was going to look like.”
Tuesday marked the second time this season the Red Sox had faced a pitcher whose repertoire includes a seldom-seen gimmick. The first came last month, when Oakland A’s switch-pitcher Pat Venditte tossed two scoreless innings at Fenway Park in his major league debut.
As was the case with Venditte, Red Sox manager John Farrell said he had no issue with Capps’ style.
“That delivery he’s got is unique to him, but it’s not illegal by any means,” Farrell said. “And I think if you see some video from earlier in the year, there’s been an adjustment on his part where there was a — this is all one continuous motion he’s using. There was a little bit of a hesitation where his back foot would plant, and then he would go again, but there’s another pitcher in the big leagues in (Cardinals reliever Jordan) Walden who’s very similar to this. It’s unique, it’s unorthodox, but it’s certainly legal.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images