Snell: 'I don't want to be called a loser'
Pitcher challenges Pirates again after 8-4 loss to Mets
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NEW YORK -- It was late in the evening on June 23, when Ian Snell, fresh off a road blowout by the Los Angeles Angels, lashed out at all of the Pirates' losing.
He called it "stupid."
He declared in a loud tone that, "I [expletive] hate losing."
Last night, after being on the bad end of another road blowout, an 8-4 loss to the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, he took it to another level: He wondered if anyone shared his sentiment.
Asked how difficult this 1-9 free fall since the All-Star break has been on the Pirates, Snell replied, "I have no idea. You've got to ask these other guys. It's starting to get to the point where you think too much, and I don't want to get to that point."
He feigned shaking his right hand, as if in a trembling motion.
"I'm starting to break. I'm getting stressed out. I don't know about these other guys, but I just want to win. I don't want to be called a loser. Man, even my family calls our team losers, and I don't want anyone to say that about our team."
He was far from done.
Snell lasted a season-low four innings and gave up a season-high six earned runs, exiting with the Pirates down, 6-2.
His postgame gathering with reporters began with his being asked what went wrong.
"All I know is that I'm going to take the blame," Snell said. "Everything's my fault. I don't want to put any pressure on the team. Nothing."
He paused again, then made a 180-degree turn.
"There were some balls I thought we could have caught. We could have given up only three runs. I could have stayed in the game. I threw 50 pitches, and I'm out of the game. But they didn't give those guys errors, either, so ... it didn't work out in my favor."
Snell actually threw 63 pitches, but it was difficult to dispute any other part of that account ...
The score was 2-2 after Jason Bay hit the first of his two home runs in the top of the fourth, but New York opened the bottom half with Paul Lo Duca's double that landed near the track in left-center, between Bay and Xavier Nady.
With how long the ball hung in the air, it appeared one of the two should have had it. But Nady had been shading toward right-center and, despite a full sprint, failed to cover gap-to-gap distance. Bay did not have nearly as far to go, but he hesitated and, quite clearly, pulled up.
Shawn Green singled, and the Mets were back on top, 3-2.
Green advanced on a wild pitch that catcher Ronny Paulino could have stopped, but he tried to backhand a slider in the dirt rather than simply blocking it.
And the next batter, Lastings Milledge, grounded a ball between the legs of third baseman Matt Kata that inexplicably was ruled a single by the official scorer.
Pirates manager Jim Tracy seemed to see those plays the same way Snell did.
"We didn't have a particularly good fourth inning," Tracy said. "There were a couple of pitches left up in the zone, and there were a couple of plays that, obviously, didn't go our way. That kind of fueled things for them."
The fire came when the next batter, pitcher John Maine, a career .062 hitter, tomahawked Snell's elevated 90-mph fastball over the left-field fence for a two-run home run and a 6-2 New York lead.
Snell's statistics would indicate that he has fallen with the team after the break: He was 7-5 in the first half with a 2.93 ERA, but is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA in the three starts since then. He has yet to pitch beyond the sixth inning.
Tracy acknowledged that some pitches are staying too high -- which doubtless have contributed to eight home runs allowed in the past five starts -- but he cited no difference in velocity or, for that matter, poise.
"He's looked on any given night like he could dominate," Tracy said. "Some things just haven't worked out for him."
"He's been so good all season, and baseball's going to be tough on you sometimes," first baseman Adam La Roche said of Snell. "It's the same thing that happened to me and Jason and a couple other guys, where you run into a skid. They're finding some holes on him right now. ... But you know what? The next time he takes the mound, he won't even remember this happened."
Snell seemed to feel the same way.
"I feel fine," he said. "There's no problem here."
The outcome was academic after Snell exited, but his story did not end there.
After Maine's home run, Milledge, the man who had been on base and a reputed show-boater, waved his right arm in a windmill motion as he crossed home plate. Snell was glaring at him every step of the way.
Snell never had another shot at Milledge, but reliever Tony Armas plunked him on the elbow in his next at-bat.
"It really didn't matter," Milledge said. "It got me on the pad. If they tried, they tried. We do what we do. We get excited when we hit a home run. If they're mad, I don't know what to say."
That was the one aspect of the evening Snell seemed to shrug off.
"I don't have any problem with Lastings," Snell said. "I know him, and he deserves to be happy. He got some big hits, and his team won the game."
Milledge answered Armas' action in style: He hit a monster two-run home run off Masumi Kuwata in the eighth.
The lone bright spot was the slumping Bay's superb night at the plate: He went 3 for 4 with those two home runs, taking Maine to left-center and Guillermo Mota to right-center in the ninth to raise his season total to 15. The three RBIs gave him five in the past two games.