AP Photo/LM Otero
Neftali Feliz pitched seven shutout innings in his first major-league start.Tuesday marked the first major league starts for former bullpen stalwarts Neftali Feliz and Daniel Bard. Both were successful in the bullpen, but only one handled the transition well in his debut.
Feliz was facing off with a familiar foe as the Texas Rangers hosted the Seattle Mariners. Entering the game, the Mariners had not recorded a hit in 48 at-bats against Feliz. Justin Smoak finally broke the hitless drought with two outs in the fourth inning.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 58 at-bats before allowing a hit is the longest streak to start a career against one team in the expansion era (since 1961). The record was previously held by Billy Wagner, who held the Pittsburgh Pirates hitless in their first 48 at-bats from 1996 to 2001.
Neftali Feliz vs Mariners
Pitch Frequency by Time Through Order
Feliz was able to handle the move to the bullpen by mixing up his pitches. As a reliever, he threw a fastball on 80 percent of his pitches. The first time through the Seattle order on Tuesday, he threw heat on 69 percent of his pitches. After that, he relied on his fastball only 39 percent of the time.
For the game, Feliz mixed in sliders on 26 percent of his pitches and changeups on 23 percent. Mariners hitters were 1-for-8 in at-bats ending with a changeup, including two strikeouts.
In three years as a reliever, he threw fastballs 71 percent of the time and sliders 21 percent of the time. The key to his success out of the bullpen was his slider. Opponents missed nearly half the times they swung at the pitch. He was able to coax swings on sliders outside the zone nearly a third of the time.
Daniel Bard by Pitch Type
Tuesday vs Blue Jays
On Tuesday, he threw the slider 35 percent of the time and was just as successful. The Blue Jays missed on nine of their 14 swings against the slider and four of Bard’s six strikeouts came on the pitch. But they were able to tee off on his fastball, getting eight hits in 17 at-bats ending with the pitch.
Bard was unable to establish a third pitch during the game. In the first four innings, he threw only four changeups and all of them missed the strike zone. He found the zone with three of six changeups to his last five batters and induced a groundout by Adam Lind.
Jayson Werth recorded his eighth career four-hit game, his first since June 27, 2009.
The Detroit Tigers are the last undefeated team in the American League, despite not getting a decision from their starters.
Andre Ethier celebrated his 30th birthday by hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth, his 11th career go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later.
Dan Braunstein contributed to this post.