Do you want to talk a little bit about dominance?
Here is a line for you: 8 IP | 1 H | 12 K | 10 GB | 2 BB | 2 FB
Jays sophomore pitcher Ricky Romero threw the game of his life on Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox. The southpaw did not allow a ball out of the infield until the seventh inning; the second – and only other fly ball of the night – came on Alex Rios‘ two-run homer that ended Romero’s no-hit bid in the eighth.
Known as a ground-ball pitcher, Romero worked down in the zone and away from the White Sox hitters, many of whom are known for being pull happy. It was a smart approach and with all his pitches working last night, Romero was able to execute with repeated precision. Both his command and control were impeccable with all four of his pitches: four-seam fastball, cutter, change-up, and curve. He has good fastball velocity for a lefty, and he sat between 89-93 mph with the heater for most of the night, but it was Romero’s ability to keep the hitters guessing that led to his success on the mound.
Of his 12 strikeouts, eight came on the change-up, two on the fastball, and two on the curve. Romero’s ground-ball outs came with the fastball (six) and the change-up (four). Clearly, the hitters could not pick up the difference between the fastball and the change-up. His delivery was smooth and effortless.
Romero primarily used his curveball to get ahead in the count early on, often with the first pitch. Although it wasn’t a strikeout pitch for him in most at-bats, the ability to command it helped him set up his knock-out pitches. When a pitcher can command three pitches and get consistent outs with two, he’s going to have a lot of success, as we saw with Romero.
As good as the former No. 1 draft pick was, I want to take a minute to also mention catcher John Buck. The former Royals backstop may be the best free agent signing that the Jays have made in the past few years. He’s off to a pretty good start with the bat, but his true value to the team lies in his work behind the dish. In his first week with the Jays, Buck has clearly earned the trust of the Jays starters.
Rarely have I seen a shake of the head to suggest a disagreement in the pitch selection. The veteran catcher is known for having a game plan detailed before each contest. He appears to be an excellent receiver and he’s created close plays on throws to second base where it appeared the runner would be safe by a country mile.
Although it’s very early, the Jays club is second in the American League in xFIP at 4.01 (fourth in ERA at 3.19). The club is also third in walk rate at 3.05 BB/9. These numbers are significant given that the club has a patch-work starting rotation made up of young hurlers, converted relievers, and veterans returning from significant injuries. Buck, no doubt, deserves a lot of credit for that, as does new pitching coach Bruce Walton.
After eight successful games by the Jays, we should not shift our expectations. It’s still going to be a long season and the club could very well end up with a losing record. However, it’s clearly not going to be all doom-and-gloom as some had suggested prior to the season.
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