HOUSTON -- He didn’t sign until early March and he spent more than a month on the injured list at the start of the regular season, but veteran right-hander Jake Odorizzi has to feel good about the momentum he’s built entering the All-Star break.
Odorizzi held the Yankees to two runs and seven hits and didn’t walk a batter in the Astros’ 4-0 loss Friday night, which was their second in a row on the heels of a six-game winning streak. A two-run double by Brett Gardner off Odorizzi in the fourth inning and a two-run double by DJ LeMahieu off reliever Bryan Abreu in the seventh spoiled the night for a sellout crowd of 40,857 at Minute Maid Park.
Since returning from the injured list May 29, Odorizzi is 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.86 WHIP with nine walks and 33 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings over eight appearances (seven starts). Friday marked his second consecutive quality start, which came with a season-high 103 pitches (62 strikes).
“This is more of what I expected, to be quite honest,” said Odorizzi, who allowed nine earned runs over eight innings in his first three starts. “I came into it not really knowing how things are going to do early on with everything. The break gave me a little bit of a reset. We kind of took an extra week during that IL stint to really let me build up and get an extra week of getting my legs under me, getting a couple of extra bullpens. ... I think that was pretty vital to getting me to where I’m at right now.”
Odorizzi on Friday relied mostly on his fastball (43 percent) and split-fingered fastball (41 percent), which was his highest split-finger usage of the season. It was his lowest fastball usage since he threw 47.1 percent in his first start off the IL. He threw 75.3 percent fastballs and only 7.8 percent splits on June 27.
“It was the best it’s been, probably by a good margin,” he said of the split-finger. “I looked at the data after I was done, and it was considerably better -- consistency, depth-wise, movement-wise. The pitch is doing exactly what it used to do when I was throwing it all the time. Today I might have thrown more splits than fastballs, so that gives you an indication of what I thought of it today, considering you guys know I like to throw the fastball quite a bit.”
The Yankees are a good fastball-hitting team, which made the split even more effective, because it looks like a fastball before moving out of the zone.
“It was a really impressive pitch and something moving forward that’s going to be a better weapon using it in bigger spots,” Odorizzi said.
After the two-run double to Gardner, Odorizzi finished strong by retiring the final seven batters he faced. He retired the side in the sixth and seventh innings and is giving the Astros the workmanlike outings they had hoped to get when they signed him.
“We got through it and did well,” he said. “One-hundred-plus pitches should be the regular for me moving forward. I feel no different. Once you get past 75 pitches, it all feels the same. I’m happy I was able to get past that threshold, or whatever you want to call it, a barrier. Stuff-wise, I felt the same as if I threw 80 pitches as I did throwing 100-plus pitches. I’m good.”