NEW YORK, NY - JULY 07: Bartolo Colon #40 of the New York Yankees adjusts his hat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on July 7, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
Wow, I hadn't seen this big guy in a long time. I've gotten so used to watching Jeff Niemann struggle on the mound, I wasn't ready to be be put to sleep last night. But that's exactly what happened -- after sneaking out of a couple jams in the first two innings, Jeff Niemann mowed through the Yankees and pitched his longest out of the season (7.1 IP). Not only that, but I'd be willing to call it Niemann's best start of the season; he held the Yankees to only eight baserunners (6 hits, 2 walks), he struck out four batters, and he only allowed one run on a homerun to Robinson Cano.
It's interesting, because while Niemann normally succeeds by throwing a wide assortment of pitches and mixing them up, he relied heavily on three pitches last night: his four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, and curveball. He threw a changeup and slider both a handful of times, but 59% of his pitches were fastballs and 32% of them were curveballs. I don't remember Niemann ever pitching and succeeding like this before, but hey, I'm not complaining. If this approach is working for him, then so be it.
Fun fact: in his four starts since returning from the DL, Niemann has a 2.85 ERA and 3.22 FIP. Surprised? So am I.
- Zooooorilla! Ben Zobrist came close to hitting for the cycle, hitting a triple and homerun in his first two plate appearances of the night. He finished a double shy of the cycle, but he walked twice as well, so that's got to count for something.
- The Rays destroyed Bartolo Colon tonight, getting 14 baserunners off him in only 5.2 innings. It was a big night for nearly everyone at the plate: Longoria and Kotchman had doubles, Brignac had two hits, Jaso walked twice, and Upton smashed a homerun. The only two players left out were Matt Joyce and Sam Fuld, who both went 0-4.
- Speaking of BJ Upton's homerun, it's the seventh time this year he and Justin Upton have hit homeruns on the same night. That's also Upton's 14th homerun of the season -- 25 homeruns really isn't looking that unrealistic right about now.
- To get it out of the way, no, Derek Jeter didn't get his 3,000th hit. He got one hit, but is still two hits away. Let's just get this over with already.