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Sunday, May 23, 2010
The Closer: Dice-K leads the way

By ESPN Stats & Info

Daisuke Matsuzaka dazzled Phillies hitters Saturday night, throwing 7 2/3 hitless innings before Philadelphia's Juan Castro ended the bid with a bloop single just over the reach of Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro. That starting stint without a hit is the longest no-hit bid of Matsuzaka's career, surpassing his four innings without a hit vs the Angels on September 15, 2009. It has been 32 years since the Phillies have been no-hit (Bob Forsch, 1978).

Matsuzaka's outing also ties CC Sabathia for the longest no-hit bid this season that did not go on to finish as a no-hitter. In other words, only two pitchers have no-hit bids longer than 7 2/3 innings this season -- Ubaldo Jimenez and Dallas Braden.

Why Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka won:
- Had three innings of fewer than 10 pitches and zero with 20 or more. In his first four starts, Matsuzaka made it through just one inning with fewer than 10 pitches.
- The Phillies swung at 33.9 percent of Matsuzaka's offerings outside the strike zone, a season-high for Daisuke. Two of Daisuke's three swinging strikeouts were on fastballs outside the strike zone.
- Matsuzaka had success working up in the strike zone against the Phillies. Four of his five strikeouts were on high pitches, and the Phillies missed on five of their 15 swings against his offerings up in the zone.

Why Cubs starter Randy Wells deserved the win:
- Effective with off-speed stuff, particularly his slider. Rangers hitters were only 1-7 (.143) against the slider and the opposition is hitting only .204 against Wells' slider this season. His strike pct on all off-speed pitches was 74 (MLB average: 61 pct). Plus, Rangers hitters chased 46 pct of off-speed stuff out of the zone tonight (MLB average: 31 pct).
- Economical. Five of his 8 completed innings were 1-2-3 (62 pct; double the MLB avg.)
- Control. Went to a 3-ball count to only 4 of 31 batters faced (13 pct; MLB average: 19 pct).

Why Rockies starter Jeff Francis won:
- No solid contact. Of the 21 pitches that ended at-bats, Inside Edge determined only 2 balls were "well-hit." That .095 well-hit percentage is miniscule compared to the MLB average (.267).
- Dominated with slow stuff. Royals hitters were 0-11 against Francis' curveball and changeup. For the season, hitters are 2-for-21 against Francis' off-speed deliveries.

Why Athletics starter Gio Gonzalez won:
- Season-high first pitch strike percentage of 70.4. Giants hitters were 0-5 when putting the first pitch in play.
- The Giants were 0-7 with four strikeouts against Gonzalez's curveball and took just eight swings against it, despite the fact that he threw 38 of them on the day. Gonzalez got 12 called strikes with the curve, including three for strikeouts.
- Gonzalez retired the leadoff hitter in each of his eight innings..
- Gonzalez kept his curveball down in the zone, throwing 31 of his 38 curves in the lower third. The Giants were 0-4 with three strikeouts on low curveballs. For the season, opposing hitters are 0-35 with a whopping 29 strikeouts against Gonzalez curveballs in the lower third. On the season, Gonzalez has thrown 84 low curveballs before two strikes, and not a single one has been put in play. With two strikes, Gonzalez has thrown 85 low curveballs, with only six being put in play, all for outs.

Why Giants starter Matt Cain deserved better:
- Dominated with his curve and changeup. With a combined 0-for-7 performance against the two pitches today, opposing hitters are now 6-48 (.125) vs. Cain's curve and change in 2010.
- He got out of trouble. Cain retired only 3 of 8 leadoff hitters (38 pct; MLB average: 68 pct) but only allowed 1 to score - however it ended up being a big one.
- He put hitters away in all situations. When counts got to 2 strikes, 88 pct of at-bats ended in outs (MLB average: 72 pct). When counts got to 2-0, 2-1, or 3-ball, 82 percent of at-bats were outs (MLB average: 54 pct).

Why White Sox starter Gavin Floyd won:
- Commanded the inner half of the plate: 20 of Floyd's 24 pitches on the inner third went for strikes, and the Marlins were just 1-12 against those pitches. Six of Floyd's seven strikeouts came on inside pitches.
- Fooled the Marlins with his off-speed pitches (curveball, changeup, slider): Floyd threw 35 of 54 off-speed pitches for strikes, with 14 of the 35 strikes being of the called variety. The Marlins took 21 swings against Floyd's curveball, changeup, and slider, missing on 11.
- Five of Floyd's seven strikeouts were with off-speed pitches.
- Floyd retired the first six leadoff hitters he faced.

Why Angels starter Scott Kazmir won:
- A season high 79.5 pct (89 of 112) of his pitches were fastballs, with the Cardinals hitting just 2-18 against the pitch. Cardinals hitters missed on 14 of their 42 swings against Kazmir's fastball.
- Kazmir retired six of seven leadoff hitters he faced and retired the side in order in five of seven innings.
- Kazmir reached a 2-0 count on just one of the 27 hitters he faced.
- All five of Kazmir's strikeouts came on pitches on the outer third of the strike zone, with the Cardinals hitting just 2-16 against outside pitches.