“Pitch” Episode 7: The Body Issue

Earlier recaps: Episode 1 / Episode 2 / Episode 3 / Episode 4 / Episode 5 / Episode 6.

Welcome to our recap of the seventh episode of Pitch, entitled “San Francisco”. As always, there are spoilers, so proceed with caution.

We open with Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) alone in the Padres clubhouse, the first to arrive for that day’s game. This suggests that we may well be in for a Mike-centric episode.

Before we get back to Mike, we have to catch up with Ginny (Kylie Bunbury), who’s having a bit of a day. The Padres have produced a rather unflattering bobblehead of her, but she’s more concerned that her stolen nude selfies are set to leak on the internet at any moment. She and Amelia (Ali Larter) can’t figure out anything to do about it.

The Padres’ backup catcher gets injured, creating an opening to call up Cuban catcher Livan Duarte (Christian Ochoa) from Triple-A. Blip (Mo McRae) teases that Mike’s going to get Wally Pipped. Ginny, who seems to have weirdly selective knowledge about baseball history, has to look up who Wally Pipp is. “Try watching some Ken Burns,” Mike says (probably my favorite line of the episode).

Before Livan can even get there, the Padres coaching staff announces their plan to play Mike at first base. This hasn’t gone so well when Mike’s tried it in the past. But manager Al (Dan Lauria) wants both Mike and Livan’s bats in the lineup.

This had the feeling of being a Mike-focused episode, and sure enough, when we flash back this week, it’s not to Ginny’s past, but to Mike’s childhood. We join young Mike as he’s being hurriedly relocated from Nothern California to Poway, a city in San Diego County. There, his mother (Betsy Beutler) signs him up to play baseball. His coach, Dave (Josh Randall), encourages him to catch, and becomes a mentor to him.

Back in the present, Al has to deliver some more bad news. Since the Padres have two off days in the next 10 days, they’re skipping Ginny’s next start so that their ace, Sonny (Bert Belasco), can pitch in San Francisco. Ginny is irked: for one thing, she’s developed a cutter that she’s really excited to try in game action. (And no one wants to see it when she offers. Poor Ginny.)

Amelia informs Oscar (Mark Consuelos) about the nude-photo leak. The conversation that follows includes the word “mansplaining,” a word Amelia says she’s always wanted to use (and a word I’m assuming has never been used in a FanGraphs article before). They agree that sexist double standards are unfair, but Oscar wants Amelia to be more forthcoming in the future so the Padres can get out in front of things.

Livan arrives in San Diego, and Oscar introduces him to Mike. Mike is less than hospitable (and less than clothed) in his greeting. Livan responds by insinuating that Mike is old.

Amelia and Ginny are still fretting about the photos. Ginny reflects on some of the things with which Jackie Robinson had to deal, from petitions against him by his own teammates to opposing players throwing black cats on the field to taunt him. Ginny isn’t comparing herself to Jackie, but rather putting her own troubles into perspective. She can handle some “leering and jeering,” so long as she gets to play. Getting scratched from her start prevents that, however.

The Padres head to San Francisco. Sonny, who sat with Livan on the plane, tells Mike that Livan doesn’t research hitters, but rather “goes by feel.” Mike responds with predictable (and, honestly, justifiable) ridicule.

There’s no denying that Livan has talent, though, as he homers twice in his MLB debut. His bat-flip game is pretty strong, although the Giants don’t much care for it. After the game, the media is all over Livan, but he doesn’t want to talk to them, and pretends not to know English so he doesn’t have to. Instead, the reporters flock to Mike, who provides a diplomatic response about how excited he is to have Livan on the team.

Mike has some pretty different things to say to Oscar, however. Oscar reminds Mike of all Livan had to go through just to get from Cuba to the United States. Mike is unmoved, since a lot of guys had rough childhoods. (Hint: he’s talking about himself.)

Al treats Ginny to a night on the town to help clear her head. They dine on gnocchi (“served by waiters who knew DiMaggio”), and have a heart-to-heart while overlooking the city. Al tells Ginny that she “better be ready to find happiness without” baseball, something she’s still very much learning how to do.

After his own night on the town, Livan shows up late to practice the next day. Mike doesn’t take kindly to this. When Livan refuses to speak to the press yet again, Mike steps up to speak on Livan’s behalf, for which Livan doesn’t particularly care. Tension!

We flash back to a time when young Mike was late to practice, blaming it on his mother’s car breaking down. Coach Dave gives Mike money so that he can get home safely. Except the car never broke down — this was all part of Mama Lawson’s attempt to scam Dave out of some cash.

In the present, the Giants and Padres are in the midst of a nail-biter. The Padres have the lead in the bottom of the ninth, but Mike makes an error at first base, and the game goes to extras. Al’s bullpen is depleted, and, realizing he doesn’t have many options left, he instructs Ginny to warm up.

The Padres pick up a run in the top of the 13th, but find themselves in trouble in the bottom of the inning when the Giants load the bases with just one out. In comes Ginny to make the first relief appearance not just of her major-league career, but of her life. Even though Mike’s playing first, Ginny asks him — not Livan — what they should do in this situation. Mike tells Ginny that Livan’s her catcher, and she needs to trust him.

It’s a heck of an occasion to be throwing to a catcher for the first time ever, but things work out well enough. The batter swings at Ginny’s first pitch, and hits it right at Mike. Mike handles it cleanly, and throws to Livan for the out at home. Livan throws back to first for the final out, and a 3-2-3 double play ends the game. Very efficient, Ginny.

In the episode’s final flashback, Mike and his mother once again leave town after Dave finds out he’s being scammed. It wouldn’t be Pitch without one final twist, though: Coach Dave is actually Mike’s father!

Following the game, a reporter asks Mike about being placed on waivers. Mike is surprised, but responds that it’s a question for the front office, not him. (Seriously, reporter, what’d you think he was going to say?)

Ginny’s nude selfies have finally leaked, but she, Amelia and the Padres have found a way to respond. Ginny and several of her teammates, in a display of solidarity and autonomy, get together to do a clothes-less photoshoot for ESPN’s Body Issue. It’s effective damage control, altering public conversation from the old photos to the new ones.

At the close of a six-game road trip, the Padres return to San Diego. Oscar tells Livan he’s going back to the bench, unless he can improve his behavior and attitude. He criticizes Livan’s lack of preparation — which, yeah, if Livan really isn’t following scouting reports or working with his pitchers, that’s completely unacceptable.

Mike tracks his father down with the intention of reconnecting. He sees Dave playing ball with his grandson, and decides against approaching him. Defeated, Mike heads home. He briefly considers calling Ginny, but decides against that as well, left sitting alone in his emptiness. (Opinion: Mike may be the most compelling character on this show, thanks in no small part to Gosselaar’s strong performance.)

After last week featured little in the way of actual baseball, I was glad “San Francisco” did a better job balancing personal lives with the game itself. For me, that’s when the show is strongest and most enjoyable.

That said, while the discussion about sexism and gendered double standards is an important one, it’s less at the heart of Ginny’s personal struggles than the issues that were brought up in “Wear It” (to which Al harkened back in this week’s episode). Baseball is pretty much all Ginny has ever known, and she’s still learning how not to make it her entire identity. That journey has the potential to be fascinating, if done properly.

Random notes:

  • I described Ginny’s knowledge of baseball history as “weirdly selective.” She seems to know about things relevant to her own situation (like the Jackie Robinson stories, or who Mamie “Peanut” Johnson is), yet blames not knowing about Wally Pipp on her age. It’s not unbelievable that a young ballplayer wouldn’t know key elements of baseball history — I know a former MLB player who wasn’t aware until after he retired that the Dodgers originated in Brooklyn. In any event, Ginny’s ignorance is a device to explain things considered common knowledge amongst baseball fans to the part of the audience that is unfamiliar. What I found considerably more egregious is when they did this with the trade deadline, effectively showing that Ginny didn’t understand how that worked.
  • With the Padres playing at AT&T Park, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow cameo as themselves. I still find the integration of real media members a lot of fun, and I’m excited to see what other broadcasters, if any, are featured before the season’s over.
  • While we don’t see the Padres play in Colorado, Oscar does reference the infamous “thin air” of Coors Field, and notes that Livan’s home runs there would’ve been warning-track outs at Petco Park. Yay park factors!
  • We’ve been tracking Ginny’s pitch repertoire, and can now add a cutter to a mix that includes a four-seamer, a slider, a changeup and, of course, her signature screwball.





Sarah Wexler is a contributor to Dodgers Digest. She recently earned her master's degree in Sports Management from Cal State Long Beach. She graduated from New York University in 2014 with a bachelor's in History and a minor in American Studies. Follow her on Twitter @SarahWexler32.

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booj11
Member
booj11

I didn’t watch originally, because I thought the hook didn’t seem like it was up my alley. I worried that they would water down a Hollywood-thin foundation of baseball literacy with either primetime soap drama or overwrought identity politics, which I have less interest in, at least in entertainment options.

I’ve read a couple of these reviews, though, and it seems like my concerns may have been overblown and that the show runners are doing a competent job of mixing up interesting plot points while retaining a reality-based baseball sensibility. I’m strongly considering tuning in. Can anyone recommend it without reservation?

CM52
Member
CM52

Just watch it and decide for yourself.

Nivra
Member
Nivra

I love it. Watch it.

Arjon
Member
Arjon

Watch a couple of episodes and see if it’s for you. Just keep in mind that the creators have always said it’s a soap opera in a baseball setting. You should set your expectations accordingly; i.e. don’t expect it to be a docudrama.

Curtis Cook
Member
Curtis Cook

I love it, but I’m a soap opera fan going back over thirty years. It is so far superior to “Ball Four” that it isn’t even funny… just as “Ball Four” wasn’t funny. (The TV series, not the book.)