Wednesday night's White Sox-Yankees was a lot like the previous two contests played in the Bronx this week. Albeit not in the fun ways, given that the Pale Hose lost 3-1.
- It was a briskly-paced affair (2 hours 11 minutes...I hope you had other things planned)
- The White Sox received a sterling effort from their starting pitcher (7 IP, 3 ER, 5 K for Burls)
- A play with deep ramifications on the outcome of the game seemed like the product of random chance (Rather than being jammed for the last out of the inning, A-Rod was jammed for a pop-up single that dropped between Carlos Quentin and Gordon Beckham. The next batter, Robinson Cano, hit a 3-run HR, the only Yankee scoring.)
- Sox batting was shut down by a mediocre starter (Enter Bartolo Colon)
While A.J. Burnett at least mixed things up with a wide variety of breaking pitches he couldn't consistently throw over the plate, and Ivan Nova actually had his best curveball, Bartolo Colon didn't have to waste time with all that blasted subtlety to mow through 8 innings worth of Sox batters.
Now Bartolo's always been a man that's relied on his heat (77.8% on his career); it got him into the league, and saw him faithfully through Marlon Brando-esque lapses in conditioning, but Wednesday night was truly ridiculous.
Colon threw four sliders all night. Two in the 1st inning, then one to Dunn that was laced for a single in the 2nd, and one more that missed the plate in the 4th. From there he was done with it. Kaput. Breaking pitches can go to hell.
He added five changeups, inexplicably tossing three in a row to start an at bat by Carlos Quentin in the 6th. The other 90 pitches he threw were 55 four-seam fastballs, and 35 two-seamers. (h/t BrooksBaseball.com)
90 fastballs. 90 fastballs.
There's certainly a lot of truth to the "a well-placed fastball is the best pitch in baseball" cliche, and with the expanded strike zone umpire Todd Tichenor called (we benefited too), Colon had little reason to risk not being "well-placed" with any of his offerings.
But the ramifications of this data are clear; Bartolo toed the waters of challenging White Sox hitters with fastballs, liked the feel he got, dove right in, and never paid the price.
Hitting a crisp big league fastball is no walk in the park, and there's a reason why a guy like Matt Thornton can be an All-Star throwing them 90% of the time, but there's also a reason Thornton isn't a starter. There's also a reason that when Colon couldn't throw a breaking pitch to save his life in 2009 for the White Sox, he gave up almost 2 HR per 9 innings and posted a 5.70 FIP. Major League hitters are supposed to make you pay when you do nothing to mess up their timing all night.
For him to get through the order 3 times and give up only one extra-base hit throwing heat 91% of the time is pretty telling.
So is Quentin, Konerko and Dunn combining for 6-11 while the rest of the lineup went 1-21.
So is this strikeout from Juan Pierre to open the game, on three four-seamers.
Or this bases-loaded strikeout with no outs by Gordon Beckham. All the pitches in the zone are two-seamers.
Or what Alex Rios flied out on with runners on 1st and 2nd, and a run in already.
They were looking for it, got it, and couldn't do anything with it (Though when Gordon is in funks like these, assuming what he goes to the plate looking for might be a step too far).
Until Sox hitters can force opposing pitchers to apply more nuance to their approach than 'good fastballs in the zone', victories on the South Side are going to feature the degree of difficulty that marked Monday and Tuesday's contests.
It has to get easier soon.