Last night against the South Bend Cubs, the Lansing Lugnuts won their 1500th franchise game, ironically against an organization with whom they were previously affiliated and for whom some of those games were won. There was a definite star of the evening, and for once it wasn't one of the mashers in the Lansing lineup. Patrick Murphy, the 2013 3rd rounder who has missed so much time to injury, has had an uneven start to his first full-season year. He's struggled to stay in the strike zone, leading to a 19/17 BB/K coming into the night, but frequently would have dominant stretches of weak contact. Last night it all came together.
Murphy went 7 excellent innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits with no walks and 5 strikeouts. But it was even better than that, as he took a perfect game into the 6th inning, setting down the first 16 batters in order before a clean line drive double ended the bid. Two batters later the shutout end as a rehabbing Jason Heyward lined a ball through Vladdy Jr at third base to plate the run.
Murphy was 91-92 with his fastball early on the stadium gun, lower than his usual range, but he was also pounding the strike zone. Later, he was touching the 93-94 range that is more usual for him. He piled up 11 swinging strikes (76% contact), with a disproportionate amount on his fastball. He kept 11 of 20 balls in play on the ground, but most of the contact in the air was routine with the three hits being the only hard hit balls on the evening.
Ryan Borucki turned in a solid start, allowing just one run on a couple of bouncers in right field in the first inning. He worked 5.1 innings, allowing 6 hits but no free passes with 5 strikeouts as his pitch count continued to expand back up to 75 fro 60 and 45 previously. Facing a predominantly left-handed lineup, he used his plus change-up a lot less and his third pitch slider a lot more - and it was quite effective, finishing off three batters for swinging strikeouts and one looking. It also generated some weak contact, though also a hard single. As usual, a strong majority of contact was on the ground.
Finally, on a not so positive note, Jon Harris got shelled in New Hampshire yesterday afternoon to run his ERA to 6.75 after giving up 7 runs on 9 hits in 4.2 innings. He was fine the first two innings, giving up just an infield hit and a walk and keep the ball mostly on the ground while hitting 93 on the stadium gun. A first run scored in the 3rd as a result a leadoff double off the wall and a sac fly, but this seemed more a blip as Harris got out of the inning and the first two batters of the 4th.
Then it started going downhill pretty quickly. A home run, line drive single, and double off the wall in the gap scored another two runs. A one out single in the 5th preceded another home run, albeit wind assisted and just over the wall. After a lineout, Harris gave up a third home run, this one a legit bomb, followed by a walk and liner double, and his outing was over. When Harris was drafted, my fear was the Jays were getting another Deck McGuire: a college RHP with a four pitch mix, but nothing really plus. Unfortunately, it's looking more and more accurate, as Harris is not missing bats and his quality of contact yielded is getting worse from level to level.