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Friday, May 14, 2010
The Closer: One-hit wonder

By ESPN Stats & Info

On a day when Justin Verlander, Johan Santana, Zack Greinke and CC Sabathia all pitched, it was Padres starter Mat Latos who stole the show. Latos would have had a perfect game if not for an infield single by Giants catcher Eli Whiteside. Not only that, Latos provided all of the Padres offense with an RBI single. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since RBI became an official statistic in 1920, Latos joins Early Wynn in 1959 and Alex Kellner in 1955 as the only players to throw a one-hit shutout and drive in all of his team's runs.

Latos actually threw eight innings while giving up only two hits in a 7-0 win at Houston in his last start. Not only has Latos allowed only three hits over his last two starts, but he did not walk a batter in either game. He's only the third man in baseball's "modern era" (since 1900) to pitch at least eight innings while allowing no more than two hits and giving up no runs and no walks in each of two consecutive starts. The other pitchers to do that were Cy Young in 1905 and Billy Pierce in 1958.

Why Mat Latos won:

- He got nearly everyone out. Latos faced 28 batters and 27 of them failed to reach base. Six at bats went to 2-0, 2-1, or to 3 ball counts and 100 percent were converted into outs.
- He finished batters off. 14 batters went to 2 strike counts and 13 of those batters turned into outs. That's good for 93 percent compared to the MLB average of 72 percent.
- He worked fast. It almost goes without saying, but 8 out of 9 of his innings went 1-2-3 good for 89 percent compared to the MLB average of 31 percent.


Why Jonathan Sanchez could have won:

- He got the first batter out. Sanchez retired 7 out of 8 first batters with Nick Hundley reaching on an error being the only blemish. That means he retired 87.5 percent of first batters compared to the MLB average of 68 percent.
- He finished off hitters. 82 percent of 2 strike at bats were converted into outs compared to the MLB average of 72 percent.
- Even when he wasn't working ahead in the count he still managed to get people out. 86 percent of 2-0, 2-1, and 3 ball counts were converted into outs compared to the MLB average of 54 percent.


Why Zack Greinke finally won:

- He worked ahead in the count. He threw first pitch strikes 71 percent of the time compared to the MLB average of 58. Of the 28 batters he faced, only 2 went to 2-0 counts.
- He finished off hitters. 80 percent of 2 strike at bats turned into outs compared to the MLB average of 72 percent.
- He got run support. The Royals six runs were the most they've scored with Greinke on the mound all year and equaled the combined total they had scored over his previous four starts.


Why Bud Norris won:

- He pitched ahead in the count. Faced 28 batters and went to a 2-0 count only three times. In fact, only seven percent of plate appearances against went to three ball counts compared to the MLB average of 19 percent.
- He worked his off-speed pitches well. Of the 51 off-speed pitches he threw, 75 percent were thrown for strikes compared to the MLB average of 61 percent.
- He made people miss. Batters swung at 51 of his 99 pitches and missed 15 times, which translates to a 29.4 percent miss percentage compared to the MLB average of 20.5.


Why Justin Verlander won:

- He finished off hitters. 87 percent of 2 strike at bats became outs compared to the MLB average of 72 percent.
- He got the first batter of the inning out. After Derek Jeter reached on an infield single on the first at bat of the game, Verlander proceeded to get the first batter out in each of the next five innings. His percentage translated to 86 percent compared to the MLB average of 68 percent.