Houston Astros: Former pitcher takes the cheaters to court

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 04: Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger (49) delivers the pitch in the fourth inning of a MLB game between the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park, Friday, August 4, 2017. Houston Astros defeated Toronto Blue Jays 16-7. (Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 04: Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger (49) delivers the pitch in the fourth inning of a MLB game between the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park, Friday, August 4, 2017. Houston Astros defeated Toronto Blue Jays 16-7. (Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Houston Astros: Former pitcher takes the cheaters to court

Mike Bolsinger’s Final MLB Game

Bolsinger entered that game in the bottom of the fourth in Minute Maid Park. The Houston Astros led 3-2 when the inning opened. They were up 6-2 when Bolsinger relieved Toronto Blue Jays starter Cesar Valdez‘s relief Matt Dermody, with Yuli Gurriel checking in at the plate, two out, and Josh Reddick aboard first. Gurriel walked on five pitches and Marwin Gonzalez stepped up to bat. On 2-0 Gonzalez hit a three-run homer. Make that 9-2, Astros, who batted around the order and a half in the inning.

Carlos Beltran followed by hitting a first-pitch, line double, Brian McCann followed with a full-count walk, Tyler White rapped a ground single on 0-1 to right to send Beltran home, and Jake Marisnick hit a 2-1 service for an RBI single. Bolsinger followed by walking Derek Fisher on 3-1 before he ended his inning and, it turned out, his major league career by retiring Alex Bregman for the side on a first-pitch fly out to center.

“I remember saying, ‘It was like they knew what I was throwing. They’re laying off pitches they weren’t laying off before. It’s like they knew what was coming’,” the former pitcher tells USA Today columnist Nancy Armour. “That was the thought in my head. I felt like I didn’t have a chance.”

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He didn’t, really. Thanks to Tony Adams, the fan who went to work analyzing the 2017 Houston Astros, including every game in which they banged the can slowly to transmit stolen electronically from off the field, we know exactly how little chance Bolsinger really had that day:

  • Gurriel—He took the first pitch for ball one with no bang. Bolsinger then threw him three curveballs, each one of which got banged to Gurriel and the second of which landed for balls a called strike between balls two and three. Gurriel then took a cutter for the walk with no percussion accompaniment.
  • Gonzalez—He saw two curveballs for balls one and two, then caught hold of a cutter and drove it over the right-field fence. The AIA operative in the clubhouse didn’t swing on the can once.
  • Beltran—He saw a four-seam fastball to hit to the back of right-center field and heard no bang. (Remember: the AIA banged the can slowly on breaking stuff and changeups. No bang equaled fastball.)
  • McCann—Bolsinger started him with a curveball for which he was banged before delivery. Ball one. The next three pitchers were slider (swinging strike), cutter (called strike), and slider (ball two in the dirt). No bangs. Then, it was: bang, slider (ball three); bang, slider (foul); no bang, cutter (foul); and, bang, curveball (ball four).
  • White—In order: two bangs, cutter (called strike); one bang, curveball, ground RBI single.
  • Marisnick—Bolsinger started him with two cutters, no bangs, and a foul strike followed by ball one. Then, it was bang, cutter (ball two); and, bang, curveball, line drive, base hit, RBI
  • Fisher—Called strike followed by four straight balls. The strike was a four-seamer; the balls, back-to-back cutters, a slider, and another cutter. And no bangs.
  • Bregman—Bang, curveball, fly out, side retired. Considering Bregman knew what was coming, Bolsinger was probably lucky Bregman didn’t hit it into the seats.

Bolsinger threw 29 pitches in the inning and twelve of them got banged. It was the most bangs for Astro hitters against any of the Jays’ six pitchers on the day.

Bolsinger was sent back to Triple-A after the game and didn’t get a hoped-for September call-up despite going the rest of the way with a 1.93 ERA. Neither the Jays nor anyone else in the majors offered him a new deal at season’s end.

“I was an older guy,” he tells Armour. “They had younger guys to call up. Let’s say that (game) doesn’t happen . . . I probably don’t get sent down. But at that point, they probably lost faith in me and were over it.”

Bolsinger went to Japan instead, pitching for the Chiba Lotte Marines, posting a serviceable 3.87 ERA in two seasons with Chiba Lotte, and doing it largely on edge. His wife was pregnant with their son in the first season. His translator lived an hour away from the couple. And the pitcher feared trouble getting her medical attention during her pregnancy or during their son’s first year of life.