Both these guys had so much fun
Position players pitching has lost much of its appeal in recent years. What used to be a rare moment of whimsical absurdity is now used increasingly often as a purely practical strategy to preserve bullpen arms. But that doesn’t mean seeing a position player on the mound can’t be a joy sometimes, like when Willians Astudillo threw two 46 mph strikes a few weeks ago or on Wednesday night, when Anthony Rizzo got Freddie Freeman to strike out swinging.
The Braves roughed up Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (seven runs in 3 2/3 innings) and tacked on another three runs off of Alec Mills to make it 10–0, at which point manager David Ross called on Rizzo to take the hill.
Rizzo got Johan Camargo to ground out and then walked Ronald Acuña Jr., which brought up Freeman. Rizzo had an enormous grin on his face as he worked against the reigning NL MVP. After Rizzo painted the corner with a couple of fastballs (71 and 74 mph, respectively), Freeman couldn’t help but crack a smile as well. When Rizzo made Freeman swing out of his shoes with a 61 mph fastball, both guys started cracking up. Rizzo kept the ball as a souvenir.
Ross said later that infielder Matt Duffy was initially supposed to be the guy pitching the seventh, but Rizzo made his case to take the mound after taunting Freeman from the dugout.
“I was kind of loosening my arm up,” Rizzo told reporters. “And I go, ‘I want you,’ pointing at him.”
Rizzo also messed with Freeman a couple of weeks ago on Sunday Night Baseball, yelling “Frederick!” as he chased him during a rundown, so Freeman was having a hard time taking the at-bat seriously.
“I couldn’t stop laughing as I was going up to the plate,” Freeman said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”
Freeman had an otherwise fantastic night at the plate (he was 4-for-4 before the strikeout), so he was able to laugh off his struggles against Rizzo.
“He’ll have that over me forever,” Freeman said. “But that’s one strikeout I’m OK with. That was fun. It was fun to be a part of.”
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