Hutchison flirts with perfecto, settles for gem
TORONTO -- For five innings against the Orioles on Thursday night, Blue Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison was pitching against history. Instead, he settled for his best start this season.
Hutchison threw eight strong innings -- the first time a Blue Jays starter has pitched beyond the seventh this year -- while striking out seven and walking none to help Toronto sweep its three-game set with a 7-6 win over Baltimore at Rogers Centre.
Hutchison retired the first 15 batters he faced -- joining the Indians' Corey Kluber as the only starters in the Majors to be perfect through five innings this season -- before his bid at history was broken up on a leadoff homer by Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in the sixth. Hutchison recovered nicely, limiting the Orioles to three more hits and another run before turning the ball over to the bullpen, which narrowly secured the win.
"He really gave us what we needed," manager John Gibbons said. "I mean, we were fresh [in the bullpen], but we've been looking for that seven- or eight-inning start, that always helps everybody out."
Hutchison was extremely efficient in his fourth start of the season, using 100 pitches to work through eight frames while denying a free pass for the first time this year. He pounded the zone early and often with a heavy reliance on his fastball, throwing first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 29 batters he faced while surrendering just two extra-base hits. Hutchison needed just 67 pitches to get through the first six frames.
Catcher Russell Martin said the pair entered Thursday's start with a plan to get ahead in the count early by relying on Hutchison's fastball, which averaged just over 93 mph and topped out at a tick under 96.
"He was going to be aggressive, and from the beginning it just looked like he had good stuff," Martin said. "Good velocity on the fastball and great command. When you have good velocity and good command, good things are going to happen."
Hutchison, who was coming off two poor outings in a row after a strong debut at Yankee Stadium, said he never wavered from the game plan, even after Machado's homer.
"I think you're just out there concentrating on one guy at a time," he said. "Maybe if you got deeper -- I haven't got deeper so I wouldn't know -- but I wasn't really thinking about [the perfect game]."
Machado, who lined Hutchison's first-pitch fastball over the fence in left for his first of two homers on the night, said it's tough working against a pitcher who's always ahead in the count.
"[He was] pounding the zone, throwing a lot of strikes," Machado said. "He was effective with it today. You gotta tip your cap."