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Bob Lutz: A wild World Series game brings about compassion for a pitcher

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Bob Lutz
October 26, 2017 - 11:06 am
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My wife, Debbie, loves to watch sports on television. That’s a good thing, because I do, too.

Most of the time. Confession: I am guilty of channel surfing so sports isn’t on 24/7.

But it’s on a lot and my wife is completely on board.

Debbie, though, watches sports differently than I do. She appreciates the successes, but is strongly swayed by the failures. And for every yin in sports, there’s a yang. For every success, there’s someone screwing up. Fifty percent of the teams win and fifty percent lose (for the sake of this argument, we’ll ignore ties).

So Wednesday night’s incredible, exciting Game 2 of the World Series, won by Houston, 7-6, in 11 innings over the Los Angeles Dodgers, was as emotionally difficult for Debbie as it was exhilarating.

As the Astros were clobbering Dodgers reliever Josh Fields for consecutive home runs and a double in the 10th inning – and we were just getting started with extra-inning craziness – she found herself consoling Fields from afar.

“I feel terrible for that pitcher,” she said.

To which I replied: “Can you name the pitcher?”

“No,” Debbie said, “but I feel bad for him. I feel bad for his family that they have to watch.”

Then she went into some story about compassion and, me being me, I kind of tuned out.

But later, I got to thinking. What about Josh Fields?

I mean, I’d heard of him. I knew he had a good season out of the LA bullpen (who didn’t?). But that’s about it.

And it never occurred to me to feel badly for Fields as he was giving up three of the hardest hit balls of the season in succession to Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel.

The Astros’ two 10th-inning runs gave Houston a 5-3 lead, only to have LA rally for two in the bottom of the inning to send the game onward into the night. Houston finally won it after scoring two more in the 11th on a George Springer home run and holding off the Dodgers in their final at-bat.

It was a wild, great game – one of the most exciting in World Series history. And by the time it was over, Fields had become an afterthought.

To everyone but my bleeding-heart wife. Her kindness, her compassion, are what makes Debbie. And they’re part of what attracts me to her. She cares about people she never met, never will meet and had never heard of before coming to care about them. That’s a unique quality.

And because Debbie cares, I found myself researching Los Angeles relief pitcher Josh Fields.

He’s 32. He was the first-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2008 out of Georgia. He grew up in Athens and stayed home to play baseball for the Bulldogs, where he was mostly a relief pitcher.

In high school, Fields was as much a hitter as a pitcher. As a junior at Prince Avenue Christian School, Fields was 10-1 with 114 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings and also batted .632 with 18 homers.

The following season, Fields ranked No. 36 in Baseball America’s Top 100 prep prospects list while going 6-0 with a 1.25 ERA and batting .500 while stealing 31 bases.

Baseball was easy for Fields and he was part of the SEC’s All-Freshman team in 2005, making school history when he struck out the firth eight hitters he faced against Winthrop.

Fields pitched in two College World Series’ for Georgia, in 2006 and 2008. He was one of the best pitchers in the country as a senior, a first-team All-American whose 41 saves set an SEC record.

After a lengthy negotiation, Fields signed a $1.75 million signing bonus with Seattle after being the 20th overall pick in the 2008 MLB draft. He made his professional debut early in 2009, but didn’t make his major league debut until 2013, with Houston. He struck out the only batter he faced, the Texas Rangers’ Craig Gentry.

Fields was traded from Seattle to Boston, then plucked away by Houston as a Rule 5 draft pick. He pitched in 243 minor league games before arriving in the majors.

At the trade deadline in 2016, Houston dealt Fields to the Dodgers in an under-the-radar move.

But Fields has been good for Los Angeles, with a 2.83 ERA in 79 games. He strikes out more than a hitter per inning and his 0.965 WHIP (average runners who reach base in an inning) this season was the best of his career.

Fields, though, does have a home-run problem. He gives up a lot of them – 10 in 57 innings during the regular season for the Dodgers in 2017 and three now in 10 career postseason games covering five innings.

In case you’re wondering, the 32-year-old Fields is arbitration eligible in 2018 and won’t be a free agent until 2020, when he’ll be on the cusp of 35. He’s made only – only -- $3,463,200 in the game, $1.05 million of that this season.

What once was easy – baseball – has become more challenging. But Fields has held his own and he earned his spot as a key cog in a strong Dodgers bullpen.

Wednesday night, though, did not go well for Fields. He made six pitches and three were hit like rockets. Two cleared the fence.

Fields will bounce back. Whether he gets another opportunity in the World Series is anybody's guess. But at least he can take comfort in knowing a kind woman in Wichita, Kansas, has his back.​

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