A lot has changed in Pat Neshek’s 11 years in baseball. When he debuted with the Twins in 2006, the Astros were living it up in the National League Central. Joe Maddon had only just begun managing the Rays to no World Series titles. Gary Sanchez was 13 years old.
I say this because, for anyone tracking his successes and failures against the most thunderous hitters in the American League right now, there is not much to go on. So many teams, like the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians are forming or solidifying their young nuclei into place; guys who Neshek, despite having spent the majority of his career among AL hitters, just hasn’t been exposed to. He’s only faced four of them over five times, and he’s only faced one of them over ten times - and that guy isn’t even playing due to injury.
So let’s drift through the AL’s battalion and see just who could give our boy the most trouble.
- Salvador Perez: 2-for-4, 1 R
Man, Neshek was in the middle of his last comeback, an All-Star campaign with the Cardinals in 2014, when Perez started a Royals slapfest that put a wrinkle in the relievers’ stat sheet. With one out, Perez singled to center, Billy Butler hit an infield single (What?) and Alcides Escober knocked Perez in to score. It was June 3, but it was only the third earned run Neshek had allowed in the first half of the season - and it would also be his last before the All-Star break in 43 appearances.
- Justin Smoak: 1 BB
- Jose Altuve: 0-for-1, 1 BB
- Jose Ramirez: N/A
- Carlos Correa: N/A
- Aaron Judge: N/A
- Mike Trout: 3-for-13, 1 2B, 2 3B, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 IBB, 6 SO, 1 SB
Yes, at this point you must know that Trout is “that guy,” and it’s a shame he won’t be thrilling Phillies fans Tuesday with an intense battle between Neshek, a soon to be Phillie of the past, and Trout, very clearly a Phillie of the future. Ships passing in an All-Star Game, as they say. Trout has nothing but extra base hits off Neshek, but Neshek has struck him out six times, including a key spot in July 2015 when Trout had runners on second and third (one was Shane Victorino! Hi, Shane!), but his failure of which to knock in allowed the Astros to sweep the Angels.
- George Springer: N/A
- Corey Dickerson: N/A
- Gary Sanchez: N/A
- Yonder Alonso: 2-for-2 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R
Last April, Alonso hit his first home run of the season, and his first-ever walk-off one, on a 1-0 Pat Neshek sinker. The dinger was only a three-run shot, so that single he’s got on the record vs. Pat was good for an RBI, as well. Which means Alonso has knocked in at least a run every time he’s faced Neshek so far, and were he to do so for the third time, they would be forced to fight to the death. Hopefully Neshek misses Alonso’s spot in the order.
- Starlin Castro: 0-for-5, 1 SO
Castro can’t touch Neshek; not in one at-bat in 2011, or in the subsequent four in 2014. Surely, Brad Milles is referring to this match-up in secret AL-only meetings as his team’s raw underbelly.
- Jonathan Schoop: 0-for-2
- Miguel Sano: 0-for-2, 1 SO
- Francisco Lindor: N/A
- Mookie Betts: 1-for-5, 1 CS
One of Betts’ nine hits against the Phillies in a four-game series this past June - a performance that included two four-hit games - came off Neshek. Fortunately, it was a lead-off single that Neshek smothered with a double play ball. Unfortunately, the Red Sox walked it off in the eleventh, thanks in part to Betts getting intentionally walked (by Casey Fien. Not Neshek).
- Avasail Garcia: 0-for-4, 2 SO
- Michael Brantley: 0-for-1
- Nelson Cruz: 1-for-8, 1 R, 4 SO
Neshek, as a member of the A’s, was on mop-up duty in June 19, 2013, as he entered a 9-4 eventual loss to the Rangers. Cruz stepped into the box in the eighth and slapped a garbage time single that amounted to nothing as Neshek retired the next three batters. In the next six times they met, and one time prior, Neshek won the duel, rendering Cruz harmless (Neshek and Cruz have faced each other at least once every year since 2012).
The story wasn’t the same in this year’s World Baseball Classic, when Neshek came into a big spot vs. the extremely powerful Dominican Republic lineup. Cruz came up second in the inning and pounded a double off Neshek, but the pitcher was able to escape any real trouble by striking out pre-suspension Starling Marte with two runners in scoring position.