Matt Lindstrom didn't get a good night's sleep Friday and he didn't receive any supportive phone calls from friends around the league after his meltdown against the Phillies. The life of a closer can feel pretty lonely at times.
The 6-4, 210-pound hard throwing right-hander is learning -- among other things in his new role -- that coming into a ninth inning situation can be hard. But the good news for Marlins fans, who unleashed their venom on Lindstrom on the airwaves and on message boards, is that the 29-year old felt like he learned something last night after spending a few extra hours watching himself on video replays.
"Last night was embarrassing for myself. No excuses. I just didn’t get it done," Lindstrom said from his locker Saturday, making sure to answer every question from reporters (even if all of them pertained to his worst night in baseball). "But I know what I have to do now to have more success -- and that’s mix my pitches better and stop getting behind hitters, giving them a hitter’s count."
"The only real explanation I have [for the wildness] was that is it was tough to harness [the fastball]. I felt good. My release point seemed like it was there. My ball just had an unusual little late life and cut on it. I’d get behind and I’d have to come with strikes. I didn’t utilize my breaking ball enough. I think I started with the four hitter and the first time I threw [the breaking ball] was to the nine guy. I just got to mix my pitches a little better."
For what it's worth, Marlins fans might want to cut Lindstrom a little slack. Friday's outing was just his 13th opportunity in a save situation in his three seasons in the majors. The two home runs he gave up? Before Friday, he'd only surrendered three in 143 appearances. And, this was the Phillies he was pitching against.
The bottomline is his fastball wasn't working and when he tried to throw it for strikes, the Phillies were sitting on it. "There’s probably quite a few pitches I few I wish I could have had back, ones I didn’t throw with quite as much conviction as I would have liked to," Lindstrom said. "The problem was I think I had about six inches of cut on my four seemer. It started in off the middle third and then breaking and [catcher John] Baker would be going like this [extending his arms to catch it]. It was frustrating. Then, I had to kind of ease one in there just to throw a freaking strike. That’s not going to cut it – especially when these guys are timing it."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he had a talk with Lindstrom before Saturday's game in the weight room. But the talk wasn't about baseball. “This guy has only had 13 opportunities to save games in three years,” Gonzalez said. “You aren’t going to create that ninth inning stuff that goes on in the seventh. The adrenaline, 30,000 people screaming, facing the middle of the lineup. He’s got to feel that and get that.”
Gonzalez said while the option was there Friday to stick with Leo Nunez, who retired the top of the Phillies order 1-2-3 in the eighth, the only thing he was thinking about heading into the ninth was giving Lindstrom (who had five days off between outings) a chance to experience the ninth.
"You can [go with Nunez]," Gonzalez said. "But don’t you want to try and develop your closer? Don't you want to develop a guy whose only had 13 opportunities to save games in three years? You got to develop other pieces. Yeah, you could run Nunez out there. But he’s our guy that we’re going to go to."
Gonzalez said he believes Lindstrom has all the ingredients the Marlins want in a closer. "Stuff wise he's got it. The big arm, 96 miles per hour. His breaking pitch is being developed to be an above average pitch. His two seamer is working," Gonzalez said. "Now, he needs to develop the other stuff that comes with winning games."