Pat Hentgen Interview: Part Two

Part two of our interview with Pat Hentgen. If you missed it, part one is here

In the 'great timing' file, Roy Halladay mentioned Pat Hentgen in his 'exit interview' from the NLCS. Here is the mention (from John Lott's National Post story):

"To me, Pat Hentgen was the ultimate," he said. "He never preached to me. You saw what he did on the field, you saw what he did off the field, and you wanted to emulate him. He was never a mentor, he was never a teacher, he was a teammate.

"I felt that way the last two years with Toronto. That's all I wanted to do. Coming here was the same thing. I just wanted to be a good teammate with these guys and continue to do the stuff that I saw these great pitchers do when I came up."

Because of the length of the interview I'm breaking it up into five parts. This part has the question I wanted to ask him for years, if he thought about what it would have been like starting game 7 of the 1993 World Series, if Carter hadn't hit that home run. 

Thanks again to Minor Leaguer for setting this up. 

You pitched game 3 and won it. What was that like?

An hour and a half rain delay. A little nervous. The night before didn't sleep as well as I would have for a normal game. I was always nervous before every game, didn't matter. I knew if I could get out of that first couple of innings and get in a groove I thought I'd be good. I caught a break in the first inning. First guy struck out, next guy singled, next guy doubled down the right field. I'll never forget, Molitor, who was playing first at the time, said ‘sorry about that, I should have had that'. I remember thinking, at that time I thought it was a big advantage for the NL to have to use the DH. It forced us to play our DH. We had John Olerud, who won the batting title, and doesn't start. Because there was a LH pitcher, we had so much depth with Monitor who could play first. I just remember thinking what an advantage it was for the NL at that time, when I was a young player.  How come not everyone sees this, how come they aren't changing this. It didn't seem far, I had to bat in Philadelphia. I hadn't batter since high school.

So we were fined if we were caught with a bat in the minor leagues. They didn't want a pitcher touching a bat, you might pull an oblique or hurt your shoulder or tweak your back or something. It's amazing how it's an advantage when you're a pitcher take batting practice every day, you get better. You become a better contact hitter. I felt like it was like, in the NL, they should be forced to play the DH.

As far pitching in my game, hey man, it was great. I was excited. I got out of the inning, I struck out the side, something I didn't do a whole lot in my career. It was just an exciting time, I'm benefitting from a great team, offensively, we had a great line up that could really hurt you. We scored 3 runs in the first inning. Make no mistake about it, as a starting pitcher that is big. It allows you to get that aggressiveness. Even Halladay, yesterday in his no hitter, the first thing he said was ‘well we had four runs, it takes more heat off, you can be aggressive in the strike zone.' That's exactly how I felt in 93. I was benefitting from a great team. It was exciting, it was a game I'll never forget.

I remember thinking when Joe Carter came to bat in game 6 "oh well, even if we don't win, you would be pitching the next day" all would be good. Do you ever think about that you could have been pitching game 7?

Oh of course. That whole day is like, I was charting the game and I could tell you those  numbers were starting to get a little scribbly towards the end there. We were down by 2 going into the 9th. You know Joe pulls those balls all year long and pulls them foul. So when he hit that ball I was in the corner of the dugout, I'll never forget it, I had my back to left field. I had my back to the foul pole, when he hit it,  I remember just thinking ‘Stay fair, stay fair', because I felt it was hard enough hit to go out. And it just stayed fair that day for whatever reason.

But yeah I thought about how it would have went down. And how, you play 174 games or whatever and it comes down to one game. It would have been pretty exciting , I'll tell you. I know one thing in those situations managers never let the starting pitcher get in any trouble. The minute I would have had some trouble going we'd have had Harry Wholestaff in there. Every guy would have been available.

You were always great at getting ahead of batter, spotting your fastball to get strike one. How important is that for a pitcher?

It is probably, if not the most important pitch, it has got to be a close second to the 1-1 pitch. They are both equally important. The 0-1 count, is amazing how you can really drastically change a guy's batting average against you by just getting ahead. It sounds easy, throw the ball down the middle and let it work a little bit, but major league hitters, they'll ambush you a little. They know you want to get ahead. They're ready to hit 0-0 and that is when you really start to get a little too fine and you go 1-0. So gets back to that run support.  You have more runs, you get more aggressive 0-0, because you know that solo homer isn't going to hurt you.

These are things as a starting pitcher, you try to manage through the line up. I think that, getting ahead is probably priority number one for any pitcher.  But when you are going through the line up three times, as a starting pitcher it gets a little more magnified.

You won the Cy Young in 96, what was that phone call like?

I knew the vote was coming in early November and I got the phone call on my Michigan phone line. And it was real simple. It was like "I'm such and such from the New York Writers Association, congratulations you are the 1996 AL Cy Young. We'll be sending you the itinerary for the banquet in New York." He told me it was black tie. And he was like ‘we'll be in contact.' I was like ‘hey, what was the vote, what happened?'. And he told me Pettitte was second and I forgot who was third.

It was a great experience, it was really neat. I didn't make the All-Star team that year which I think was kind of funny. I made it 93, 94, 97 but not 96. I think that it was one of those things that I got in a sweet spot in the second half and was able to stay focused and stay healthy. It is also a team award, make no mistake about it anytime you win the Cy Young you are going to need great support from the team.  I mean look at Felix Hernandez. He's13-12, leading the league in every category, just about. I don't know what else he could do as far as his job out on the field.

Like against the Jays he threw a 2 hitter and lost.

(Laughs) Yeah, he pitches his heart out.

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