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An immaculate inning from an unlikely source

Jose Alvarado is throwing strikes. That’s something new, and game changing.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Alvarado was recalled from Durham on August 4th to provide a fresh arm to a depleted bullpen. Kevin Cash turned to him immediately, calling on him to pitch the ninth inning the same night he was promoted, in a close-but-trailing game. The lefty answered with a nine pitch, three strikeout inning. An immaculate inning.

Signed by the Rays in the 2012 international draft, the 22 year old lefty has developed some really great stuff: a huge triple-digit fastball complimented by a wipe-out curveball. What he hasn’t developed, until this year anyway, is command.

Eric Longenhagen at Fangraphs slapped a 30 present / 40 future grade on Alvarado’s command. That is borderline unplayable. Or was, anyway. After averaging around a 16% walk rate his entire minor league career, Alvarado has averaged less than 11% in 45.2 innings across 3 levels this year. He’s throwing more strikes, and it’s paying off.

Jose Alvarado’s immaculate inning is just the third in Tampa Bay Rays history and 88th overall in the history of the sport. Brad Boxberger was the last to do it for the Rays on May 8th, 2014, and Rafael Soriano did it before him on August 23rd, 2010.