Rays Get Primal In Seattle
Coming off a homestand in which they dropped five of six games, the Rays made the cross-country trip to Seattle for a three-game set against the Mariners. They were promptly shellacked in game one of the series, falling behind 9-0 after three innings en route to a 12-5 loss.
With his team seven games under .500 for the first time since 2007, David Price took the mound on Tuesday. He dazzled the Mariners, striking out a dozen without issuing a walk as part of a complete-game, one-run allowed effort. In Wednesday’s get-away game, Jake Odorizzi turned in perhaps his finest performance to date. The rookie threw 5 2/3 innings before allowing a hit. He completed six scoreless frames with seven punchouts, two walks and a lonely base hit allowed.
How did they do it? Fastballs.
The Rays’ duo threw a combined 204 pitches over the course of the two games. Of those pitches, 128 were fastballs. Price had excellent velocity, topping out near 96 mph. Odorizzi’s heater was a few ticks slower but equally as effective. Velocity, however, was not the biggest reason for their success; command was.
Facing a neutral-handed lineup, Price went to work on the glove-side of the zone with the fastball. He ran the ball away from left-handed batters and threw it at the hands of right-handed ones. He struck out 12 Mariners using the fastball each time. Eight of those strikeouts came on the third-base side of the dish.
Command has been an issue for young Jake Odorizzi. At times he cuts himself off from half of the plate horizontally while being unable to find consistency vertically. Though his control waned at times (40 balls out of 95 pitches with two walks) against the Mariners, Odorizzi still showed command. He wanted to throw his fastball up in the zone and did so routinely. Taking advantage of home plate umpire Kerwin Danley’s generous strike zone, Odorizzi, like Price, completed all of his strikeouts with a fastball. Each of them above the belt.
Working in conjunction with his breaking ball, Odorizzi induced 14 whiffs on 28 swings against the fastball despite an average velocity of 91.8 mph. The right-hander kept his sequencing crisp starting 14 of his 21 plate appearances with something other than a fastball while going to the heater to complete 12 of the 18 outs including those seven strikeouts.
Having a well-balanced arsenal that includes a variety of secondary offerings to work off the fastball is important to starting pitchers. Meanwhile, most will agree that the best pitch in baseball remains a well-located fastball. For David Price, that meant 95-mph to the glove-side. For Jake Odorizzi it was 92-mph up in the zone. Though the processes were slightly different, the end result was victory.
Data and visuals courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.