The eight-game skid is over. Thursday’s 5-0 over the Phillies was a welcome relief.
Ryan Feltner, Justin Lawrence, and Pierce Johnson combined to hold the Phillies to six hits and struck them out 11 times. That made the difference.
Entering the game, Feltner had given up 13 runs in 13 1/3 innings for an 8.78 ERA. He hadn’t pitched out of the fifth inning and had given up at least three runs in each of his starts. Feltner has a solid arsenal centered around his sinker, slider, changeup, and four-seam fastball. His potential is mile-high, as Purple Row’s Mario DeGenz broke down in November.
In AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain’s broadcast of the Rockies-Phillies game on Thursday, announcer Mark Stout said Feltner wanted to have “reckless confidence and go after guys.”
That worked as the 26-year-old righty threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts. He gave up three hits and three walks, but he put Phillies away when he got two strikes on them, instead of losing them to walks and hits as had been the pattern this season.
“Last year, he was pitching in games where he just I don’t want to say he was trying to survive, but he’s just trying to hang in there,” Bud Black said in the postgame press conference. “But now I think he totally grasps what this all means.”
Feltner got ahead of hitters with two strikes and one or no balls 13 times. He struck out five of them without ever throwing a ball, including to Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber. Four times, he lost the edge and went to a full count, leading to three walks and one strikeout. He gave up one single, but also got two pop-outs and one lineout. All in all, he got outs in nine of the 13 at-bats. That’s effective “reckless confidence” indeed. Maybe the mustache helps too.
“You see the confidence every time when he goes through his day-to-day work,” Lawrence said of Feltner after the 5-0 win. “You see the confidence. You don’t see him stray from his work ethic.”
In Friday’s game, Noah Davis will try to follow Feltner’s lead, as well as his own success after his five-inning, shutout MLB starting debut against Seattle on April 16. His ERA is a perfect 0.00, and while that won’t stay that way for long, he’s already showing his ability to work out of jams with players on base.
“This year that’s kind of a separator so far — I’ve mentally been able to keep myself under control and make pitches that I need,” Davis said to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. “In the past, situations like that — runners on — maybe try to do too much, try to be too fine.”
While Feltner and Davis are sure to have hiccups and will have to make adjustments to stay on the path to success, they are confident and that’s something the Rockies rotation needs right now. The Rockies starters have the second highest ERA in MLB at 6.60.
Even though Kyle Freeland got banged up in his last start, he still has a 3.80 ERA in four starts. Germán Márquez is at 4.41 after three starts and despite going on the 15-day IL, he threw a full bullpen on Thursday with no pain in his forearm. He could be back on the mound next week if all goes well.
The problem is with José Ureña with his 9.82 ERA, and Austin Gomber with his 12.12 ERA. While the young arms are discovering their confidence, Gomber has lost his in year five of his career. Getting shipped to the bullpen in 2022 and trying to rejoin the rotation hasn’t gone as hoped.
Gomber’s postgame interview after being shelled by the Pirates on Wednesday was devastating. Trying to make up for an idiotic trade that sent a Hall of Famer and $50 million to St. Louis for players that had no say and never could have filled the vacancy is not fair. As Gomber emotionally laid out his disappointments and talked about the problem “between the ears,” my heart broke for him.
“I feel like some points right now I’m just out there throwing with a lot of stuff going on,” Gomber told Harding. “So if I can get back to worrying about pitching, then I’ll be fine. That’s the easy part, getting into the game and pitching. It’s keeping everything else out.”
On the bright side, Gomber has proved what he’s capable of. In 2021, he went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA in nine starts at Coors Field. He finished the year 9-9 in 23 starts with a 4.53 ERA. Like he told Harding, “It’s not that I haven’t had success before. It’s that I’m not doing it now.”
Pitching is hard, ridiculously hard. As New York Times baseball columnist Tyler Kepner says in his book K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, “A major league pitcher is part boxer and part magician; if he’s not punching you in the face, he’s swiping a quarter from behind your ear.”
While Jake Bird and Justin Lawrence are in the magician-boxer zone, and Feltner and Davis are showing their punching and trickery potential, Gomber has lost all his confidence. Usually, the veterans share their experience with the younger players. Right now, the younger players need to help Gomber believe in himself again.
No pitcher is more open about struggles with mental health than Daniel Bard, who recovered from yips that sidelined him for seven years before winning NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2020. Now that he’s back in the bullpen after going on the IL with anxiety, maybe he can help Gomber through this.
★ ★ ★
Outside of throwing five scoreless innings, Noah Davis also had quite the buzz in his MLB starting debut on Sunday. In the second inning, Seattle’s Teoscar Hernández hit a liner right back at him, hitting the hat off Davis’s head, but not hurting him. The ball was coming at Davis at 85.3 mph, but he was able to duck enough to dodge most of it. As Kevin Henry notes, tweets of the incident went viral, including one from Davis.
This is not how I pictured my first appearance on Pitching Ninja… https://t.co/gUNrkiSDCT— Noah Davis (@noahxxdavis) April 17, 2023
Davis admits to not being very active on Twitter, saying, “It’s probably my only tweet of the year right there.”
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
Daniel Montano and Aaron Schunk each hit two-run homers, and Brenton Doyle added a solo shot, but it wasn’t enough for the Isotopes against the Dodgers on Thursday night. Oklahoma City jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, but Albuquerque fought back throughout the night to stay close. Up 8-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Doyle’s homer cut the lead to 8-5. In the bottom of the ninth, Kyle Datres singled and got to second on an error to lead it off. Grayson Greiner and Daniel Cope followed with walks to load the bases and bring the winning run to the plate. Doyle struck out before Nolan Jones hit an RBI single to make it 8-6. Coco Montes then hit into a double play to end it. Michael Toglia went 2-for-3 with two runs scored in the game.
Hunter Goodman hit a solo homer in the fourth inning and four Yard Goats combined to hold the Rumble Ponies to three hits while striking them out four times in Thursday’s win. Mike Ruff started the game with four strikeouts in four scoreless innings, despite four walks and two hits. Mitchell Kilkenny threw three hitless, scoreless innings with a strikeout for the win, while Dugan Darnell and Nick Kuzia each added a scoreless inning, combing for three more strikeouts. Ronaiker Palma singled and doubled for Hartford.
Braxton Fulford hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to tie the game, but Tri-City reclaimed the lead on a double play that also scored a run in the bottom of the seventh for what ended up being the game-winning run. Jarrod Cande had a solid start for Spokane, giving up one run on four hits with one walk and six strikeouts in six innings. The Indians committed two errors, one of which played a part in Anderson Bido taking the loss after giving up one unearned run on two hits with one strikeout. Juan Guerrero led Spokane with three hits and Yanquiel Fernandez added two more hits and scored the lone run.
Ryan Ritter and Jesus Bugarin each hit solo homers in the first inning to set the tone in Fresno’s win on Thursday. Ritter added an RBI single in the second, along with a sac grounder by Andy Perez to make it 4-0 after two innings. Skyler Messinger sealed the win with a two-run homer in the ninth to help the Grizzlies improve to 7-5. Michael Prosecky threw five scoreless innings, striking out five while giving up four hits and walking two in his first victory of the season. Bryce McGowan threw two scoreless frames with three strikeouts to earn the save.
★ ★ ★
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