It’s hard to imagine a more satisfying way for the Brewers to close out their homestand against the Cubs. With hardly a moment to spare, the Brewers wrenched victory out of the jaws of defeat thanks to a two-run home run by Casey McGehee off Cubs reliever Kerry Wood. However, that home run couldn’t have been worth two runs had it not been for Yuniesky Betancourt standing on second base.
It’s not that Yuniesky Betancourt is a completely incompetent hitter – even though he’s very bad by MLB standards, he should still reach base 30% of the time this year (or so). There are two circumstances which made Betancourt’s presence on base so unlikely – he reached via the walk, and he did so after falling behind 0-2.
Betancourt only walks in 3.4% of his plate appearances for his career. For reference – and I’ll probably bust this one out quite a few times this season – Rickie Weeks has been hit by a pitch in 3.1% of his career plate appearances. So, even against a relatively walk-prone pitcher such as Wood, the walk was an unlikely outcome to begin with.
And then Betancourt fell behind 0-2. Hitters don’t do well in 0-2 counts. This study from The Book shows the triple-slash (AVG/OBP/SLG) of hitters who go through 0-2 counts as .183/.207/.275. That line is for the average hitter, which Betancourt most certainly is not.
Right here is where Betancourt’s only plus skill as a hitter comes in – his ability to avoid the strikeout. Usually, he does this by making poor contact on a poor pitch early in the count. This time, he avoided the strikeout through patience, realizing Wood’s plan to attack him with off-the-outside sliders – a strategy which put Betancourt in the 0-2 hole. Instead, Betancourt laid off two more close outside sliders, a badly-missed inside fastball, and one last slider outside to draw the walk.
Likely, Wood’s approach was all part of the Cubs game plan against Betancourt and I wouldn’t be surprised if it suceeds 9 times out of 10 in an 0-2 situation. However, for one reason or another, Betancourt found his patient side and managed to make his way on as the tying run in the bottom of the 8th. His patience was rewarded as Casey McGehee paid it off with the game-winning home run, one made possible by Betancourt’s unlikely walk.