Jake Diekman was simply trying to control his breathing when he came to the mound yesterday afternoon in the ninth inning of a tie ballgame.
The talented left-hander was thrown into the fire, without warning, with the winning run resting on third base. It was Diekman’s job to get Marwin Gonzalez out, and he fanned him on five pitches.
“I wanted to walk into the dugout and take a huge breath,” Diekman said, after making his MLB debut. “I came in and told Juan Pierre, ‘This is awesome.’ I don’t think I could ever dream about getting a win in my debut, it’s pretty crazy.”
The sequence wasn’t exactly how the 25-year-old imagined it — he figured he’d own a four- or five-run lead — but he’ll take it. Especially after Hunter Pence’s walk-off home run in the 10th made him the pitcher of record in a 4-3 Phillies win.
Diekman said he couldn’t feel his legs when he got the call to come in. He knew it was his job to limit further damage after Chad Qualls blew a two-run save. But his first priority was to make it safely out of the bullpen.
“When I got put in, I had to make sure I didn’t trip down the stairs first,” Diekman said half-joking. “And then I just wanted to make it all the way to the mound, if I could. That’s the one thing that went through my head.”
Diekman started Gonzalez off with a 96-mph fastball, which Gonzalez took for a strike. He retired him with a nasty slider at 83 mph.
“I really wanted to throw a first-pitch fastball,” he said. “I didn’t want to start off 1-0.”
The Phillies rewarded Diekman by sending him back out in the 10th inning. He induced a fly ball out, then notched back-to-back strikeouts.
“I feel pretty comfortable because I tried to control my breathing as much as possible, so that second inning helped out a lot, because I had that one hitter already, so I felt like I did it once, let’s go do it again,” Diekman said.
The rookie knows he has an excellent chance to make an impact on the Phillies’ struggling bullpen. The team’s 5.10 ERA is the worst mark in Major League Baseball.
Before he starts on that noble quest, Diekman had another one: He planned to call his dad. What did he plan on telling him?
“I got a ball for you, dad,” Diekman said.
Lee stellar in no-decision
Cliff Lee was at a loss for words after his third straight no-decision. Lee is 0-1 with a 1.95 ERA.
“That’s something that’s out of my control,” Lee said. “All I can do is control what I can control and that’s what I focus on.”
Lee was in line for his first win until the ninth. Chad Qualls blew the save, after Brian Bogusevic crossed home on a fielding error by Hunter Pence.
“I feel bad not getting a win for Cliff,” Pence said. “I feel bad about that play in the outfield.”
Lee gave up one run (a solo shot in the seventh) and had 10 strikeouts, his 19th career double-digit strikeout game.