The 5 most dominant relief appearances of 2018 so far
The BBQ's Best 5 is exactly what it sounds like: Each week, we'll pick a category around the world of baseball and talk about the five best things within that group. Today, we're taking a look at the Best 5 relief appearances of the 2018 season so far.
A dominant relief outing is like seeing a shooting star. There's an overwhelming flash of energy that captivates all your attention for a brief moment until it's gone before you know it. The only difference is that shooting stars aren't catalogued on MLB.com, while bullpen outings most certainly are. Here are the BBQ's Best 5 relief appearances of the season so far:
5. Jarlin Garcia vs. the Cubs -- 3/30/18 -- 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K
Jarlin the Marlin! Throwing six scoreless in a game is impressive, but throwing six scoreless innings out of the bullpen is on another level.
Take a look at some of the strikeout pitches he threw. The slider to Javy Baez straight up tied the infielder up in knots. The changeup he threw to get former MVP Kris Bryant looking basically pauses in the air like a Backyard Baseball-style Big Freeze. The sinking fastball to K Anthony Rizzo fell off an actual table.
4. Brad Hand vs. the Giants -- 4/14/18 -- 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
Some pitchers are right-handed, some pitchers are left-handed, but only one pitcher is Brad Handed -- he just happens to be left-handed, too.
If you've ever been curious about what an 80-grade slider looks like, check out the highlight clip above. Take particular note at the Austin Jackson K to end the game. Normally it's easier for right-handed hitters to pick up sliders coming from a lefty pitcher, but Hand's slider isn't a normal slider. Hand's breaker was so sharp against the Giants, it felt like if you put a wall up in front of home plate, he could somehow throw his slider around it for a strike.
3. Felipe Vazquez vs. the Tigers -- 4/1/18 -- Game 1: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K; Game 2: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
One of our favorite baseball things is when a pitcher throws a pitch so devastatingly awesome and so flummoxing to the senses that all the broadcasters can do is let out an indiscernible gawking noise. The pitch Vazquez thew to Nicholas Castellanos in that highlight reel was a perfect example of that phenomenon. Just nasty.
Vazquez, who at the time of this performance was still going by Felipe Rivero , always brings the hot cheddar when he comes in to close things out for the Pirates, but on April 1 he brought a double helping. After shutting the door in Game 1 of the twin billing, the Pirates closer returned for the nightcap and brought home the W yet again. Two saves, one day, no problem.
2. Josh Hader vs. the Mets -- 4/14/18 -- 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Coming into their game against Milwaukee on April 14, the New York Mets were the hottest team in baseball, but Hader, the Brewers' lefty twirler, didn't care about any of that. He struck out the first five Mets he encountered before getting Jay Bruce to fly out to end the game.
What made this performance so incredible wasn't just that Hader sat down five Mets in a row, it's that he fully expected to sit down all six. If you watch closely, Hader yells at himself after he gets Bruce to pop out to end it -- probably because he wanted that sixth strikeout.
If you get the opportunity to see Hader pitch, you must take it. He's essentially a collection of flailing limbs working in calculated synchronicity to throw baseballs 95 mph.
1. Edwin Diaz vs. the Indians -- 4/1/18 -- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
First things first, let's talk about this:
What we've circled there is a touch of chalk that kicked up into the air as Diaz's slider skipped against the corner of the batter's box. Very rarely do you see a pitch bounce in front of the plate but still induce a swing and miss -- let alone one that is so far inside as to hit the chalk line. Edwin Diaz threw a pitch 56 feet for a strike. Legend.
But Diaz clearly wasn't done as he went on to strike out the side in one of the most enjoyable relief appearances we've seen in recent memory. He threw 17 pitches, 14 of them for strikes, half of which were swinging strikes. The Indians just couldn't touch him. And, this happened in the awesome cream and blue Mariners unis, with Safeco rocking, with the K of Francisco Lindor to end it. Totally electric.