This was originally published in The Athletic....
I went to Great American Ballpark last night and enjoyed good company, a decent hot dog, a cold beer and one of the greatest relief-pitching performances ever.
On a beautiful, mid-spring night, not many Cincinnatians felt it worth their time or money to come watch an early season National League Central battle. That meant plenty of good seats were there for the taking. All that was required to move closer to the action was a ticket for the cheap seats to gain admission, and friendly smile for the usher manning the prime locales.
So, from just a few rows up from the Milwaukee dugout, I watched 24-year-old Josh Hader dance circles around the Reds. In earning his fourth save of the season, the second-year pitcher struck out all eight Reds hitters he retired while walking just one. He closed down the home team across the final two and two-thirds innings while preserving a 6-5 Brewers win.
As much as I was rooting for the Reds to get to Hader, or at least make contact with him, I was almost equally caught up in what he was doing. Not just because he was mowing down hitters, but because he was making them look utterly foolish, and because he was doing it efficiently, throwing just 37 pitches to nine hitters.
To read my entire piece, go to The Athletic.
(Photo: Getty Images)