When you see the best hitter on the planet strike out four times in one game, it makes an impression. On Tuesday night, Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera went 1 for 5 with four punch-outs and how that happened is worth examining.
In the first inning, Cabrera struck out on five pitches. Yordano Ventura threw the Tigers first baseman three fastballs, but the final swinging strike was a change-up.
In the third inning with the bases loaded, Cabrera struck out on six pitches. One was a fastball thrown out of the strike zone; the other five pitches were change-ups.
In the fifth inning, Cabrera hit a two-run double on a fastball.
In the seventh inning, Cabrera struck out on five pitches. Two were fastballs, three were off-speed and the final strike was a curve.
In the eighth inning, with the bases loaded once again, Cabrera struck out on three pitches; all off-speed, all breaking pitches.
It appeared the Royals would give Cabrera a fastball early in the count, but try to throw it to a tough location. And once Royals pitchers got ahead in the count, Cabrera was seeing off-speed stuff. So on Wednesday night, the Royals might continue to pitch Cabrera soft; why change until he makes an adjustment?
But the Royals also might figure Cabrera will make an adjustment and beat him to it by busting him with heaters.
Interesting game, isn’t it?
Danny Duffy: It’s pitch execution, not pitch selection
In the seventh inning, Danny Duffy came into the game with an 8-2 lead. The Royals left-hander had a good fastball going; he hit 99 mph on the gun.
Duffy got the first two batters on strikeouts (one was Cabrera), but gave up a two-out single to Victor Martinez on an 89 mph change-up. Then J.D. Martinez walked on five pitches. Next Duffy got Jarrod Saltalamacchia into a 2-2 count and threw him an 85 mph breaking pitch that Saltalamacchia hit lop-sided; a two-out, three-run home run.
So if you have a 99 mph fastball in your pocket, why get beat on a change-up and curve?
Well, second-guessing is easy and imagine what people would say if Duffy poured in fastball after fastball and got beat on one of those. I’m pretty sure someone — probably me — would say no matter how hard you throw, you still have to change speeds in the big leagues.
After the game I asked Duffy about getting beat on something other than a fastball and he said any pitch is a good pitch if you believe in it. In other words; there was nothing wrong with throwing a change-up or curve, Duffy just needed to execute those pitches better than he did.
Is all well that ends well?
The Royals still won, so didn’t everything turn out OK?
Yes and no: Duffy was pitching the seventh because the Royals had a sizable lead at that point. Because Duffy gave up a three-run home run, Ned Yost had to use Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis.
Duffy said it was his job to make sure those guys got the night off, but he didn’t do his job. So if those three also have to pitch Wednesday night and then aren’t available on Thursday night, it goes back to Duffy’s performance on Tuesday night.
Stay tuned; the story of this series is still being written.