The Closer: For starters, a good day

May, 16, 2010
5/16/10
3:25
AM ET
Pitching has enjoyed a renaissance in 2010 and Saturday was no exception. Effective - if not dominating - starting pitching performances were seen throughout the day. A good sampling occurred in the American League East as Tampa Bay's James Shields and Toronto's Ricky Romero were dominant in their teams' wins, Andy Pettitte continued his amazing season for the Yankees, while Baltimore's Brian Matusz and Boston's Jon Lester pitched deep into their games.

Here's a look at some of those efforts and several others from Saturday in Why They Won:

Why Rays starter James Shields deserved a win:
- Control. Not only did Shields not walk anybody, but he didn't go to a 3-ball count on any hitter.
- Changeup. Mariners hitters were only 1-10 (.100) against the pitch Saturday and Shields is holding batters to a .188 mark (12-64) vs. the change in 2010.
- Put them away. When he got 2 strikes on a hitter, they were just about done as 93 pct of such at-bats ended in outs (MLB average: 72 pct).

Why Yankees starter Andy Pettitte Won:
- More effective with the fastball. Coming into the game, batters were hitting .295 against Pettitte's heater. Saturday, the Twins were 1-11 (.091) against the fastball.
- Only allowed two hits over 6.1 innings pitched. Prior to 2010, the left-hander surrendered 1.05 H/IP. This season, he's only allowed 36 hits in 45.1 IP (0.79 H/IP).
- Finished off hitters. 82 percent of his 2-strike at-bats became outs (MLB average is 72).

Why Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero threw a shutout:
Used his power changeup:
- 29 of his 116 pitches (25 pct) were changeups, his most in a start this season
- Got eight of his 12 strikeouts with changeup (most in a start in his career)
- Hitters chased 71.4 pct of changeups out of the zone, most in a start in his career
- 11 swings-and-misses with his changeup, matching total from previous two starts
- Hitters went 0-for-13 against changeup

Why Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw Won:
Used his fastball:
- Threw fastballs on 85 of 110 pitches (77.3 pct, most in a start this season)
- Fastball averaged 94 MPH, up from 92.5 this season before Saturday
- Hitters went just 1-for-17 (.059 -- .238 against fastball entering the game)
- Got 5 of his 7 strikeouts with the heater (2nd straight start with 5 or more)
- K pct of 26.3 with fastball (highest in a start this season)

Why Reds starter Mike Leake Won:
- Down and away. Cardinals hitters were 0-7 on pitches "down and away" Saturday. Leake threw 38 of 93 pitches in that "spot" (a whopping 40.9 pct - since there are 9 "spots"). For the season, the rookie has thrown 40.5 pct of his pitches and has held the opposition to a .118 average there.
- Put them away. 83 pct of his 2-strike at-bats became outs (MLB average: 72 pct).
- Good starts. Retired 5 of his 6 leadoff hitters (83 pct) in innings. (MLB average: 68 pct).

Why Indians starter Mitch Talbot Won:
- Wouldn't let Orioles get started. Talbot retired all 8 leadoff hitters in innings (MLB average: 68 pct).
- The fastball. The O's were only 3-21 against the heater. Talbot threw fastballs on 86 of 102 pitches (84.3 pct). Prior to Saturday, he only used the pitch 72.7 pct of the time.
- Three and done. Half of Talbot's 8 frames were 1-2-3 innings (MLB average: 31 pct).

Why Giants starter Tim Lincecum was fortunate to win:
- First-batter problems. He only retired 3 of 8 leadoff hitters (MLB average is 68 pct).
- Control. Lincecum walked 5 over 8 innings and 31 pct of at-bats went to 3-ball counts (MLB average: 19 pct).
- More control. First-pitch strike pct was only 47 (lg avg.: 58) and his overall strike pct was only 56.
- He was facing the Astros. Houston is hitting a MLB-worst .227 this season. Lincecum is now 4-0 in his career vs. the Astros with a 1.33 ERA (best ERA vs. any NL foe).

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