There’s no doubt about it, major league pitchers are incredible athletes who do amazing things on a daily (or nightly) basis. Most of the time it involves throwing a baseball close to 100 miles per hour and making opposing hitters look extremely foolish.
The record pace for strikeouts and a historically low overall batting average in April are just two examples of how great most pitchers are at their primary job.
But occasionally, pitchers can surprise us with other things we don’t expect them to do. That was the case Tuesday night, both at the plate and on the mound.
Pitchers who rake
Shohei Ohtani isn’t the only pitcher who’s swinging a potent bat this season. Presenting … Huascar Ynoa of the Atlanta Braves.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Ynoa stepped to the plate in the top of the sixth inning in Washington.
Ynoa turned around a 95 mph fastball from the Nationals’ Tanner Rainey and launched it 427 feet over the wall in dead center field. It was his second homer of the season and it gave him an impressive .385/.385/.923 slash line in 13 at-bats.
Oh yeah, and he was pretty good at his other job, too. Ynoa (3-1) shut out the Nationals for six innings before giving up an unearned run in the seventh. The Braves went on to win 6-1.
(Honorable mention: Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox, without the benefit of the DH in a National League park, went 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored in Cincinnati. He also allowed just one hit and struck out 11 over six scoreless innings on the mound.)
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Then there are other nights when a pitcher just doesn’t have it. That was the case for Colorado Rockies right-hander German Marquez, who didn’t even make it through the first inning against the San Francisco Giants in the first game of their doubleheader.
If there was any doubt why the Giants entered play Tuesday with baseball’s best record, scoring TEN runs in the opening frame was an emphatic statement.
First baseman Brandon Belt had an RBI single to open the scoring and added a grand slam later in the inning. Catcher Buster Posey finished it off with a solo shot.
According to Elias Sports, the Giants haven’t scored that many runs in the first inning since June 29, 1967, when they did it against the St. Louis Cardinals and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
San Francisco eventually wound up winning the opening game of the doubleheader 12-4.
In the second game, Belt homered in the first inning once again, becoming the first Giants player to homer in the first inning of both doubleheader games since Willie Mays in 1965. However, the Giants blew a four-run lead and the Rockies won it when Charlie Blackmon hit a three-run walk-off home run to cap a six-run seventh inning.
Master of changing speeds
The secret to pitching, an old baseball adage says, is disrupting a hitter’s timing.
There might not be anyone better at doing that than Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros. One of the best pitching overlay gifs you’ll ever see is this one of two pitches Greinke threw to the New York Yankees’ Clint Frazier on Tuesday.
That’s a 37 mph difference between those two Greinke pitches. There’s a reason he’s still confusing hitters after 17 seasons in the major leagues.
Follow Steve Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner.