Jamie Moyer notches historic Rockies win -- and manages not to die of old age
Assuming Jamie Moyer doesn't pitch in a playoff game (not likely) or break his hip while covering first base (somewhat likely), last night will be his signature moment this season. By pitching seven innings and allowing only two unearned runs in the Rockies' 5-3 win over San Diego, he became, at 49 years and 151 days, the oldest pitcher in history to win a major league baseball game. Presumably, he celebrated in a rocking chair with a warm glass of milk.
Jack Quinn was the oldest pitcher to win a major league game before Moyer, at a spry 49 years and 70 days. Quinn pitched a measly five innings of scoreless relief for the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1932 to earn his win. Moyer pitched for a much more manly amount of game time while repeatedly fooling those whipper-snappers from San Diego with his cutter and blazing 78 miles-per-hour fastball.
Moyer's battery mate, Wilin Rosario, who drove in two runs, was not even an itch in his dad's balls when Moyer made his major league debut on June 16, 1986 -- a game in which he defeated Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. The Rockies are the eighth franchise Moyer has pitched for in his 27 seasons. Last night, he earned his 268th career win, tying him with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. He has more career wins than Bob Gibson.
Moyer spent the first six years of his career bouncing back and forth between the major and minor leagues on several different teams. The Chicago Cubs cut him in spring training in 1992 and asked him to become a pitching coach. Rather than give up on pitching, he spent the entire year in the minors with the Detroit Tigers, who cut him when he was thirty.
Thirty is an appropriate age for a career to start to wind down, especially for a pitcher with little major league success and a fastball nowhere near fast. But Moyer latched on with the Baltimore Orioles, pitched very well in the minors and made his first major league start in two seasons.
ESPN's David Schoenfield dug up this quote from that season: "This has been a tough road for me the last couple years -- battling back, people saying I'm too old, everything negative. I've tried hard to remain positive.... Now I know I can pitch at this level," Moyer said.
Yup, Moyer was supposedly too old to succeed in the majors -- nineteen years ago. Moyer made a name for himself during eleven seasons with the Seattle Mariners after leaving Baltimore, and even more so in the seasons after he left Seattle, when most people were sure he was done.
He's succeeded with his brain as much as his arm. This was on display last night as he kept Padre hitters off-balance and induced three double plays. He would have lured them into four double plays and surrendered no runs had the normally sure handed Troy Tulowitzki not whiffed on a routine ground ball in the sixth inning. (Side note: What the hell is wrong with Tulo? That's six errors already this season, matching his total from all of last year.) Two Padres scored to trim the lead to 3-2.
Moyer's bid for history also looked in jeopardy in the ninth inning, when closer Rafael Betancourt surrendered a solo home run and put two runners on before striking out Yonder Alonso to seal the game.
Six of the Padres in the starting lineup last night were not born yet when Moyer made his major league debut. For all the jokes about Moyer's age, he has been the steadiest pitcher in the Rockies starting rotation through two weeks of the season.
Moyer was meant to simply hold a rotation spot until Jorge De La Rosa returns from Tommy John surgery rehab. But he might have a role beyond that -- provided he doesn't age too quickly.
More from our Baseball archive: "Coors Field: Ten things you probably didn't know about the home of the Rockies."