As any accomplished pitcher will attest, the biggest key to consistency on the mound is possessing the ability to throw strikes.
Colon threw 82 of his 108 pitches for strikes — including 38 in a row — to lead the A’s past the Angels in a 6-0 win. And on a night that featured a dazzling duel between Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee and San Francisco’s Matt Cain by the bay, Colon’s feat may have been the most impressive.
“You can’t get 38 strikes out of a pitching machine,” Oakland outfielder Jonny Gomes said after the game. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The San Francisco Chronicle tracked the stat back to 1988 and found no other pitcher with a streak that long. Tim Wakefield was the next closest with 30 consecutive strikes in a game in 1998.
MLB.com has the video of each of Colon’s strikes here. Note the building excitement in the announcer’s voice, who starts calling the pitches before they even hit the catcher’s mitt.
ESPN Stats and Information broke down Colon’s pitches during the stretch and found that 27 were in the zone, 10 resulted in foul balls, 10 resulted in balls in play and only one resulted in a swing and miss. Of the 38 pitches, 35 were fastballs. The streak ended on an 0-1 pitch to Bobby Abreu with one out in the eighth inning — a borderline call that could have gone either way.
“I felt like I threw a lot of strikes, but I never thought I threw 38 in a row. I didn’t know anything about it until I came in here,” Colon said through a translator. “The two-seamer was the most consistent pitch that I had tonight. I feel good because I know that team has great players. You have to have confidence in yourself, because if you don’t, that’s when you have trouble.”
Colon, 38, went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 26 starts for the New York Yankees last season, but is off to a tremendous start in 2012.
Through four starts — three against Seattle — Colon has a 3-1 record with a 2.63 ERA. In his last two starts he has not allowed a run in 15 innings while striking out 10. But the biggest difference for Colon this spring has been his ability to find the strike zone. In 27 1/3 innings he has allowed only two walks compared to 19 strikeouts.
But maintaining this type of success will be difficult for a pitcher with a career rate of three walks per nine innings.