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June 4, 2014

What You Need to Know

A Modern-Day Greg Maddux?

by Chris Mosch


The Tuesday Takeaway
Don’t look now, but Henderson Alvarez is your 2014 league leader in shutouts.

Miami’s hard-throwing Venezuelan needed just 88 pitches to stifle the Rays and record his third complete-game shutout of the 2014 season. Dating back to his no-hitter against the Tigers on the final day of the 2013 season, Alvarez has now tossed a shutout in four of his last 14 starts and accounted for four of Major League Baseball’s last 25 shutouts.

Alvarez had excellent command of the zone against Tampa Bay, as he threw 58 of his 88 pitches for strikes and punched out five batters without issuing a single free pass. He didn’t throw more than 14 pitches in a single inning, and he needed just 16 total pitches to navigate the final three frames.

The right-hander’s efficiency was aided by Tampa Bay’s inability to work the count, as the visitors saw more than three pitches in just nine of their 30 trips to the plate. The Rays actually managed eight hits against Alvarez, but when they did reach base, they were quickly erased. The Miami defense turned three double plays behind Alvarez, while the Rays were unsuccessful on a pair of steal attempts.

It was just the second time since 1947 that a pitcher has needed 90 or fewer pitches en route to a complete-game shutout in which he allowed eight or more hits. David Wells did it back in 2000 against the Blue Jays.

Alvarez kept his power sinker down in the zone throughout the game, which helped him induce 13 ground balls versus seven fly balls. He also generated 10 swings-and-misses—seven via his two-seamer, a pair with his slider and one with his changeup.

Tuesday’s start was the second time that Alvarez has averaged 10 or fewer pitches an inning en route to a shutout; he blanked the Mariners using 90 pitches back on April 19. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, Alvarez is just the second pitcher since 1947 to record multiple shutouts on 90 or fewer pitches in the same season. You might have heard of the other guy—Greg Maddux—who tossed a pair of 90-pitch shutouts in 1995 and 2000 (technically, he did it in 1997, too, but one was a five-inning game).

On the opposing side, Chris Archer turned in a quality outing himself, as he tossed seven innings of solid one-run ball and struck out eight batters while allowing five hits and a pair of walks. However, Rays pitchers need to be nearly perfect nowadays in order to be in contention for a win; the AL East cellar dwellers have scored two or fewer runs in each of their past six games. They’ll send David Price to the mound on Wednesday in hopes of snapping their eight-game losing streak.

Quick Hits from Tuesday

A pair of big names made their returns to their teams’ starting lineups on Tuesday after lengthy stints on the disabled list.

Nationals manager Matt Williams penciled Ryan Zimmerman’s name into the lineup for the first time in nearly two months on Tuesday, with Zimmerman—the club’s Opening Day third baseman—making his first career start in the outfield.

During his first trip to the plate, Zimmerman laced a 0-1 fastball from David Buchanan down the left field line for a double. The former fourth-overall pick in the draft knocked another two-bagger down the right field line in the fifth inning, after the Phillies inexplicably intentionally walked Adam LaRoche to get him with two outs and a runner on second base in a 3-0 game.

Zimmerman made a few starts in the outfield over the weekend during his rehab stint, and made two putouts in left field during his MLB outfield debut. In the fourth inning, he made a nice read on a Chase Utley liner to record his first career outfield putout, and then took care of a routine fly in the sixth inning.

I present to you, Ryan Zimmerman: major-league outfielder:

The last time we saw Josh Hamilton was April 8, when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb sliding into first base, but he was slotted back into the Angels cleanup spot on Tuesday. In the top of the first inning, he drove a 3-2 offering from Collin McHugh to the deepest part of Minute Maid Park, and Dexter Fowler was able to corral the long fly while awkwardly falling at the foot of Tal’s Hill. The fourth time Hamilton stepped in the batter’s box, he punished an 0-1 fastball that Houston reliever Tony Sipp left down Main Street:

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Call-Up: Jonathan ... (06/04)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (06/03)
Next Column >>
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (06/05)
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Painting the Black: Ho... (06/04)

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