Listening to Jake Diekman talk to the media, you could tell the nerves were still running high. That’s why it was cool to see the rookie pitch in his first major league game AND come away with the win. It’s not the way anyone envisioned it, but moments like this can hardly be scripted.
Diekman was called upon because Chad Qualls hadn’t done his job in the ninth inning. Privately, I wondered if Diekman was ready for a situation like the one he was summoned for. Runners on second and third with two out, in to clean up the mess of a veteran reliever who had already blown the game for a former Cy Young pitcher. He struck the batter out, of course.
Did he think he’d be pitching in a situation like this right away? “Nope, not at all,” said Diekman. “I really thought I was going to have a four or five-run lead, or something like that.” But it never works out that way, and during Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Astros it didn’t go according to plan for the Phillies.
With Qualls and Jose Contreras both struggling and Antonio Bastardo now just coming around, a void needs to be filled. Someone needs to hand the game to Jonathan Papelbon without incident and that man could be Diekman. No one else wants to take the role, so in the words of Charlie Manuel, “like, what the hell.”
How did Diekman get through the situation? “When I got put in, I had to make sure I didn’t trip down the stairs first. And then, I just wanted to make it all the way to the mound without tripping.”
“I felt pretty comfortable because I tried to control my breathing as much as possible. So, the second inning helped out a lot, because I had that one hitter already (in the ninth). So I felt like, I did it before, just go do it again.”
With the bullpen in disarray, the Phillies may ask him to do that more than just one time.