Rodney Shoots Rays Into First | The Process Report

Rodney Shoots Rays Into First

A lot happened during Monday night’s first-place battle between the Rays and the Red Sox. There was rain, stranded runners, and a controversial call at the plate. The sum of all these parts added up to a tense ninth inning. Protecting a 2-1 lead on the road, Fernando Rodney came in for the save. His task: get three outs before the Red Sox scored a run with the top of the Boston order due.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the inning with a flare to short left field for a base hit. After two failed bunt attempts, Shane Victorino popped up on a changeup for out number one. With Dustin Pedroia at the plate, Ellsbury swiped second base moving into scoring position with less than two outs. Pedroia worked a seven-pitch at-bat, but grounded out to shortstop for the second out. Ellsbury remained at second. With two outs and a first base open, the Rays opted against pitching to David Ortiz and choose to face Mike Napoli instead.

Rodney fell behind 2-0 to Napoli before evening the count with a pair of swinging strikes on 98-mph fastballs. Napoli would foul off another 98-mph heater before taking a ball at 99 mph in the dirt. The pitch failed to reach the plate, rolled in between Jose Molina‘s legs, allowed the runners to advance 90 feet, and pushed the count full.

Fastballs and sinkers account for more than 60 percent of all full-count pitches this season. Changeups account for 11 percent.  Fernando Rodney, on the other hand, works a bit differently. Since last season, Rodney has thrown 92 pitches in a full count. Of those, 60 percent have been changeups. With the game – and first place in the American League East – on the line Rodney went to his best pitch. Napoli swung through an 87-mph changeup low and away for the final out. It was the only off-speed pitch of the plate appearance.

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Rodney’s use of the full-count changeup was uncommon enough, but it was also a same-side changeup; a no-no in some parts, but not Tampa Bay. In a recent article by Ben Lindbergh, Rodney expressed no fear throwing the off-speed pitch against right-handed batters. “When I started throwing that pitch in 2002, a couple friends of mine told me, ‘Don’t throw it to the righty because they’re going to hit it,’” Rodney says. “I said, ‘No, they have no chance to hit it.”

No chance. Arrows.

Data & visuals courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.



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