Former West Virginia ace Michael Grove earned the first victory of his Major League Baseball career on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Grove pitched five innings, giving up one run on three hits, to become just the eighth WVU pitcher since 1900 to record a victory on the mound during his first season at the MLB level.
“I honestly don’t have that many decisions in my career, so getting a big league win, and especially sharing that with Andre (Jackson) a little bit getting that save at the end, it was cool to watch,” Grove said with a smile afterward. “I’m really excited about it.”
What reporters didn’t know when they spoke with the young pitcher after the game, was that he had been under the weather in the days leading up to his fifth big league start.
“Can’t say enough about Michael today,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was under the weather, but was determined he was going to make this start. After that fifth inning, I just felt that he gave us everything that he had. I really tip my cap to him.”
The LA skipper did not go into detail about what was ailing the 25-year-old righty.
The Wheeling, West Virginia native had previously made four starts in the MLB. After Sunday, three of his five career starts at baseball’s highest level have come in September on a Dodgers club that is undoubtedly looked at as the best team in the sport.
Grove, who is hoping to perform well enough to earn a spot on Los Angeles’ postseason roster, showed he has what it takes to continue pitching for Roberts’ club as the regular season winds down.
“He just wouldn’t let us give us that option (to miss the start),” Roberts said. “I know a couple days ago he just was weak and didn’t feel good. We were kind of teetering, and yesterday he said, ‘I’m going to figure it out and find a way to post.'”
Grove was sent home early from Saturday’s contest against the St. Louis Cardinals, a game he was not scheduled to appear in. He returned to the ballpark Sunday morning determined to get on the mound.
“Today he just kind of showed up and there was no side doors, he was going to pitch today,” Roberts said. “Like I said, proud of him, he gave us everything he had.”
Grove said he has grown a lot this year. He has learned how to adjust to different teams and clubhouses, as he has bounced around from Double-A to Triple-A to the major league level.
“I try to go out there and figure out what the lineup is, and how I’m going to get each guy out,” said Grove, unaware that he was pitching in a game that ultimately allowed the Dodgers to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
His start on Sunday is arguably his best outing at the MLB level. He needed just 69 pitches to complete five innings of work after needing 92 pitches to get the same 15 outs in his previous start, when he set a career-high for strikeouts.
“It’s a lot easier now than it was the first time,” Grove said. “It’s a lot more comfortable, being with the guys and the catchers, as well. So, it’s a little bit easier now.”
Grove has now pitched five full innings in each of his last three starts. He has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his last four outings, and Sunday marked the first time in his big league career he surrendered just one run.