CC Sabathia did something that a Yankee starter hadn't been able to accomplish all season. He kept the opposition from crossing home plate. This may seem like a silly thing to say because most people with a brain know it to be true, but when your starting pitcher can keep the other team from scoring early, it helps your offense immensely. Especially the Yankees' offense which only seems to come alive later in games. Another thing that helps? Shutdown innings. After the Yankees scored three in the sixth inning, Sabathia came out and first got Adam Jones swinging on a gorgeous changeup outside and down, walked Chris Davis, then erased the walk by inducing a ground ball double play off the bat of Mark Trumbo.
For this piece, I want to focus on CC's strikeouts. He struck out six last night: five swinging and one looking. In fact, the Orioles were swinging at a lot of his pitches.
And they were whiffing on a balls out of the strike zone, especially righty batters like Jones.
Here are their whiffs against CC's changeup which was really working last night:
And now my favorite strikeout of the night, the aforementioned Adam Jones at bat in the sixth:
The best pitch of the at bat was the last one, pitch number five. Jones made a feeble attempt to make contact with an 85.4 mph changeup that tailed away from the plate and stuck out for out number one of the inning.
In this chart, you will notice that four out of CC's six strikeouts were on balls out of the zone:
And these are the pitches he used to finish his at bats. Notice the whiffs on the changeups. Also notice the highest velocity is 91.2 mph:
This is the CC Sabathia we all wanted to see. The one whose velocity isn't as high as it used to be, but whose movement tricks batters into weak swings at pitches out of the zone. The crafty lefty. And while it's great that Sabathia stopped the losing streak and contributed in large part to the first shut out of the season for the pitching staff, it's more important that he returned to Baltimore for the first time since one of the darkest points in his life, and he was able to pitch his best game of the season.
[Courtesy of Brooks Baseball]