In the final game of the three-game series between the Rockies and Rays, the excitement shifted from Tampa Bay’s plentiful run-scoring in the previous two games toward dominant pitching from both teams.
The Rays lost, but this game was a delight if you care about excellent pitching.
With two seemingly very different bullpens, both teams found their own ways of shutting down each other’s lineups and forcing this game to go into extra innings. Colorado’s approach is built on pitch movement more than velocity, with the likes of Scott Oberg and Harrison Musgrave utilizing their slider-heavy repertoires against the Rays hitters.
The Rays’ contrasting bullpen features multiple hurlers that are capable of hitting triple digits, including Ryne Stanek, Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo — all three of which pitched against the Rockies on Wednesday — where normal pitch movement is accentuated by their hard stuff. Chaz Roe and his dancing slider were also brought in, joining in on the pitch movement party, but before all of them was Charlie Morton.
Morton was tabbed as the starting pitcher for the Rays, recording four strikeouts using his tight curveball and six strikeouts overall. Facing Raimel Tapia in the second inning, Morton threw this untouchable curveball for a strikeout.
BaseballSavant’s 3D Pitch Visualizer shows just how great this curveball was, with the most vertical movement compared to Morton’s other five strikeout pitches.
Charlie Morton went on to pitch six strong innings, allowing only four hits, two walks and no runs in another impressive outing with his new club. Jose Alvarado was called upon in the eighth inning after Ryne Stanek relieved Morton in the seventh, and Alvarado did not disappoint in his one inning of work.
Alvarado started his relief appearance striking out Garrett Hampson on six pitches. I’d argue that the sixth pitch that Alvarado threw in this at-bat was his best pitch thrown on the afternoon.
With ten inches of horizontal movement at 98 mph, Hampson had basically no chance of making contact on this wiffle ball thrown by Alvarado. According to Brooks Baseball, ten inches of horizontal movement was the most on any pitch thrown by Alvarado on Wednesday.
After striking out Hampson, Alvarado turned things up a notch. Mark Reynolds stepped into the box and immediately saw two 99 mph fastballs fly his way, but the pitched that followed those heaters to end the at-bat was a curveball that Reynolds was not expecting.
With two outs in the eighth, Charlie Blackmon was the next batter to face Alvarado. On a 1-2 count, Jose Alvarado unleashed a fastball that seemingly broke the internet thanks to the Pitching Ninja.
To understand how filthy this pitch was, here’s the pitch on BaseballSavant’s 3D Pitch Visualizer.
My favorite part about the pitch was that Fox Sports Sun had a close up camera on Alvarado saying no to two other pitches before giving the nod on the heater, and subsequently throwing said heater to end the inning.
Jose Alvarado’s lethal repertoire is one that is capable of providing many highlight reel pitches in the future and has already done so in the past, and Wednesday showed how good his pitches really are when they’re dancing like they’re supposed to.
While Morton and Alvarado had their fair share of filthy pitches, the opposing side from Colorado also had a couple of well-executed pitches worth highlighting. Scott Oberg was called upon from the bullpen for the Rockies in the bottom of the ninth, and facing Brandon Lowe, Oberg unleashed a slider that Lowe had no chance of hitting.
The Rays then answered slider for slider.
In the 10th inning, pitch movement extraordinaire Chaz Roe was summoned upon to shut down the bottom half of the Rockies lineup. Roe’s slider danced as impressively as it always has, and Ian Desmond had a front-row seat to Roe’s best slider on the afternoon.
I mean, come on.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Rockies swapped slider-heavy relievers, with Harrison Musgrave entering the game in relief of Scott Oberg. Unfortunately for Brandon Lowe, he'd have to face another filthy slider that would have him ending up on here twice.
It should be noted: although the pitching in this game was top-notch, the Rays found themselves with 13 runners on base through 11 innings, and were unable to score a single one of those baserunners, falling to the Rockies 1-0.
And if you’re asking, both teams had pitchers throwing pitches that were worthy of being highlighted, but Jose Alvarado threw the one that was probably the most deserving of getting the attention by baseball fans everywhere, so let’s watch it again: