Chris Schneider/Associated Press
Chris Schneider/Associated Press
DENVER – Baseball’s old man still is fending off Father Time.
Jamie Moyer showed there remains a place for a vintage lefty in a young man’s game as the 49-year-old became the oldest pitcher ever to win a major league contest.
Moyer threw seven strong innings, and Dexter Fowler hit a two-run homer to help the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 5-3 on Tuesday night.
Moyer (1-2) was sharp all evening as he picked up his 268th career win, tying him with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer for 34th on the career list.
Relying on a consistent cutter and mixing in a 78-mph fastball, the crafty pitcher gave up just six hits and two runs – both unearned – as he kept the Padres’ hitters at bay and off balance.
“(Tuesday), for me, just like it’s been my previous two starts – going out and trying to give my best effort,” Moyer said.
That’s been a winning recipe for Moyer over a career that’s stretched nearly a quarter century and included 689 games.
Anthony Bass, a pitcher half Moyer’s age, went five innings and gave up three runs. Bass (0-2) also had a career-high seven strikeouts.
Moyer earned that elusive win for the ages in his third start of the season. His age is 49 years, 150 days old.
That’s important to note since before Moyer’s effort the oldest pitcher to win a game in the majors was Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers on Sept. 13, 1932, when he was 49 years, 70 days old.
Not that Moyer knows much about Quinn.
“I wish I was a baseball historian,” Moyer said. “I’m a little embarrassed to admit that. As players, we should know more about the game, the history of the game. You need to respect the game and the people that came before you.”
He’s definitely a part of history now.
However, he doesn’t think this mark will stand the test of time.
“The way athletes are going in today’s game, I think it could be broken,” he said.
This game got a little dicey at the end.
Rafael Betancourt survived a rocky ninth – giving up a solo homer to Nick Hundley and putting two more runners on base before striking out Yonder Alonso to earn his third save in as many chances.
About the only blemish to the night were two more errors by smooth-fielding shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, giving him six already this season. The Gold Glove winner had six all of last year.
His fielding error in the seventh proved quite costly and nearly spoiled Moyer’s place in the record books. With two on and one out, Tulowitzki had a routine double play ball go right through his legs, leading to a run. Jason Bartlett brought in another with a sacrifice fly to right to cut the lead to 3-2.
Moyer ended the threat by getting pinch hitter Jeremy Hermida to ground out to second on a 76-mph cutter.
The Rockies added two insurance runs in the eighth as Michael Cuddyer doubled in a run off former Rockies closer Huston Street, and Wilin Rosario added a sacrifice fly.
Away from the mound, Moyer hardly looks like a kid anymore. He has gray streaks in his hair and frequently dons reading glasses that sit perched on the tip of his nose. This betrays his age, too: He’s on the verge of receiving his AARP card.
But once he steps on the mound that youthful exuberance returns.
He’s transformed into a kid again, sprinting out to the mound after each inning. He looked more like a spry rookie than a veteran nearing retirement.
Moyer enticed the Padres to hit into three double plays, despite warnings before the game by Mark Kotsay – the one player who’s consistently hit Moyer – to remain patient. Then again, it’s difficult to lay off a pitch that looks so juicy.
The aged wonder used his wealth of experience to his advantage against the young Padres, six of whom weren’t even born when Moyer made his major league debut in 1986. That included Bass, who has fond memories of Coors Field after winning his debut in the hitter-friendly stadium last June.
Kotsay’s first plate appearance of the season was a single in the opening inning. Kotsay was activated off the disabled list Monday after missing the first 10 games with a strained right calf muscle.
That his first hit should be against Moyer hardly comes as a surprise since the 36-year-old Kotsay has a .538 lifetime average against Moyer. They even exchanged friendly grins after each of Kotsay’s two singles.
“He wears me out. He knows it. I know it,” Moyer said. “We joke in the offseason.”
Kotsay also has a lot of respect for Moyer.
“It says something about how much he loves to compete and his willingness to work, and at 49, to go out and throw the ball and have success,” said Kotsay, who faced the veteran for the first time since June 13, 2006, when Kotsay was with the Oakland A’s and Moyer a member of the Seattle Mariners.
Before the game, Kotsay was giving pointers to his impressionable teammates on how to hit Moyer’s methodical pitches.
“Be patiently aggressive,” Andy Parrino said. “Make him come to us a little bit more. Oh, and make him stay in the strike zone.”
Moyer doesn’t have a blazing fastball, but he does have this: pinpoint precision.
Padres’ manager Bud Black certainly appreciates the cleverness of Moyer, marveling from the dugout at the vintage pitcher who went to spring training without a guaranteed roster spot and performed his way onto the team. He missed all of 2011 as he recovered from a surgically repaired ligament in his elbow.
“It’s a great story,” Black said. “It’s wonderful that he’s continued to get the results needed to stay in the major leagues. This is a performance-driven game, and the last 15 years of his career have been outstanding.”