The 0-2 pitch to Jeff Kent was a strike, by all television appearances. The 1-2 pitch was a strike, too. But the umpire disagreed. Top of the seventh, bases loaded, one out, Brett Myers was holding a 3-0 lead over the Dodgers last night. Kent should have been struck out twice but the count was 2-2. This was the Myers crucible.
On television, Chris Wheeler framed it exactly right: this was going to be a test for Myers and his composure. This was going to be an enormous test of all that Myers reconfigured about himself when he was exiled to the minor leagues this summer. He has been tremendous since coming back but this was the kind of moment that he needed to make his, a time when the umpire had squeezed him and emotions where high and focus was demanded upon the task at hand.
We all have seen Myers over the years. To strip him of his emotion is to neuter him. He will always walk a line that way. When he and manager Charlie Manuel had their screaming match in the dugout recently, a line was crossed, yes. But it still beats the zombie-like alternative. So it is all about harnessing that emotion for Myers, about channeling, about focusing, about chapters three through seven of every self-help book ever written. And this was the moment against Kemp -- because we have all seen Myers react to uncooperative umpires before, with a glare or a wave of the glove in disgust or worse.
The reaction this time? Placid determination followed by a hard, biting curveball, low and out of the strike zone, that Kent chased for strike three.
After Kent, Myers got out of the inning when Manny Ramirez lined to rightfield. But the Kent at-bat told you more.