Pfaadt's slider untouchable in best start of '24

May 15th, 2024

PHOENIX -- ’s continued emergence as a Major League starter is coming at the perfect time for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are without a pair of important rotation pieces, with Eduardo Rodriguez and Merrill Kelly both on the injured list.

Pfaadt tossed a gem Wednesday afternoon, holding the Reds to just one run over seven innings as the D-backs won, 2-1, to claim the series with Cincinnati at Chase Field.

Pfaadt made his Major League debut for the D-backs last season and made five starts before being optioned back to Triple-A Reno with an 8.37 ERA. He was called up a month later, made one start in which he allowed six runs over two innings and was sent right back to Reno.

But Pfaadt never seemed to lose confidence, and when he got called up nearly a month later, he never looked back and ended up being the D-backs’ starting pitcher in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series in Philadelphia, three months after that final callup.

“I think innately, he’s a very confident kid,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “He took a couple of haymakers on the chin last year where he got banged around and had to go down and figure some things out. And when he came back that final time, he started to really get a feel for his pitches and how to maneuver those pitches through the zone. So he's been on the rise, but the postseason, for me, took him to a whole different level emotionally, and he’s ready for the challenge of a full season this time.”

Last time out, Pfaadt held a tough Orioles offense to three runs over six innings, but for the first time in his career, he didn’t record a strikeout. He said after the game that it was just an anomaly, and his performance Wednesday bore that out.

Pfaadt fanned the first two Reds hitters of the game and nine on the day as he allowed just one run -- a fifth inning homer by Santiago Espinal -- over seven innings.

On Wednesday, Pfaadt had his sweeper/slider working.

“He made pitches,” Reds manager David Bell said. “His ability to throw sliders in the zone in any count, left- or right-handed hitter, was a big part of it. He’s good. We’ve seen him before. He’s been good against us.”

Pfaadt threw 33 sliders in the game, the most of any pitch, and recorded 10 swings and four whiffs with it. He also got nine called strikes with the pitch.

“Our game plan was to use more sliders, and we certainly did that and it was super effective,” Pfaadt said. “So I think moving forward, that's probably going to be our game plan -- to pitch off of the slider a little bit more.”

While the only damage against Pfaadt was the Espinal homer, the D-backs offense could do little against Reds left-hander Andrew Abbott, with Christian Walker’s solo homer in the second their only run off him.

In the eighth, when the Reds went to right-hander Fernando Cruz, Lovullo went to his bench with two outs and sent up the left-handed Pavin Smith to hit for Randal Grichuk.

Smith lined a double into the gap in right-center, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. followed with a bloop double to right to score Corbin Carroll, who had run for Smith, with what proved to be the game-winning run.

"I faced him a couple times before, and we faced him as a team in that eighth inning a few times, and he's gotten the first two guys out every time and then he walks the third guy," Smith said. "So I knew that was probably his main goal, was not walking [me], so when I got to a 3-1 count, I was kind of selling out to the heater and got one."