DETROIT – Before we get to how in the heck Anthony Reyes – the guy with the fewest wins to ever start a Game 1 of the World Series – managed to absolutely lay waste to the Detroit Tigers, en route to a, get this, Game 1 victory, let’s talk about his hat. And, of course, his socks.
Because, trust us, his unique fashion sort of explains the St. Louis Cardinals’ 7-2 victory here heading into Sunday’s Game 2.
First let’s go to the garish red and white striped socks that are pulled up to the knee in a modern fashion faux pas so egregious you wouldn’t let the biggest dork on your neighborhood team, you know, the kid in right field more adept at picking daisies, dare wear them that way for fear of endless peer humiliation.
“The socks,” said Reyes, “I’ve had up since Little League. So I don’t feel there’s any reason to change now.”
OK, so if it’s working, Reyes doesn’t change a thing.
Well, what about the oh-so straight bill on Reyes’ hat, so flat and awkward that even Tony La Russa, who admits “I’m not a real style master,” couldn’t help but mock – “I don’t think it’s going to be copied widely by the kids of America.” Later, La Russa ran into Reyes in the hallway and jokingly tried to bend his own brim straight before it snapped back into place.
“The hat helps me see a little bit, gets more light in, helps me see the signs,” Reyes said.
Get more light in? Seriously?
How do you get it so flat? Reyes was asked.
“You know,” he said, “it comes out of the box flat. I just don’t bend it.”
OK, so if straight is working, why bend? Keep it simple.
The thing is, the 25-year-old Californian didn’t need any more light to see his catcher’s signs Saturday when he silenced Detroit’s bats, the prognosticators’ predictions of a Tigers sweep and 42,479 hyped up fans here at Comerica Park.
Reyes almost exclusively threw just a single pitch – the fastball, the straight pitch – all night. That was it. He threw it with great control; inside, outside, up, down, on the black. But it was mainly fastball. And since it was working, he didn’t change a thing. Why bend?
“I thought they might have been on the change-up, maybe waiting for it,” said Reyes. “So I just felt there was no reason to throw it.”
Pitch after pitch, inning after inning, Cards catcher Yadier Molina would settle in behind the plate and throw down a single digit. Reyes would nod and then go.
“I didn’t see any pitch that he shook off,” said Albert Pujols. “Everything (Molina) put down, he was going with.”
There were no mysteries here. Nothing fancy, nothing tricky. Reyes just preyed on the Tigers’ historically impatient batters and kept giving them something they thought they could hit, but couldn’t.
After a shaky first inning (two hits, one earned run) that was expected of a rookie whose regular season win total (5) was surpassed not only by his losses (8) but his ERA (5.06), Reyes wasn’t just dominant, but startlingly efficient.
He retired 17 consecutive batters at one point. He took down 21 of 22 from the start of the second until the end of the eighth and needed a measly 67 pitches to do it. In four innings he threw seven pitches or fewer.
By the time he was pulled in the ninth, he had delivered the dream gem that the Cardinals’ bone-tired bullpen desperately needed.
“He pitched probably the best game of his life,” said Pujols.
La Russa, who gambled on the kid, sat at a coaches’ dinner Friday Night and had everyone write down on a piece of paper how long they each thought Reyes, who pitched this year against Omaha, Tacoma and other Triple A powers, would last against a Detroit offense that had clubbed its way to seven consecutive victories.
“Well, you try to be fair,” said LaRussa. “I thought if he went five or six with low runs that he had done a great job.”
How’s 8.0 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs and one big, big victory.
“You saw the Anthony Reyes that we’ve seen for the prior two years,” La Russa said. “He doesn’t scare. He’s got great composure and when he gets it rolling, he’s got good weapons.”
Actually, he had only one weapon. But it was all he needed.
Reyes’ flat bill may allow more light in, but he was at his best when he blocked everything but the location of Molina’s glove out of his mind. Then he just tried to hit the target.
“I just tried to focus on the glove and forget about what level of game this is,” he said. “(I) just (tried) to hit (the glove) the best I could and not worry about anything else.”
When what came out of the box (like the straight bill) was working (like the Little League socks) he didn’t even think to change, to think, to care, to bend.