Before we get to the at-bat, let's set the table. The New York Yankees came into Toronto one week after being swept by the Blue Jays. Separated by only a half of a game at the top of the AL East standings, it seemed that this game was as meaningful as August baseball gets. The New York Yankees could reclaim first place with a victory. Andrew Miller was coming fresh off his first blown save of the year against the Cleveland Indians in the previous series. Troy Tulowitzki was the leadoff batter for the streaking Blue Jays, who were looking for the win that would give them their first 12-game winning streak in franchise history.
Andrew Miller opens with that nasty slider that definitely doesn't look like a strike.
And the Blue Jays strikezone Twitter agrees. According to them, only 24% of home plate umpires will make the same call. In the context of this game, the strikezone had been pretty pitcher-friendly for both sides.
Pitch two (0-1):
After a slider down-and-in, Miller goes to the fastball away. Instead of getting caught reaching, Tulowitzki recognizes this isn't his pitch and wisely lays off. Up by a strike, Miller is clever to expand the zone here with his fastball knowing Tulowitzki's game plan is probably fight off the breaking ball and hit fastball.
Pitch three (1-1):
Miller uses the previous pitch as a strength at least, and punches a slider back down-and-in on Tulowitzki. This pitch fools Tulowitzki just enough to get the second strike on him, but not enough that he doesn't get some contact on it. He could have left that pitch and seen if the umpire made another borderline call, but he didn't; it looked good enough leaving Miller's hand to hit and Tulo took his chances. It's now 1-2, so Tulowitzki has some fighting to do.
In 1-2 counts, Tulowitzki has a career wRC+ of 66. However, his ISO in the same situations is an above-average .162. It seems that when Tulowitzki is gifted a mistake pitch in a 1-2 count, he turns it into extra bases fairly often. Miller, on the other hand, has allowed 21 extra base hits in his career after the count has reached 1-2. That's 3.14% of batters. That is to say, Miller has not allowed an extra base hit in nearly 97% of at-bats that reach 1-2.
Pitch four (1-2):
It's the slider again. With the count 1-2, Tulowitzki knows he's going to see a lot of them and — if he does get to see a fastball — it won't be anywhere near his wheelhouse. He seems to be catching up to the slider a beat here, starting to figure it out as he gets under this one just enough to send it foul. This season, batters have hit for -1 wRC+ against Miller's slider. That is to say, batters hit 101% worse than the mean against it. In terms that might make more sense, Miller's slider has a .147 wOBA-against. So, Tulowitzki still has some catching up to do.
Pitch five (1-2):
This time, Miller leaves the slider up a bit but still in on the hands of Tulowitzki. It's tough to get the bat head around on a pitch like that, and Tulo continues to show his skill of fouling pitches off.
Pitch six (1-2):
Wait, we've seen this pitch before... The fastball outside again. Tulowitzki looks geared for it as it leaves Miller's hand this time, but wisely lays off to work the count back to even.
Pitch seven (2-2):
On his 23rd pitch of the inning, Miller goes back to his strength with the slider. This one is hit close enough down the line that everyone in the frame take a little pause to admire it before collectively exhaling. Again, Tulowitzki seems to be catching up to Miller's slider.
Pitch eight (2-2):
Miller goes to the fastball and seems to put a little extra leg kick behind it. Thanks to McCann's quick reflexes behind the plate this doesn't end up being charged as a wild pitch or, with runners on 2nd and 3rd, result in a run scoring and subsequent second blown save of the week for Miller. McCann clearly wanted that pitch low-and-in which makes me think the battery's signals might have been crossed a bit too. McCann probably wouldn't be asking for a fastball in the location; which means he was probably anticipating another slider.
Tulowitzki has worked the count full. With first base open, Miller has a couple options going forward. However, with Josh Donaldson on-deck, the Yankees will undoubtedly take their chances against a 3-2 Tulowitzki as opposed to an 0-0 MVP candidate.
Pitch nine (3-2):
Tulowitzki fights off another big breaking ball. That one seemed to break forever. A true thing of beauty.
Pitch ten (3-2):
This one looks a lot like pitch seven, but everyone's reactions are tempered because they're all tired. Is it sleepy time yet?
Pitch eleven (3-2):
It's clear now that Tulowitzki is going to get that slider for the rest of eternity until he figures out how to actually put it in play. Buckle down, we could be here for a while.
Pitch twelve (3-2):
There it is. That's a happy and sweaty manbaby. What's crazy is it looks like Tulowitzki actually catches enough of that pitch to foul it off too. But this time it's right into McCann's glove and the foul tip is enough to end the game.
That's just about as amazing as an at-bat can get. I don't even need to sell it. As things heat up in August and we head into September, expect more legendary at-bats just like this one. In fact, if you see one and want it to be given the #LegendaryAtBat treatment, go ahead and reach out to us.
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Michael Bradburn is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. Contact Michael with your #LegendaryAtBat candidates and he'll try his best to break it down. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii, or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.