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Alex Colome’s Perfect Ninth

The Rays closer may be returning to form

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Colome has had a tough beginning to the 2018 season. Coming into Sunday he had a 7.88 ERA and 5.53 FIP over 8.0 innings while blowing two saves and feeling like every other outing was on the brink of disaster.

Colome had faced 42 batters and struck out six (14.3%) and walked six (14.3%). He threw 53 fastballs (10.0% whiff rate) and 108 cutters (19.44% whiff rate). The fastball was getting more whiffs than usual, as he’d posted an average 4.89% whiff rate in 2017. His cutter also was getting a few more whiffs than his above average 16.95% whiff rate.

The walks had been the biggest issue. Walks always make things shakier when you are allowing free base runners. You also are generally behind in the count more often allowing the batter to be free to guess and sit on a pitch. As a two pitch pitcher this is detrimental. Walk were clouding anything good in Colome’s performance.

Sunday, Colome finally had his first really great outing of the year. He faced three batters and struck all three out.

Thanks to we can view each plate appearance.

April 22: Batter 1

Slugger Miguel Sano was the first to face Colome as he had to go through the heart of the Minnesota Twins order facing their 3-4-5 hitters.

Out of the gate Colome left his first cutter well above the zone for ball one. Sano swung through a good cutter for strike one leveling the count to 1-1.

Pitch three was a cutter that hung, but froze Sano moving the count to 1-2. The fourth straight cutter out of the hand was at the bottom of the zone and darted off Sano’s barrel for a foul ball.

The fifth pitch was the first fastball of the at bat and froze Sano for called strike three. The pitch was perfectly thrown up and over the inside part of the plate.

Strikeout one.

April 22: Batter 2

Eddie Rosario strolled to the plate with one out. He hit the grand slam in game one of the series. He had a RBI single in the top of the third to tie the game at two.

The first pitch was a called strike on a fastball up and away to the left handed batter. The second pitch was a cutter just off the plate and belt high taken for strike two.

Colome then powered up two fastballs that were non-competitive way out and above the zone bring the count to 2-2. Rosario was able to foul off the fifth pitch that was almost a replica of the cutter taken for strike two.

Colome then threw his best cutter of the week just off the plate and at the bottom of the zone to get Rosario swinging for out number two with a cutter that cut a little less than normal.

Strikeout two.

April 22: Batter 3

Former Ray Logan Morrison comes to the plate mired in a season long slump.

The first pitch was a good cutter at the bottom of the zone that was fouled off for strike one. Strike two was a fastball right down the middle. When LoMo is running good that ball is hit about 500 feet. This is the pitch that will give Morrison nightmares for not sending into orbit.

Colome spiked two 55 foot cutters for pitches three and four to square the count at 2-2. Pitch five was a cutter that Colome got a bit too high after sending the previous two in the dirt. Morrison fouled it off to keep the count 2-2.

The sixth pitch put LoMo away with a cutter just below the zone with a swinging strike.

Strikeout three.

This outing was a step in the right direction.

It would be way too premature to declare that Colome was fixed after one great outing, and he did work a clean tenth inning on Friday night.

Colome threw five fastballs and 12 cutters during this outing. This is consistent with his two to one ratio of cutters to fastballs that he has used over the past few years.

The difference appears to be that he was able to get key strikes with his fastball. When he has to throw the cutter in the zone he can get in trouble. Not falling behind gives him the flexibility to be able to throw either pitch and have the hitter not be able to zero in on one or the other.

If Colome is able to stay ahead and keep the hitters off balance enough, his two pitch mix should continue to be effective moving forward.