Noah Syndergaard: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K. Syndergaard faced just one over the minimum through three innings, despite issuing a walk in boht the second and third innings, but walked in a run in the fourth and gave up a couple of singles that turned into a run in the fifth. He threw 55% of his pitches (46 of 83) for strikes. Obviously, his control was not really sharp. On the other hand, the eight strikeouts speak to the quality of his stuff. Harnessing it is really what the minors are all about.
3B Aderlin Rodriguez’s slow start continues. After an 0-for-4, he’s hitting .139/.158/.194 (5 H/36 AB) with zero walks and seven strikeouts.
The really important thing is that Steven Matz looked really good in his second SAL start. In his five innings, he gave up just one unearned run on four hits, walked one and fanned seven.
The run he allowed was in the first. After walking the leadoff man, Jose Peraza, Matz induce a grounder up the middle that should have been two. SS Philip Evans fielded the ball near the second base bag, but rather than take it himself, or flip with his barehand, he tried to shovel the ball with his glove to 2B Yucarybert De La Cruz, who was covering the bag. It did not work. Instead, the ball rolled onto the dirt and the Gnats did not record an out on the play. The following batter, LF Josh Elander, blooped an 0-2 pitch into shallow right field. De La Cruz tried to make an over the shoulder catch, but the ball glanced off of his glove allowing Peraza to score from third. Matz then got down to business, striking out two of the next three hitters, sandwiched around a harmless groundout to first that staunched the bleeding.
In fact, Matz retired 12 of 13 batters from the first through fourth innings.
He was throwing hard and Rome batters were consistently late on his fastball, flailing for strike three, or harmlessly fouling balls off. Unlike his first start, when he threw fastballs almost exclusively, he threw his off-speed pitches a little bit. According to Gnats’ Pitching Coach Frank Viola, he threw seven of his 10 sliders for strikes and two of his three changeups for strikes. I had him at 82 pitches with first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 21 batters he faced. If my count is close (and it usually is to within a pitch or two), he threw his off-speed stuff 16% of the time. He’ll need to throw it more as he moves up, but fastball command is important too, and living off his heat, and location is a good sign too. Matz was able to throw his fastball in and out, and after the first, keep it down in the zone.
His last pitch of the night might have been his best. Matz was facing Elander, the Braves’ most dangerous hitter, who already had two hits off him, with two aboard in a 1-1 game. The count went full. After mixing fastballs and sliders early in the count, Matz finished him off with a vicious two-seamer running away from the right-handed hitter at 93 mph. It started near the outside edge and then started moving. Again, he held 93 mph past his 80th pitch of the night with movement.
Matz used to throw a curveball, but in the last few weeks, he and Viola have scrapped the pitch to focus on his slider, which the two like better out of Matz’s lower arm slot. So these days, Matz’s breaking balls are called sliders, not curves.
There’s a long way from five innings in the South Atlantic League in April to the big leagues, but it was a very encouraging performance.
1B Jayce Boyd pounded a three-run homer in the fifth when a lefty reliever tossed one over the middle for him. It was his first long-ball of the year. The 22-year old is hitting .412/.512/.618 (14-for-34) with seven walks and six strikeouts in his first nine games in the SAL.
DH Kevin Plaweicki was 1-for-4 with a double ripped to the base of the leftfield wall in the sixth inning. The Gnats bus did not get back to Savannah until 4 am Saturday morning so he had the night off from catching duty. The 22-year old has seven doubles in his last four games as part of a .457/.500/.743 line in nine games.
SS Philip Evans – 0-for-4 at the plate dropped him to .167 (5-for-30). In addition to his fielding error in the first, he committed a throwing error in the sixth, his fifth error in eight games.
CF Brandon Nimmo was 0-for-1 officially. He flew out to shallow right in the first. In the third with a runner at third and one out, he drove a ball to center field for a sac fly to even the game at 1-1. It was a first pitch fastball, and a solid piece of situational hitting to score the run. Facing a lefty reliever in the fifth, he allowed an inside offering to catch him on the bicep/upper arm for a HBP. Boyd followed a batter later with his three-run homer. Nimmo was hit on his shinguard by a righty reliever in the seventh.