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Carlos Villanueva’s 57-mph eephus pitch vexes Jayson Werth

David Brown
Big League Stew

Using one of the oldest tricks in a pitcher's bag, Chicago Cubs right-hander Carlos Villanueva knocked Washington Nationals slugger Jayson Werth for a mental loop. So much so, Werth told the Washington Post on Thursday, that he had to go and google what was wrong with him.

Starting Werth's at-bat in the fifth inning Wednesday night with a fastball clocked at 90 mph, Villanueva had him set up for something slower. Much, much slower.Villanueva came back with a 57-mph eephus pitch that caught the outside corner for strike two.

The look on Werth's face, along with his body language, said a lot: He didn't expect to see that one coming. Blogger Dayn Perry of CBS Sports said it looked like Werth suddenly was facing "an existential crisis."

“I had to Google ‘existential crisis,’ " he said, smiling. “It was an existential crisis. It really was. I was just getting myself standing back upright. Took me a second. Had to reboot the system after that one.”

It takes a big man to admit having to look up a definition.

Werth said the last time he had faced a pitch that speed, he was playing slow-pitch softball in Central Illinois, where he grew up. Struck out, of course. He managed to fly out against Villanueva later in the at-bat, though. A small victory.

It's even funnier on repeat, via Vine:

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It caught Werth off guard, but the history of the eephus pitch goes a long way back in Major League Baseball. Recent examples include Tim Hudson unleashing a "knuckleball" on Adam LaRoche during spring training this season. Just a season ago, Randy Wolf threw one to Brandon Phillips of the Reds that registered at 49 mph.

A relatively contemporary famous example would be the "LaLob," a really high-arching bloop thrown by left-hander Dave LaRoche (Adam's dad) in the 1980s — most famously to Gorman Thomas of the Brewers:

Then there's Rip Sewell, who tried sneaking an eephus past Ted Williams at the 1946 All-Star game, but instead gave up a home run.

The eephus. It comes around just often enough to confound us.

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