Brad Ziegler used his amazing ducking, diving changeup to escape trouble and secure a save
Show us baseball fans a fastball at 98, 99 -- dare we dream for 100 mph? -- and we'll fall in love whether it's right down the middle or getting thrown six feet over the catcher's head. (That's the classic Ryne Duren syndrome).
We may even be enthralled with the slider, like the unhittable 93-mph version that Noah Syndergaard throws, or perhaps a curveball like Clayton Kershaw's which Vin Scully has called "Public enemy No. 1." But rarely do we talk about the changeup. Because what fun is a pitch that exists simply to fool batters by being slow?
Don't tell that to Brad Ziegler. With a goatee that makes him look like a member of your favorite '90s alt-rock act on a reunion tour and a delivery that's similar to that octopus who escaped from the New Zealand aquarium, his fastball rarely makes it out of the low 80s. But his changeup, a mid-70s option, is as delicate and perfect as soufflé.
With the D-backs nursing a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth on Friday, the Padres were looking to mount a comeback off the Arizona closer. After getting runners on the corners with no one out, Alexi Amarista stepped to the plate. But on a 2-2 pitch, Ziegler threw a changeup that rose like a helium balloon before diving towards the earth to get the K.
As Ziegler told MLB.com's Steve Gilbert about of his pitch selection:
"[Amarista] didn't seem like he was getting good swing at [my changeup]. He's seen it from me a lot in the past so there was just something about it tonight where he wasn't seeing well. He fouled a couple off with it, but he was barely getting a piece of it so I wanted to stick with it and I just finally made one that was a little better than the others."
After Alexei Ramirez stole second on that strikeout, Ziegler intentionally walked Brett Wallace to load the bases and set up a possible double play. For Ziegler and his career 66.9 percent ground ball rate, that was more of a challenge than anything else.
Against Jon Jay, the submariner didn't bother throwing anything but changeups -- six of them, in fact. And on the last of them, it dipped enough that Jay simply rolled over it into the double play.
Fastballs are fun and sliders are delicious, but changeups can be divine.