Friday, August 20, 2010
West Coast Bias: Felix and C.J.’s gems
A couple AL West starters totally befuddled their AL East opponents Friday night.You wouldn't have turned too many heads if you had predicted that Felix Hernandez was going to pitch a gem earlier today; He's been one of the most dominating pitchers around since the All Star break. Yet, his 1.93 post-break ERA over seven starts has only delivered a 1-5 record. The Seattle Mariners offense had scored two-or-fewer runs in each of those games (1.1 runs of support per game), which the Elias Sports Bureau tells us was the lowest run support for any pitcher in the bigs with at least five starts since the All-Star Game.
So Hernandez just went out and shut out baseball's winningest team, the New York Yankees, 6-0. He is the just third pitcher in the live-ball era (since 1920) with THREE games of 8 innings, 9 strikeouts and 1 ER or fewer vs the Yankees in a single season. The others are Lefty Grove in 1926 and Bob Feller in 1941.
He fell just one inning short of becoming the first pitcher to have four straight complete game wins over the Yankees since Mike Cuellar in 1974 and 1975.
But was King Felix's performance even the best start by an AL West pitcher tonight? C.J. Wilson was pulled from the game just one out away from his first career shutout while striking out 12 Baltimore Orioles in the process. The last Texas Rangers pitcher to strike out that many while throwing at least eight scoreless innings was Nolan Ryan almost two decades ago.
Buck Showalter had his issues with home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson and was ejected along with Nick Markakis in the game, as the strike zone was a hot topic throughout the game for both teams. For Markakis, the ejection was the first of his career and it came after arguing a called strikeout. All four pitches in that at bat were OUT of the strike zone according to PitchFX cameras, and all were nearly in the same spot. Only the first one got called a ball.
Nevertheless, Wilson was dealing. He challenged hitters all night, throwing 57% of his pitches in the strike zone which was his second-best mark of the year.
And he did so with impeccable control. Despite that huge number, only two pitches were right down the heart of the plate, and only 10 were over the middle third horizontally. The Orioles didn't get hits on any of those. Wilson went to only one 2-0 count and just three 3-ball counts the entire night.
Those performances are even more jarring when compared to another young AL ace: Jon Lester. He was pulled after the shortest start of his career (2 IP) after giving up a career-high 9 runs to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Lester had allowed two HR in 150 AB vs lefties this season. He allowed two HR to Lyle Overbay alone on Friday.
His last four starts at Fenway Park have resulted in losses and he's given up five long balls in the process - that's as many as he allowed in his first NINE home starts combined this season.