NEW YORK -- When it happens, it means something has gone disastrously wrong in the ballgame. Yet whenever it does, one member of the losing team generally has a grin on his face after it is all over. And no matter which team you are rooting for, it is always fun to watch.
On Saturday, it was Garrett Jones' turn to be the happy guy in a glum clubhouse, because he was the position player called upon to mop up for the New York Yankees in a hopelessly lost game. Jones, a backup first baseman and designated hitter, was called upon by Joe Girardi to get the final two outs of the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers, who held a 15-2 lead at the time and would go on to win, 15-4.
"It's tough because we're losing the game," he said, But you got think, 'This one’s pretty much done.' Not giving up, of course, but let's think about tomorrow and the Royals coming in to town. So hopefully we saved a few bullets for our pitchers and they’ll be a little fresher the next time they pitch."
The fact that the score did not get any more one-sided pleased Jones immensely, as did the 62 mile-per-hour curveball that he snapped off against Shin-Soo Choo, who could only ground it weakly to first base for the second out of the inning.
"That was pretty nasty," Jones said, chuckling. "That felt like a good pitch. I should have thrown more of those."
In a stat indicative of the kind of day it was for Yankees pitching, Jones -- who had not pitched since high school -- actually posted the best line of the day for his team, being credited with 2/3 of a scoreless inning, allowing no hits, a walk, and hitting a batter. After starting inauspiciously with a warmup pitch that sailed to the backstop, Jones threw 17 pitches, seven for strikes. After getting Choo to ground out -- to Alex Rodriguez, no less -- and plunking pinch-hitter Leonys Martin in the shoulder with a 75-MPH "fastball" -- Jones induced a harmless fly out from Tommy Field to end his day's work.
"I was a little nervous out there on the mound, not trying to blow anyone away, just trying to throw the ball over the plate," said Jones, who rarely plays the positions he was signed for. "But it turned out to be fun, a good experience. At least I can say I did it."
He joins Dean Anna and Nick Swisher as Yankees who have had to perform the task in recent years, but unlike Swisher, Jones did not enjoy the pleasure of striking anyone out, as Swisher did to Gabe Kapler, much to Kapler's mortification.
Jones said he could identify with how Kapler felt.
"I have (hit against a position player)," he said. "It's no fun. It's very strange because you feel like you're expected to get a hit, and sometimes they’re pretty good."
What was the secret to Jones' success today?
"I was throwing below the hit speed today," he said, "which can be very effective."