Last night’s game featured two pretty good pitching performances from Marcus Stroman and Shane Bieber. But there was another pretty good one down in New Hampshire, where the Blue Jays top pitching prospect Nate Pearson was on the mound.
The Blue Jays have apparently ended the 5/2/5/2 inning management restrictions on Pearson (which I never liked in the first place), though with some building up over several starts since between an IL stint and the Future’s Game, he hadn’t pitched more than two innings since early June. But he was stretched out for yesterday’s start against Harrisburg, and a good thing too since he was in finest form with both top notch stuff and sharpness.
Pearson went a season high 5.2 innings on 74 pitches, which was apparently his limit since there was no other reason to take him out with a no-hitter in progress. The only blemish on his line was a one out walk on five pitches in the second inning, though a second batter reached with two out in the fifth on one of his eight strikeouts, a breaking ball that bounced in the dirt and got away for a wild pitch.
It took a couple of innings for Pearson to really get going and ramp up the velocity, as his first strikeout came to the sixth batter he faced (gasp, the horror). From that point on, he struck out eight of 14 batters, frequently touching 98 MPH on the stadium gun and hitting a couple of triple digits. He piled up 15 swinging strikes on 40 swings (63% contact), mostly on fastballs early and then mixing in the power breaking ball more heavily the second time through.
The batters who did put the bat on the ball weren’t much more successful either. Of 10 balls in play, one was lined to short in the first inning, and Dante Bichette hit a sharp low “gliner” to first that was picked just before it hit the ground but would have been an out regardless. Otherwise, five routine grounders, two routine fly outs and a popout. All in all, a very dominant outing.
Unfortunately, Pearson did not secure his first AA win despite the Fisher Cats taking the no-hitter into the 7th and a shutout into the 9th thanks to a five run meltdown in that last inning.
Another significant pitching prospect was on the mound in Charlotte, with T.J. Zeuch going for Buffalo. It was not nearly as successful an outing Zeuch as went six innings, allowing four runs but on 10 hits and five walks with just three strikeouts. And most of those hits were very sharply hit, not ground ball bleeders finding holes as sometimes is the case for a pitcher who works to contact.
The velocity was fine for Zeuch, as he was sat around 93 MPH on the broadcast, touching up to 95. But his fastball just seemed to flatten out and get squared up for line drives to the outfield, rather than getting under the swing planes, which is Zeuch’s bread-and-butter when he’s going well. Which hasn’t often been the case in six starts with Buffalo after missing the first couple months of the season. In addition to too much hard contact, the struggles have started with just throwing strikes as Zeuch has uncharacteristically walked 21 batters in 33 innings (15%).
By contrast, his curveball looked much better, both the slower 76-78 MPH version that he tends to try and land for strikes and the faster low-80s version he typically uses for swings and misses. He mixed in his changeup a little bit against lefties, but it was essentially more of a show-me offering last night with some run.