'All organic': Houser wows with back-to-back pickoffs

March 26th, 2022

PHOENIX -- Before you ask, no, it’s not a record. Adrian Houser picking off a pair of Mariners baserunners in the second inning of Saturday’s 7-7 tie was impressive, but not Tippy Martinez impressive.

Martinez was a lefty reliever for the Orioles, who picked off three men in the 10th inning of a wild game against the Blue Jays on Aug. 24, 1983. Martinez surrendered a walk and a single, didn’t retire a batter, and yet pitched a scoreless inning because he picked off three runners, all from first base. Baltimore then scored four runs in the bottom of the inning to win the game.

Saturday’s contest was considerably less dramatic, but Houser did provide a highlight in his second inning of work. Seattle third baseman Kevin Padlo stepped to the plate with runners at first and second base with one out -- and then stepped back to the dugout without logging an at-bat.

Before Padlo saw his first (and, as it turned out, only) pitch, Houser spun with an inside move and threw behind Dylan Moore at second base for the first pickoff. Moore had danced too far from second base just as Houser turned for a peek and second baseman Kolten Wong closed on the bag.

Padlo dug back into the batter’s box and looked at strike one on a sinker down in the zone. Before Houser delivered again, he stepped off and threw to first baseman Rowdy Tellez for another pickoff, this time catching Sam Haggerty to end the inning.

Was the aim going into Saturday’s Cactus League outing to work on pickoffs, or was it organic?

“That was all organic,” Houser said. “We did say before the game we were going to work on some long holds, just to get used to get back to working on the running game a little bit.”

He added, “I think that’s the first time I’ve picked somebody off since high school.”

Not so fast.

Houser actually has one career pickoff in 325 1/3 regular season innings in his career. It was last May 27, in a game against the Padres at American Family Field. Tommy Pham strayed way too far off second base and Houser stepped off and ran toward him before throwing him out.

On Saturday, he unofficially tripled his career total.

“It kind of fell into the plan today, so it all worked out good,” Houser said.