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May 18, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Millwood is simply masterful at Coors Field

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(Kevin Millwood after his diving attempt to catch a bunt in the ninth inning. Photo by Getty Images).
It was hard to see this one coming. Sure, Kevin Millwood had the only Mariners’ win on this road trip, but he had been pretty undistinguished prior to beating the Yankees, and Coors Field is not an easy place to pitch — even for someone who got some experience doing so as a member of the Rockies last year.
All Millwood did was turn in the best effort by a Mariner pitcher this year, and his best outing in many a season. It was his first shutout in nine years, in fact, since he blanked the Padres on three hits while with the Phillies on Aug. 1, 2003.


I liked catcher John Jaso’s explanation of how Millwood — who struck out seven (five of them looking), walked one and hit one — did it. Millwood got 12 ground-ball outs, five fly ball outs (three to the outfield), two line drives, and one thrown out on the bases in addition to his strikeouts.
“I think it was just his command, his control,” Jaso said. “He started off with his fastball. We pretty much threw fastballs all the way through the order. He was making it cut and making it sink., Hitters didn’t know what it was going to do. Even if you stayed on one side of the plate, it was moving in different directions. They couldn’t really get a grasp of it.
“The second time through the lineup, he started throwing some off-speed stuff. After he was dumping some of those in for strikes, they were trying to sit on that fastball out over the plate. He was getting free strikes.
“Later on in the game, we were set up predominantly down and away to hitters. Everything was moving down there. After we got a comfortable lead, for strike three, he started buzzing balls inside, and hitters weren’t ready for it. We had the luxury to be able to do that, buzz some fastballs in there. That was good, too.”
“It would have been tough to face. I could imagine hitting against him tonight and it would have been mind-boggling. I would have just been swimming in my own brain about what to look for.”
As for Millwood, you never would have known he threw his first shutout in nine years, or flirted with a no-hitter. He was as low-key and laconic as ever.
“I felt like my stuff was good in the beginning. The first couple of innings, my location was pretty good. I felt if I could keep my location where it was, I had a chance to at least give us a chance.You always want to get deep in the game. Getting the win today was huge for this team. That’s bigger than the shutout or whatever.”
How did his arm feel? “Cold,” he said, pointing to the ice wrap on it.
Here’s his take on the ball by Marco Scutaro that went for the first hit of the game with two outs in the sixth, though it could easily have been ruled an error. The scorer didn’t make the call until AFTER Jordan Pacheco followed with a clean single. If Millwood had gotten Pacheco out, it would have been awfully tough to have that play be the first (and possibly only) hit.
“It’s a tough play,” Millwood said. “Not much else you can do. He had to go pretty far to his left. He kind of snow-coned it, and he’s going to have to spin. The ball just kind of popped out. Nothing he can do. He gave it a good effort. That’s all you can ask for.”
Millwood was well aware he had a no-hitter going, he said.
“I understand that, but it’s still a hit. It would have been great if he had made the play and threw him out, and we could have had fun for a little while longer, anyway. But he made all the effort he could to make a play, and it didn’t happen.”
Seager was upset with himself, and it wasn’t much solace that a clean hit followed. As he pointed out, if he throws out Scutaro, the inning’s over, and who knows what would have happened if Millwood had been able to regroup on the bench. He had to go to his left to field the ball, and lost the handle on the ball on the transfer.
“I’ll tell you what, that’s a play I sure would like to make. In that situation, him throwing the way he was, having not given up a hit yet, I felt that was a play I needed to make for him. The ball kind of kicked and went back, I kind of caught it deeper. When I went to spin to throw it, I kind of lost it. That’s a play, especially in that situation, you have to come up with that ball. You make that play, you’re out of that inning. You go to the next inning, and you never know. That’s a play I’d like to make.”
The other play that everyone was buzzing about, of course, was the bunt by Scutaro in the ninth, after Millwood had hit Eric Young Jr. Millwood made a full-out dive attempt. He didn’t catch it, but Seager made a great play coming in and threw out Scutaro.
“I’m just tyring to get an out,”; Millwood explained. “All I needed was three more. That’s a way to get one of them. I’m all about it.”
He stayed down on the ground for awhile, causing some concern he was hurt. Eric Wedge said he was worried until he saw Millwood smile.
“I was just laughing,” Millwood said. “It didn’t hurt at all. I just wasn’t quick enough to get there. I probably wasted a little more (energy) than I needed to there. It all worked out.”
Indeed, everything worked out for Millwood tonight.

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