The Closer: Pedroia and pitching

Dustin Pedroia had himself quite a night, setting career highs with 3 HR and 15 total bases, and becoming the second Red Sox 2B with 3 HR in one game. Not surprisingly, three of his hits -- 2 HR and a double -- came against fastballs. Pedroia entered the game hitting .313 and slugging .544 against the heater with all nine of his homers. He was hitting just .224 and slugging only .318 against offspeed pitches but went 2-2 on Thursday with another HR. His offspeed HR came against a slider -- his first against that pitch since August 16th of last season -- and it came in extra innings on the only slider he saw.

Pedroia's three home runs traveled a combined 1,154 feet. His first HR of the game went 396 feet, accounting for the longest homer of his career. His third HR of the game, which proved to be the game-winner, traveled 373 feet thanks to 42 feet of "atmosphere assistance" (wind, temperature and altitude). Only Coors Field and Minute Maid Park's friendly confines would have yielded a home run on that hit. The MLB average distance on home runs since 2006 is 398 feet, so he's never once hit an average-length home run.

Despite what happened in Colorado, there were several starting pitchers who turned in great outings on Thursday. These four guys pitched into the eighth inning and recorded eight or more strikeouts, and not surprisingly, three of their teams won.

Why Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow beat the Cardinals:
- Battled. Morrow had 2-0, 2-1 or 3-ball counts to 12 batters and retired 10 of them (83 pct; MLB avg: 54 pct).
- Control. Morrow only went to 3-ball counts on three of his 29 batters faced (10 pct; MLB avg: 19 pct).
- Slider and curve. The Cards combined to go 1-9 against Morrow's top two pitches. For the season, opposing hitters are 19-103 (.184) against the slider and curve combined.
NOTES: Fifth straight quality start. Threw his most pitches and most strikes of season (112, 71)

Why Mariners starter Felix Hernandez controlled the Cubs:
- Used the whole plate. If the hitting zone is divided into nine sections (low & away, low & in, etc.), Felix was an equal-opportunity hurler with his 117 pitches. He threw at least 10 pitches in EIGHT of the nine zones (he threw only seven "middle/up" but hitters were 0-4). His most common spot was "middle/down" - 20 pitches and the Cubs were 0-5.
- The slider. The Cubs were 0-3 against the pitch, lowering hitters' season average to .176 vs. Felix's slider.
- Weak contact. Inside Edge determines if a ball is "well-hit." The MLB well-hit average this season is .267. Only five balls in 31 at-bats (.161) against Hernandez were deemed to be well-hit.

Why Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo shut out the Twins:- 80 pct strikes when behind in the count (most in a start since April 24, 2009) meant he wasn't behind for long
- Good idea as hitters went 1-for-18 (.056) when he was ahead in the count (.168 entering Thursday)
- 66.4 pct fastballs, his most in a start since August 14, 2009
- 65.6 pct fastballs with 2 strikes (51.3 pct entering Thursday)
- Got 9 K with his fastball (most in his career)

Why Phillies starter Joe Blanton beat the Indians:- Strike pct of 75.0, his most in any appearance in his entire career
- Fastball averaged 90.8 MPH, nearly 2 MPH more than his season average entering Thursday
- Set up offspeed stuff: 11 misses with non-fastballs (12 in last 3 starts combined)
- Chase pct of 41.2, miss pct of 45.8 vs offspeed stuff (32.1 and 26.2, respectively, entering Thursday)
- Overall chase pct of 41.0 and overall miss pct of 25.5 (both highs for a single start this season)
- 14 swings-and-misses (had 15 in last 3 starts combined)