Hagadone's huge out rewards Francona's confidence
Indians reliever stops rally threat with bases-loaded strikeout
SEATTLE -- Indians manager Terry Francona has been steadfast in his faith that lefty Nick Hagadone can emerge as a reliable weapon for crucial situations. That confidence was once again on full display on Saturday night at Safeco Field.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning, Francona handed the ball to Hagadone to face Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager and protect a one-run lead. Three pitches later, the left-hander recorded a crowd-quieting strikeout that loomed large in the Tribe's 4-3 win over the Mariners.
"For our bullpen to be what we want it to be," Francona said, "I think he has to be able to carry a pretty big load."
That has been Francona's message since the early stages of Spring Training and it has continued to be his stance throughout some ups and downs for the lefty this season. Even after some rough outings, Francona has continued to turn to Hagadone in critical situations, showing that the manager's confidence has not wavered.
That has meant a lot to Hagadone.
"That's huge for me," said the reliever. "Knowing that Tito has the confidence to put me out there in those situations, and that he doesn't lose that confidence if I have a couple bad outings, it's huge for my confidence. It's just great to play for a manager like that."
In the seventh, Tribe right-hander Zach McAllister allowed one run and eventually slipped into a bases-loaded jam with two outs after walking slugger Nelson Cruz. That set the stage for Hagadone's battle with Seager, who already had a pair of doubles and a walk, and who has performed well against lefties (.302 average in 43 at-bats) this year.
Hagadone started Seager off with a cutter for a called strike.
"It's a new pitch," said Hagadone, who has a 4.00 ERA with 19 strikeouts and seven walks in 18 innings this year. "It just helps to keep them off-balance, because a lot of hitters, especially with me, are sitting on fastballs only. So, if I can just kind of throw something else up there in the strike zone, it kind of helps me not allow them to just sit on that."
Hagadone followed with a fastball, which Seager fouled off to fall into an 0-2 count. That is when the lefty spun an 82-mph curveball that had late break, tailing out of the strike zone and past Seager's swing for an inning-ending strikeout.
"Hags [made] some really big pitches in a key spot," Francona said. "I'm not really sure there wasn't a key spot, though, when you're in a game like that. They were putting pressure on us all night. We did some really good things to manage to hang on there."