Rice-Wall Deliver A One-Two
In boxing, the perfect set up is the one-two punch combination. It’s leading with the left jab followed by a powerful right. Two quick blows delivered in rapid succession to put your opponent on the mat.
In Albuquerque, it’s the lefty Scott Rice followed by the righty Josh Wall.
‘Topes fans witnessed this devastating combination last night with a one-run lead over Oklahoma City heading into the eighth inning. Rice owned the eighth with his own groundout-inducing pitching style while Wall followed with his filthy slider to fool three consecutive hitters and strike out the side. The last two frames were marked by lefty-groundouts countered with righty-strikeouts.
Most Isotopes games will see a handful of relief pitchers eat up the late innings before one of the two, Rice or Wall, come in to slam the door on the opposition. The rotation usually gives one “closer” over the other the opportunity to finish out the win, while his counterpart, without throwing a single warm up pitch, watches from the outfield pen.
And I ask, why not use both?
“A lot of times it depends on availability, how much they threw or who has a fresher arm,” says Manager, Lorenzo Bundy. “It’s worked out with Rice picking up a save or two and Wall picking up a couple. Those two guys have been really good for us.”
Which of course is Bundy politely saying he’s got two studs waiting out in the pen. Not to mention those “couple” of saves for each pitcher is enough to tie Wall (6) for second in the PCL and tie Rice (4) for fifth. Or perhaps more importantly, where most teams don’t even have a pitcher that ranks tops the league in saves, the ‘Topes have two.
“Scott started off real well, had a little rough road and seems to have gotten back on track,” says Bundy. “And Josh has been solid this whole time through. Last night his slider was absolutely dominating.”
And while both “closers” seem similar as they tower over the rubber (Rice at 6’6, 225-pounds and Wall at 6’6, 220-pounds), the two pitchers couldn’t be any different. As a left-hander, Rice attacks hitters with a fastball-sinker repertoire to force hitters to put the ball in play. As a right-hander, Wall delivers a fastball-slider combination to confuse batters and leave them looking foolish as they strike out swinging at balls moving through the zone.
A choice between pitchers like this, for most skippers, is determined by the flow of the game. But for Bundy, there’s no need to complicate things with righty-lefty matchups, ground out percentages or any other statistical analytics. It’s as simple as “A” or “B”. Rice or Wall.
“Sometimes it (pitcher choice) depends on the matchups,” says Bundy. “But for the most part it doesn’t matter who is coming up at that time in the game for us right now.”
I believe the proper term for this is “confidence.”
“Obviously if you get the ball in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings while we have the lead it’s usually because we have confidence in you,” says Bundy. “I guess the ideal way to pitch these guys is if we can get one inning out of both them and hold the lead. It could be Rice pitching the eighth and Wall pitching the ninth — it’s not etched in stone really.”
But it should be.