The Rays finally learned what it’s like on the good side of the no hitter today. Matt Garza faced the minimum tonight against the Detroit Tigers, walking only one batter. Garza added six strikeouts as well, and finished the job in 120 pitches.
To be sure, this Detroit Tigers lineup is not the lineup that was 31 runs above average entering this season. Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, and Brandon Inge were out, replaced by Will Rhymes, Don Kelly, and Ryan Raburn. Ordonez is a well above average hitter, and Guillen and Inge have performed around average this season. Tonight was Rhymes’s third major league game. Raburn has struggled mightily this year but is projected around average. Kelly has also struggled mightily, but his struggles, according to ZiPS, are more indicative of his true talent. This lineup is demonstrably worse, but the presence of players like Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, and Johnny Damon still signify some firepower in the Tigers’ lineup.
That said, no hitting any major league lineup is impressive, and we can’t ignore the fact that the Tigers lineup just might contain the best hitter in the American League. How did Garza do it? His four-seam fastball was utterly dominant. He threw a whopping 96 four-seamers out of his 120 pitches. Sixty-seven of these four-seamers went for strikes and ten of those 67 went for swinging strikes, both of which are fantastic numbers. The Tigers just couldn’t put good wood on the fastball. The pitch type linear weights over at Brooks Baseball have Garza’s flour-seamer at a staggering 6 runs above average tonight. That mark would rank 33rd among all pitchers in baseball over the course of the whole season; Garza’s fastball was 3.5 runs above average entering the game.
Games like tonight are the reason that Tampa Bay was willing to deal a top prospect like Delmon Young for Matt Garza. Garza’s performance immediately goes down as the most memorable performance by a Rays’ pitcher, and this performance on a national stage will make sure that anybody who wasn’t paying attention to the Rays before is paying attention now.