How to Beat the 2nd Best Pitcher in Baseball in 2 Easy Steps
“We discussed what he did to us last time,” Lind said, referring to Greinke’s domination of Toronto in Kansas City on April 29. “All we really wanted to do as a team was to lay off his slider. If we could do that, we could maybe force him into throwing some fastballs over the plate.”
Sounds wayyyy too easy – conquer the rival Cy Young candidate by laying off his nasty breaking pitch that starts right over the heart of the plate and dives two inches off the bottom outside corner, but remember to hit his 95 mph moving fastball once you’ve worked the count. Easy! But although Greinke didn’t have his best stuff tonight, that is exactly how the Jays got to him.
First, here’s all of Greinke’s sliders:
Ok, ok, they still bit on 1/3 of Greinke’s sliders, but that is pretty damn good. Not to beat a dead horse here, but if Alex Rios had managed to lay off of 2/3 of Lackey’s sliders last night, Adam Lind would have won that game three times over. Throw in some defensive fouls on the borderline strikes, and a few (fruitless) hacks at hanging sliders, and that was some downright stellar pitch selection from the entire team against a very good pitch.
Now for Greinke’s fastballs:
You can almost see them turning on pitches middle-in and grounding out when reaching across the plate (although there are 2 lefties mixed in there). Greinke wasn’t corner hunting as well with his fastball tonight as well as he has for most of this season, but notice not ONE swinging strike on a fastball, let alone a chase of one of the many fastballs that were really not that far off the outside corner.
Instead, the Jays waited out Greinke, and when he came over the plate they took advantage of fastballs that were left just slightly up (and in Scutaro’s 3-hit case, inside). I really don’t think Greinke was that bad tonight, despite his claim that:
“No matter what I threw, it was just hammered,” he said. “I’m not used to that. I don’t remember seeing anyone get hit that hard in a long time.”
Or his bewildered and downright self-depreciating comments after the game:
“It was kinda weird out there,” Greinke said. “It’s one thing to get hit. Everything was just a line drive. No weak contact. Good hitting and bad pitching come together at the same time.”
“Early in the game, if I threw a strike, they jumped on it right away,” he said. “I was getting behind on the other guys and then having to come to them. If I threw a strike, they hit it hard. They didn’t chase anything with two strikes. There were some close pitches, they took them. If I threw it for a strike, they hit them. Obviously, I didn’t do anything right.”
Instead, the Jays just showed an unusually good eye at the plate, and apparently executed a rather general and admittedly very simple game plan perfectly. If only it all came together so well every night…