Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Valverde Splitter a Real 'Downer'

We've discussed the myriad nicknames for the split-fingered fastball, including the "splitter," the "split," and of course Roger Clemens' beloved "Mr. Splitty."

Tim McCarver introduced another moniker for the gravity-embracing pitch last night in the All-Star Game: the "downer."

Tigers closer Jose Valverde was positively mowing down the National Leaguers in the eighth last night when he threw a particularly filthy splitter to Marlon Byrd.

Valverde and Byrd provided one of the night's more memorable moments, Byrd smiling at Valverde following a close pitch that he didn't bite on, and Valverde smiling broadly back. You don't see that in the regular season.

Valverde then froze Byrd with a nasty splitter. As Fox showed the replay, the pitch spinning toward the dirt like an airplane with a blown engine, McCarver--rarely one to sum something up in a lone word--said, simply, "Downer."

Downer. More common usage includes a person or event that ruins an otherwise positive moment, a depressant or sedative drug, and the last name of Rachel Dratch's killjoy Debbie character on Saturday Night Live.

More recently, "downer" has been used to describe livestock that's been victim of Mad Cow Disease.

1. a. a depressant or sedative drug, esp. a barbiturate.
b. a depressing experience, person, or situation.
2. Animal Husbandry . an old or diseased animal, esp. one that cannot stand up.

Now "downer" is a split-fingered fastball too, at least when the gifted Valverde hurls it.

Byrd, McCarver and a Fox replay were also central to another fun linguistic moment. In the 9th inning, Byrd came through with a true heads-up play on a bloop single to right-center, firing the ball to second to force out Big Papi. (Ever notice how similar Papi's running style is to Babe Ruth's? They seem to have the exact same build too.)

Fox showed a few replays of the pivotal play, including one from the wall in right-center that showed the action from Byrd's perspective.

"Byrd's-eye view," said McCarver without skipping a beat.

Sometimes announcers can be all-stars too.


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