LHP Casey Crosby pitched very well Sunday in the Mud Hens' contest versus Louisville at Fifth Third Field. He gave up one run -- on a solo home run by the Bats' Didi Gregorius -- and suffered a hard-luck loss as that mistake -- along with the struggles of the Hen offense -- resulted in a 3-1 setback.
First, the raw numbers for Casey Crosby Sunday: he went 8.0 innings, which tied for his longest start for the Mud Hens this season, allowing just three hits and two walks while fanning five. Crosby faced just two hitters with a runner in scoring position -- actually, he technically faced Louisville's Denis Phipps twice with a runner in scoring position -- and struck out Phipps twice.
It was an especially important effort for Crosby when you consider he has struggled in his previous three outings, allowing at least seven hits and four earned runs while not covering more than six innings in any of the three. The totals for that three-start span? Crosby allowed 22 hits and walked 14 in 15 innings, resulting in 13 earned runs (7.80 ERA) with 13 strikeouts.
On Sunday Crosby threw a total of 109 pitches (his second-highest total of the season), 72 of which were strikes (66.1 percent), and that total of strikes is the most for him in a game this season. It broke down this way:
- First inning: 14 pitches, 10 strikes (66.7 percent)
- Second inning: 11 pitches, 7 strikes (63.6 percent)
- Third inning: 18 pitches, 9 strikes (50 percent)
- Fourth inning: 13 pitches, 9 strikes (69.2 percent)
- Fifth inning: 19 pitches, 14 strikes (73.8 percent)
- Sixth inning: 9 pitches, 7 strikes (77.8 percent)
- Seventh inning: 10 pitches, 8 strikes (80 percent)
- Eighth inning: 15 pitches, 8 strikes (53.3 percent)
As you look at those numbers, it's easy to see that Crosby had good command except for the third and eighth innings, which just happen to be the two innings where he gave up a walk. Crosby did an excellent job of throwing first-pitch strikes, doing so to 19 of the 30 batters he faced. If you factor out the eighth, when he threw a first-pitch strike to just one of four hitters he faced, his 18-for-26 mark (69.2 percent) is terrific.
It's interesting to note that Crosby reached an 0-2 count to just five of the 30 hitters he faced, but got three of his five strikeouts in that situation. Crosby fell behind 2-0 to just three hitters, two of which came in the eighth, but gave up one walk and got two outs. And the 23-year-old reached a three-ball count just four times, and those plate appearances resulted in one out, one error and two walks.
Ready for pitch speeds? Hope so, because I thought this was the most fascinating part of Crosby's start. Here we go ... Crosby's fastball sat at 91-93 mph (four at 88 (three of those in the last two innings), nine at 89, six at 90, 12 at 91, 10 at 92, 11 at 93, four at 94, two at 95 and one at 97). His curveball had a HUGE range of velocities, including a 69 mph (!) beauty he threw in the first (although it did result in a hit. The curve sat in the 75-76 mph range most of the night (he had two at 73, four at 74, two at 75, eight at 76, six at 77, three at 78, two at 79 and one at 80). His change-up sat at 81-83 mph range (six at 81, four at 82, five at 83, two at 84 and one at 85).
You may notice that Crosby threw a lot of breaking pitches, roughly 30 curveball and roughly 20 change-ups out of 109 pitches. He had good command of both pitches ... but I have a few quotes from Crosby about that, and you will read those in just a minute.
Not sure if this means anything, but putting it out there ... of the 72 strikes Crosby threw, 22 were put in play (for hits or outs), 17 were swung at and missed (23.6 percent, which is pretty high), 17 were fouled off (23.6 percent) and 16 were taken for a strike (22.2 percent).
OK, a few quotes from Crosby after the game ...
"I used more off-speed pitches than usual," Crosby said. "Both of them were working tonight. There was vast improvement in my change-up from my last start, and I was trusting it more. It was down in the zone, so I was able to get a lot of ground-ball outs (15 of the 24 outs were on ground balls).
"I worked on some things with a couple of teammates, Thad Weber and Rob Waite, along with [pitching coach] A.J. Sager. I was kind of floating my change-up in there instead of throwing it down in the zone and getting on top of it. They helped me a lot.
"A.J. really stressed getting back to basics before this outing. We talked about separating my hands and keeping my shoulders in line, and I was able to do that -- and have success."
I asked him about the at-bat to Gregorius that ended up as a home run, and Crosby explained, "We started him off with a fastball I tried to just get over the plate, and he fouled it off. Then I tried to get a pitch inside to him, and he put a good swing on it. Some times you can't do anything about it. Maybe I could have gone 'in' more, but that's hindsight, and hindsight is 20/20. I had to keep moving on, and I was glad I was able to shut them out after that."