The word “dominant” does not do justice to the outing that Freddy Peralta put together on this particular day. In typical Freddy fashion, he threw 67 fastballs and only 13 curveballs through his first seven innings, but also totaled an impressive 16 whiffs (12 on his heater) while exhibiting tremendous control and exploring the entire strike zone with his fastball throughout the day. The Cincinnati Reds almost literally couldn’t touch Peralta. Other than an Eugenio Suarez single back in the second inning, the Reds had not gotten a hit; with Peralta’s elite control to this point, he also hadn’t walked a batter. The problem? His team had only spotted him a single run and he had been protecting that lead since the second inning.
The eighth inning began with an easy three-pitch strikeout of Scott Schebler, including two more whiffs on that inexplicably nasty four-seamer. Then Derek Dietrich stepped up and battled Peralta for seven tough pitches (seven more fastballs) and eventually laced a ball into left field which, fortunately for Peralta, was destined for Ryan Braun’s glove. The ball was struck with an exit velocity of 97.2 mph and had an XBA of .360, so perhaps Peralta got away with one, but nonetheless he now had two outs, no one on base, and only 91 pitches on the day. With Curt Casali stepping to the dish, Peralta wanted to put this inning to bed and get back to the dugout as soon as possible to argue with Craig Counsel about going for the CGSO… but Casali had other plans, and he jumped on another first-pitch fastball and ripped it into left field for a base hit.
Smelling blood for the first time all game, David Bell sent out stolen-base-threat Jose Peraza to pinch-run for Casali and called Yasiel Puig from the bench to pinch-hit for Jose Iglesias. Peralta, who had been cruising all game, had just given up back-to-back hard hits on two consecutive pitches late in his outing. With Josh Hader having pitched the last two days and there being no real activity in the Milwaukee Brewers pen, Craig Counsel left him out there to defend the lead he had defended all day, now with a speedster at first base and the go-ahead run standing at home plate.
Brewers lead 1-0, man on first, two outs, Peralta vs Puig… here’s your at-bat of the week.
Pitch #1 0-0
Peralta starts Puig with a pretty soft 91 mph four-seamer low and off the plate that Puig takes for a ball. It’s hard to tell from Manny Pina’s reaction just how bad of a miss that was, but the plan was certainly to go away and test Puig’s patience early in the count. With Peralta on the mound, you’d expect any hitter to sit fastball and look for one to drive. They probably wanted to put this one a little closer to the dish to get Puig to jump on something he’d have a hard time barreling, but no harm no foul.
Pitch #2 1-0
There it was. That was about the pitch Peralta and Pina wanted to start him with; they probably wanted it elevated a touch more. Puig takes a pretty good cut at this ball, but it’s away enough to get him to open up too soon and foul it.
Puig is certainly disciplined at the plate, as evidenced by his 19.9%/9.1% K and BB rates for his career and he loves pitches on the outer half of the dish. In 2018, the vast majority of his swings came on balls that were middle or middle-away, and his best contact came on pitches in those zones. Peralta and Pina clearly had a plan to induce swings during this battle.
Pitch #3 1-1
Peralta makes a mistake here. After slowing Puig down by going away with two relatively soft fastballs, he tries to fire a 94.0 mph laser in the upper third, but he misses middle-middle and is lucky that Puig gets underneath it. From his reaction, Puig knows he should’ve crushed that one.
Pitch #4 1-2
94.7 mph… Peralta’s fastest pitch of the at-bat thus far. Again, him and Pina really want to get Puig to fish on the outside corner, but Peralta barely misses his spot and Puig is up to the task and watches it go wide for a ball.
Pitch #5 2-2
95.5 mph… Peralta dials it up a touch more and paints the outside corner this time. Puig is just about on the pitch, but appears to be a little late once again. He gives his bat a nice lick after this swing, probably an indicator that he’s zeroing in on the outside corner. This was a much better swing than the one he put on the second pitch of the at-bat and if Peralta had elevated this pitch more it would have been really tough for Puig to make contact. Peralta’s reaction is one of confidence, knowing he made a pretty good pitch and that Puig is having a hard time dealing with the uptick in velocity since the first couple of pitches.
It was here that Pina decided it was time for a mound visit — a long one. There was a full 71-second break between pitch #5 and pitch #6 of the at-bat, so Pina clearly had a plan.
Pitch #6 2-2
DANG! 96.1mph… Peralta’s fastest pitch of the game. Puig had a strong tendency to strikeout on elevated pitches in 2018 and with him being late on not only the previous pitch, but also the third pitch of the at-bat, Pina and Peralta knew they could get one by him.
Peralta consistently changed Puig’s eye-level and spent most of the at-bat on the outside corner during this battle, so he and Pina knew that if they came further inside, Puig had no hope of getting the barrel to the ball. Unfortunately, he missed his spot again, as Pina wanted this pitch up and Peralta delivered it middle-middle. Puig was able to get just enough and foul it straight back.
Before pitch #7 was thrown, Puig took a second to himself. He called timeout. Perhaps it was to get Peralta to think a little bit, or maybe it was just to recalibrate himself. Either way, this happened next…
Pitch #7 2-2
Well, they went back outside and Puig was on this one. We’ve seen Puig smoke pitches like this in the past and he was an inch away from putting this one in the right field seats. It certainly wasn’t a bad pitch from Peralta, as he was once again able to elevate it just enough to keep Puig from squaring it up, but this was the best swing of the at-bat for Puig, and (I believe) Pina knew it.
Peralta is feeling himself at this point. His velocity is good, his command is solid, and he knows that Puig, for the most part, can’t catch up to his fastball. This was what happened between pitches #7 and #8…
You can see that as Peralta shakes off Pina multiple times, Pina flashes a sign (sort of like a “cash” or “money” finger rub). After being shaken off again, Pina looks down before looking out at Peralta. Peralta is emphatic in his frustration (I think he wants to finish Puig with a trademark heater), but it certainly appears as though Pina has an idea and, at the very least, wants to be on the same page as Peralta.
Pina eventually takes the walk out to the mound to discuss this crucial moment with his young pitcher. That’s two mound visits over two pitches with pitch #8 coming. What happened during that discussion? Well…
Pitch #8 2-2
Got him! Say what you want about the execution of the pitch itself (he may have bounced it pretty short), but I give a lot of credit to Pina here. Over the course of the at-bat, a few things stuck out:
- Puig could not catch up to pitches on the inner half, but Peralta could not command his fastball quite as well the further inside they went.
- Peralta had great command on the outside corner, but Puig clearly had a great feel for the outer half of the plate and just took his best swing on the previous pitch.
- It was a 2-2 count and they still had a pitch to waste if they wanted to.
- Puig had been sped up pretty much from pitch #1 to pitch #7.
I believe it was Pina who wanted the curveball here. He knew that if Peralta started it on the outer half, Puig would immediately swing fastball, and he was right. This was Peralta’s 19th pitch of the inning and his only non-fastball. Huge spot, huge pitch, huge out, and the Brewers would later close the door in the ninth inning to secure an early divisional win.
If you see an at-bat during the week and believe that it deserves to be highlighted as the “At-Bat of the Week”, please tweet me @dannyhottakes.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)