They’re called ‘pitchers’ for a reason …

With Interleague play having returned this weekend, we are faced with enduring one of the more difficult things to watch: American League pitchers attempting to hit. Perhaps it’s more entertaining than anything. I mean, AL hurlers will seek bare-bones advice from their teammates on hitting this weekend, while likely borrowing a bat that ‘feels the best’. It doesn’t matter — the result will be the same.

The Toronto Blue Jays were fortunate to go 20 years (1977-97) before having to send a pitcher to the plate. But, with the introduction of Interleague play in ’97, that would all change. Woody Williams made history on June 13 of that season, as the Blue Jays played their first ever Interleague contest against the Philadelphia Phillies — a rematch of the 1993 World Series. Williams became the first Blue Jay pitcher to bat in a regular season game, promptly striking out against Philly starter Curt Schilling in the third inning. However, in the fifth, Williams defied all odds and smacked a single off Schilling for the first ever base hit by a Toronto pitcher. All of a sudden, Blue Jay hurlers were hitting .500.

It hasn’t been pretty since.

Entering the 2007 campaign, Blue Jay pitchers had posted the following totals: .099/.121/.139. That’s 20 hits in 202 at-bats, while drawing five walks and striking out a total of 76 times. Overall, the 2003 season was the one most enjoyed by Toronto hurlers, as they combined to post an ‘impressive’ .214 average (6-for-28 with five runs scored). The highlight of the Interleague season that year came when left-hander Mark Hendrickson became the first and only Blue Jay pitcher to hit a home run, accomplishing the feat against the Montreal Expos on June 21. Unfortunately, the success didn’t carry over to the following two seasons, as the Toronto staff went a combined 0-for-38 in 2004 and 2005.

It’s important to note, of course, that the introduction of Interleague play wasn’t the first time that Blue Jays pitchers had been forced to take their turn in the batter’s box. No, that came during the team’s World Series championship seasons in 1992 and 1993. Against the Atlanta Braves in ’92, starters David Cone (2-for-4, RBI), Jimmy Key (0-for-1) and Jack Morris (0-for-2) combined to go 2-for-7 in the Series. Meanwhile, six Blue Jay pitchers together went 1-for-8 in the ’93 Series against the Phillies.

Todd_stottlemyre_autographWhile we tip our cap to Hendrickson for homering against the Expos, we can’t deny the fact that, among pitchers, Todd Stottlemyre produced the greatest offensive moment in Blue Jay history. After all, it truly was offensive. Ironically, Stottlemyre never recorded an official at-bat in a Blue Jay uniform — though he did manage to draw a bases on balls in Game 4 of the ’93 Series. That set up one of the most comedic moments in World Series history. Following a single by Roberto Alomar, Stottlemyre made the unfortunate decision to try and go first-to-third. If that decision was poor, however, the one to slide head-first — jacket and all — was even worse. The result of Stottlemyre’s infamous ‘belly-flop’ was a nice gash on the pitcher’s chin, as well as enough material for his teammates to rib him for years to come.

Dustin McGowan gets the first two at-bats by a Blue Jay pitcher this season, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout … Unfortunately, the right-hander also surrenders a five-spot to the Phillies in the fifth, resulting in a 5-3 Toronto loss … Aaron Hill delivers his seventh home run of the season, a two-run shot in the seventh. Though his average has dipped to .279, the 25-year-old Hill is still displaying his newfound power stroke. In fact, a quarter of the way through the season, he is on pace to hit 27-28 home runs and drive in 98-100 runs. Both would set new franchise marks for a second baseman (Roberto Alomar had 17 HR and 93 RBIs in 1993) … Marcum-Moyer Saturday night …

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2 Responses to “They’re called ‘pitchers’ for a reason …”

  1. theelettere@yahoo.com Says:

    Your articles are so good, there’s little I have to add. Just wanted to give you kudos – I always love hearing about the Jays golden years, and reminded of players like Alomar and Fernandez.

  2. Todd Says:

    Thanks for the kind words. Here’s hoping the Jays bring us some more good memories real soon!

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