In a 16-inning, six-hour game that saw the Orioles beat the Angels 10-8, Baltimore outfielder Stevie Wilkerson was the one to secure his team’s victory. It wasn’t his game-tying RBI double in the eighth inning, but his performance on the mound that sealed his place in baseball history.
After the O’s used nine actual, professional pitchers across 15 innings, Wilkerson came on for the save at the end, and incredibly, despite failing to throw a pitch that was faster than a semi truck on the highway, Wilkerson earned the first save by a position player in Major League history.
Wilkerson wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with the mound. It was his third appearance in the month of July; he allowed one run across three innings in a pair of blowout losses to the Rays and Red Sox. But this was the first time his pitches would determine the outcome of a game, and boy, they did not look reassuring in the slightest.
Wilkerson thought he’d perplex the opposing batters with his slowball, and he stuck to that game plan, tossing an average of 54.3 miles per hour on 14 pitches. The first one looked so lazy and pathetic that the catcher couldn’t even get it in his glove, but improbably, Wilkerson avoided any lethal contact. Brian Goodwin hit a long fly ball out to center. Kole Calhoun topped the ball and grounded out. Albert Pujols could only hit it meekly for an out in shallow left-center.
At best, Wilkerson looked like the second coming of Tim Wakefield. Mostly he looked like a dad playing with his kids at the park. But you can’t deny that he was effective.
“I was just hoping somehow they would hit three balls at somebody,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said after the game. “It’s below hitting speed, so that’s hard.”
Masahiro Tanaka could learn a thing or two from this guy.