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."

Why is Werth on Earth, and what is his purpose? He's still not sure after talking to The Post, saying that he just felt "lost in the abyss, really. About how it looked," to everyone else:

“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:

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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