One pitch, two outs and a 'W': Stanek seizes opportunity

October 20th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- One pitch. That’s all  needed to earn the win on Thursday night.

“That’s the ultimate snake job right there,” Stanek said.

To his credit, it was a pitch that swung the story of the Astros’ 10-3 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Rangers at Globe Life Field on Thursday.

Stanek, entering in relief of starter José Urquidy with runners on first and second and just one out, got Mitch Garver to ground into a 5-4-3 double play and kept the score tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the third inning. Houston put up four runs in the next half-inning and didn’t look back.

“The plan, I think, was to send me back out,” Stanek said. “But the [top of the fourth] inning just got longer and longer, and I got hot a couple of times, and they’re like, ‘All right, you’re going to be done. Hunter [Brown]’s going to come in and take the ball.

“I was like, ‘OK, cool. I get it.' We scored four. The inning was 30 to 35 minutes long. So be it.”

Stanek hadn’t entered a game since Oct. 8, waiting for his opportunity and even warming up several times but not entering, including in Wednesday night’s win. After the Game 3 victory, fellow reliever Hector Neris joked with Stanek about his time off.

“He was like, ‘Oh, you don’t want to play,’” Stanek said. “I get in today, and I finally pitched. And then I only throw one. He’s like, ‘Dude, you got to throw more than one pitch.’ I was like, ‘Dude, it worked.’”

Neris greeted Stanek at his locker postgame with a question: What did you throw?

Stanek replied: “Slider.”

It was a good one, placed perfectly on the outside corner to get Garver to tap it weakly to third baseman Alex Bregman.

Funny enough, the outing also wasn’t Stanek’s first relief appearance with just one pitch this year. On June 19, the right-hander replaced Brown with two outs in the sixth, got a flyout from Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez on a 98.8 mph fastball and called it a day.

His first career one-pitch outing came on May 4, 2022, also with two outs, this time substituting for Justin Verlander against the Mariners. Julio Rodríguez grounded out to the shortstop on a high 99.4 mph fastball.

“It’s wild,” Stanek said. “I don’t think I’ve had hardly any before this year.”

Thursday’s one-pitch outing came with an extra out -- and the win. Brown, who entered in the bottom of the fourth inning and pitched three scoreless innings to get a hold, found out about Stanek receiving the win while being interviewed postgame. He laughed and congratulated his teammate.

For Stanek, however, who got his third career postseason win (compared with 10 in the regular season), the win as a stat doesn’t mean a whole lot.

“Wins as a reliever is probably the [most] worthless stat on the planet,” Stanek said. “I feel like I would have a great year if I could finish 0-0. For me, wins are just a byproduct of circumstance and coming into a game where the boys on the offensive side come in and score a bunch of runs. 

“As a reliever, I feel like they don’t mean a lot. It’s cool to have, I guess.”