11/01/10 1:59 AM ET
Hunter's postseason struggles continue
Righty exits third straight playoff game after four or fewer frames
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
"It's one of those things where if they foul the balls off, I just laugh," Hunter said. "That's what I did."
Hunter lasted just four innings of the Rangers' 4-0 loss to the Giants in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night. He held San Francisco to two runs and five hits, but the National League champions' uncanny ability to foul off pitches shortened his night. He wound up throwing 83 pitches; his opposite number, left-hander Madison Bumgarner, stretched his 106 pitches over eight scoreless innings.
Hunter became the fourth pitcher in history to go four or fewer innings in three straight postseason starts. The others were Kent Mercker of the Braves in 1999, Eric Show of the Padres in '84 and Kenny Rogers of the Yankees in '96.
Sunday's start was short but not exactly disastrous. Hunter gave up five hits, and the two runs came courtesy of Aubrey Huff's two-run homer in the third inning.
"I felt pretty good tonight," Hunter said. "There's not many things I would take back."
Some of the pitch count could be blamed on a close play at first base in the second inning. First-base umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled that Edgar Renteria beat out a relay throw on what would have been a double play to end the inning. TV replays indicated the throw was in time.
The Giants would not score. However, by the time Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton ended the inning with a diving catch of a Nate Schierholtz liner, Hunter had thrown 11 more pitches.
"That's part of baseball; sometimes you've got to get four outs," Hunter said. "We as pitchers know that."
In the third, Hunter worked ahead of leadoff man Andres Torres, 1-2. All Torres did was foul off three of the next four pitches, then double to right field. Freddy Sanchez took him to nine pitches before grounding out. Then Huff swatted Hunter's worst pitch of the night, a cutter than stayed over the plate and spun, to right field for a 2-0 lead.
Such scholarly hitting wasn't exactly what Hunter took from the scouting report.
"That was so unexpected," Hunter said. "I couldn't tell you how many foul balls they had -- 25, maybe, foul balls tonight? They did a good job. They worked the counts. They played good baseball."
Hunter was close -- 21 was San Francisco's final foul-ball tally.
The Giants' plan was more effective against Hunter than it was against Colby Lewis in the Rangers' 4-2 victory Saturday night.
"The last two guys, you've got to get ahead, because they're such strike-throwers," Huff said. "They got a big lead early yesterday and we were forced to kind of sit back and try to get on and make some things happen, and [Lewis] just kept pounding the zone.
"When I hit the homer [off Hunter], you don't know if it's going to hold up in this park, but certainly the way Bumgarner was pitching tonight, it looked like it was going to be pretty good by the fifth inning."
Hunter was considered an innings-eater during the regular season. He threw a complete game against the Rays in his season debut, a 6-1 victory, and went at least six innings in 13 of his 22 starts. His durability is one of the reasons that at 24, he is the youngest pitcher in Rangers history to start in the postseason.
However, Hunter went four innings and trailed 3-0 against the Rays in his postseason debut on Oct. 10, a 5-2 loss. Although he struck out seven, he gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits. Hunter went 3 1/3 innings against the Yankees on Oct. 19, but the Rangers ignited for a 10-3 victory.
"I've been battled pretty well this postseason," Hunter said. "To say that I haven't had one pitch or to say that I haven't had a strikeout pitch or something like that, I don't see that being a factor."
Hunter dismissed the theory that he's facing a higher level of competition in the postseason.
"We faced the Yankees, faced Tampa Bay," he said. "I don't know if that's got anything to do with it."
Part of the lack of length to Hunter's postseason starts is manager Ron Washington can afford to have a quick hook. Hunter is pitching at the back of the rotation, which means he is followed by ace Cliff Lee, as he will be in Monday night's Game 5.
Lee struggled in Game 1 of the World Series, lasting just 4 2/3 innings of an 11-7 loss.
Hunter insisted this World Series isn't lost.
"We've got a guy named Cliff Lee over there," Hunter said. "He's a pretty talented baseball player, a pretty talented pitcher. It's kind of one of those things.
"Go get 'em, Cliff."