The Red Sox fell to the Orioles last night thanks to Brian Matusz' season-best start, complete with nine strike outs and all of three baserunners.
And it's all (or at least largely) thanks to the slider.
According to Brooks Baseball, in addition to fastballs, Matusz featured a curveball, changeup, and one cruel slider. 26 times, Matusz offered up a slider, and a remarkable eight times Red Sox hitters took their swings and came up completely empty.
Matusz would use the pitch to quiet the bats of some of Boston's hottest hitters. Jarrod Saltalamacchia went down on three straight sliders in the fifth inning. David Ortiz was made the first victim in the first inning, striking out to end the inning. Most effected, however, was Adrian Gonzalez. Despite having the best contact of the game for Sox batters outside of Kevin Youkilis, Gonzalez was helpless in the face of the slider. It got Matusz ahead of him in the second, and struck him out in the fourth, and in the last at bat of Matusz' night, Gonzalez saw the slider no fewer than five times, with the last earning the strikeout.
It's disappointing that the Red Sox could go down so easily despite featuring one of their best lineups of the year and even getting a home run from one of the bigger questions in Kevin Youkilis, sometimes you have to just tip your cap. Not only did Brian Matusz' slider completely devastate a strong-hitting lineup, but one of the best teams at hitting the slider so far in the game.
And the two batters who have done best against the slider?
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and, of course, Adrian Gonzalez.
When a pitcher can take the pitch a hitter is most comfortable against and use it effectively against him, that's something special.
|Final - 5.22.2012||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|Boston Red Sox||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||2||0|
|WP: Brian Matusz (4 - 4)
SV: Jim Johnson (16)
LP: Felix Doubront (4 - 2)