“Pitching,” he said, “is a skill set that goes beyond, ‘I can do nothing but get a lot out of pitching’ to ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to pitch a game in which I didn’t have an injury.’ There’s an amazing ability to not only be able to take a loss but to also stay in the game.”
The key word in Noah’s explanation is “avoiding.”
His first-inning home run off reliever Mike Montgomery was the first of his career. He had not thrown out a runner since a game for the White Sox in 2009. “It was pretty cool being able to get off a little fastball-slider combination,” Noah said.
He was only batting .200 and had not yet reached base when he walked off, so it still must have felt pretty cool.
There was a feeling of excitement when it was over. “I felt like we had beat them,” Noah said. After that, he got a hug from one of them, who gave him a card and asked him to sign it. He got a smiley face.
He didn’t want to disappoint them, so he thanked the fans for cheering him on.
But this was Noah’s fifth game in five days, and he had a lot of things to worry about.
His left knee started to ache. He had been walking as slowly as if he were trying to run, but he was slowly turning to right. “I was concerned they were just going to push me through because I was not feeling 100 percent,” he said. “We’ve got to come back a year later when I’m 100 percent. That was frustrating, because I kind of wanted to go out there and prove it.
“The day after the game I had a lot more swelling because I’m used to doing a little sprints after pitchers leave, because I just can’t wait until I’m 100 percent.”
He was nervous, but he was also excited about what was to come. His home run off Montgomery gave him a chance to prove he was still capable of doing something other young pitchers do not: win games.
That was the goal.
He had had his eye on a playoff berth since his rookie season in the minors. He felt his best opportunity lay ahead of him this season, with a playoff spot still in reach. The Blue Jays weren’t just going to win the division; they were going to contend for