Wilson Alvarez was one of baseball's best pitchers in his past three starts: He had thrown 21 innings, allowed two earned runs, 13 hits and held opponents to a .146 average (7-for-48).
And then came Friday night.
Alvarez, the hard-throwing left-hander with the million(s)-dollar contract, suddenly couldn't seem to hit anything but Angels, two of whom were nailed (Gary DiSarcina and Darin Erstad) on consecutive pitches to lead off the second inning.
"I've seen (Alvarez) pitch for a long time and I've never seen him throw like that," Angels manager Terry Collins said. "He was wild."
One walk after Erstad was pegged, Alvarez left Tropicana Field with the bases loaded and this line: One inning, three earned runs, three walks, three hits and two hit batsman.
His stats could have been worse if reliever Dan Carlson hadn't gotten the next two hitters to strike out and hit into a double play.
These were the same Angels that Alvarez wiped out five days ago, pitching seven innings, allowing one earned run and striking out nine.
"Physically I felt real good, I just couldn't throw strikes," Alvarez said. "When I did throw over the plate, I got hit. I was wild and that's why I got the loss.
"I am going to go home and think about it. It will be a long night, but things like this happen and this won't be the last time. It's just part of the game."
But it hasn't been a part of Alvarez's game since May 9, 1996, or 64 starts ago when he was pulled after giving up five runs in two-thirds of an inning against Baltimore. His White Sox lost that game 6-4.
"I am a professional and I'll get ready for my next start," said Alvarez, who emphasized he wasn't trying to hit anybody. "I tried to throw inside, but I never try to hit people. I like to win games, not hit people."
Collins said he didn't believe Alvarez or Carlson, who also hit two batters, were trying to bean anybody, but he voiced a little frustration.
"When I looked up and saw three or four of our guys getting hit I started to get concerned," Collins said. "I know they didn't want to hit those guys, but it still makes you concerned. You can get some guys hit and then you might have a couple of injuries."
Alvarez said: "If you look at the tape of my last game, you'll see I was pitching inside. And tonight I was trying to pitch inside, but some of the pitches got away from me. If they think it was on purpose, I apologize. I know (the Angels) were yelling, saying I was hitting people on purpose. But I didn't hit anyone on purpose."
Can we start over?
Misery loves company, right? If so, Rays ace Wilson Alvarez wasn't alone Friday. Here is a sampling of pitching lines from other starters who struggled:
Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO ERA+
Scott Kamieniecki, Orioles 4 6 6 2 0 162.0
Kerry Wood, Cubs 1 2 7 7 4 2 37.8
Wilson Alvarez, Rays 1 3 3 3 3 1 27.0
Marc Valdes, Expos 2 3 5 5 3 0 22.5
John Burkett, Rangers 4 11 11 11 2 6 21.2
Kent Mercker, Cardinals 4 7 7 7 3 3 14.7
+ _ denotes ERA for the game.