Why Slater wasn’t ‘thrilled’ about Pujols’ pitching debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
It can be an exciting thing when position players take the mound during an MLB game, but that wasn’t the case for Austin Slater when he went up to bat against Albert Pujols on Sunday.
With the Giants trailing 15-2, the legendary St. Louis Cardinals Slugger settled in to pitch the top of the ninth inning at Busch Stadium and checked off yet another accomplishment on his way to Cooperstown.
Pujols’ first-ever pitching appearance was a delight to baseball fans everywhere — even San Francisco’s, despite the score — but Slater was filled with dread as he stepped into the box.
“I wasn’t super, super thrilled about it,” Slater told KNBR’s Greg Papa and John Lund on Monday. “Lifetime, I’m oh-fer off of position players. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve never gotten a hit off a position player, minors or majors, and so there’s kind of that moment where I was like, ‘Oh no, not again.”
Slater faced off against Pujols and quickly fell into a 1-2 hole, then extended his hitless streak with a line out to center field. His at-bat was sandwiched between a walk to Darin Ruf and a single by Evan Longoria — the first player ever to record a hit against the future Hall of Famer.
The game ended with a final score of 15-6 thanks to home runs off of Pujols by Luis Gonzalez and Joey Bart.
Even though he wasn’t able to get in on the scoring fun, Slater was still able to soak in the iconic moment.
“Once stepping in, it was great,” Slater said. “It was a fun, fun thing I think I’ll be able to look back on and say, ‘I hit off Albert Pujols.’”
Slater didn’t see anything over 64 mph from Pujols, and the curveball he lined out on was clocked at 53.9 mph.
“I think Albert was kind of throwing in the BP range,” Slater said. “… Once you get below 50, maybe 55, it starts to get into that range where it’s a gravity ball, and it’s really hard to judge. Especially when you’ve been seeing 95-plus all day.”
Slater might not be the best when it comes to hitting off of position players, but as a pitcher himself, the outfielder has fared well. During a game against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park last season, Slater was called upon to get the last out of the eighth inning as the Giants trailed 9-0.
He walked former Giants infielder Ehire Adrianza before getting Freddie Freeman to fly out to left field, so Slater knows a thing or two about what his teammate Gonzalez went through as he, too, became a position player pitching during Sunday’s game.
“For a ball game just kind of getting out of hand for us, with Luis pitching and then Albert pitching, I think it made it enjoyable,” Slater said. “Not only for us, we’re getting kicked in that night, but also for the fans watching, which I think was great.”
Following their blowout loss in St Louis on Sunday, the Giants bounced back with a 7-6 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Monday.
As the season continues, Slater is certainly hoping San Francisco continues to keep its games close moving forward.