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SPchief
08-08-2008, 12:24 AM
Meche’s recent success triggered by new approach
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star

Royals pitcher Gil Meche limited the Red Sox to two runs and four hits in six innings Monday. It was his fourth straight “quality start.” There’s an inside story to explain why Royals right-hander Gil Meche, over the last two months, has been the best starter in the American League.

First, though, some supportive numbers:

Meche is one of only four starters since June 8 to post at least seven victories. He is 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA in his last 11 starts, but he started his roll in late April, after his ERA zoomed to 8.00 when he allowed eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings against the Indians.

“I’ve always had bad stretches,” he said. “I just never started off that bad. When I did, I looked at it this way: ‘Get all of these bad games out of the way. I know I’m going to pitch well throughout the year. I’ve just got to become more consistent with my off-speed pitches.’ ”

The off-speed pitches, especially his dynamic curve, came around. But that dreadful start skewed everything and kept Meche from climbing above .500 until he worked six strong innings Monday in a 4-3 victory over Boston.

Meche is 9-6 with a 3.31 ERA in his last 19 starts, which leaves him at 10-9 and 4.17 overall in 24 outings. His next start is Sunday against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium.

“The difference,” he said, “is I’ve been making better pitches when I need to. Keeping the ball in the ballpark is going to help you win a lot of games. Don’t pitch in the middle of the plate. Keep the ball in and out.”

There, finally. Now we come to the inside story.

Meche is pitching effectively inside for the first time in his eight-year career. It required a new approach that is only now starting to feel comfortable, but the results are undeniable.

“A lot of guys are hesitant to do it,” pitching coach Bob McClure said. “What happens, especially with a young pitcher, when they try to come inside, they try to throw it as hard as they can. Then you can’t control it.”

The hesitation is normal. Try to come inside, and miss — miss over the plate — and bad things happen. Try to amp up the velocity to avoid trouble, as Meche admits he used to do, and the result is often a mechanical flaw that tends to leave the pitch over the plate.

“Taking a little bit off the pitch has made all of the difference,” Meche said. “It was Mac’s idea, and I just throw a (batting-practice) fastball in there. Not try to blow it by the guy. Let him hit it, and see what happens.

“Even if he doesn’t swing, I can use it for an effect pitch. Then go back down and away, which is the way you want to pitch anyway.”

Catcher John Buck saw the difference right away.

“Pitching inside is one of those things that sounds easy, but it’s not that easy to do,” he said. “For Gil, it’s made his stuff that much tougher to hit. Teams know he has a real good breaking ball, and they look for it.

“Now he’s using it to his advantage by not throwing it as much. Instead, he’s blowing that fastball inside and the cutter away. And when they’re not expecting it, he’s throwing that breaking ball early in the count.”

Throwing inside isn’t the only factor in Meche’s recent surge, of course. His off-speed pitches, as noted, have been sharper.

“Pitching in has helped,” he said. “No doubt about it. But if you can’t throw off-speed pitches off your fastball, it’s not going to work. My curveball took a while to come this year. Normally, that’s a pitch I can throw in my sleep.
“Once everything came together, the confidence was there. I just kind of took off.”

It helps, too, that the Royals are scoring more runs when Meche pitches — an average of 5.76 in his last 11 starts compared with 3.92 a year ago, when he endured the lowest run support of any regular AL starter.

“If I can get four or five runs a game,” he said, “I should be able to win a lot of games.”

The implication, apparently, is none of this should be a surprise.

“Even in my first month,” Meche said, “I felt good. I just didn’t have good results. I knew the whole year wouldn’t go like that. Did I expect to get on a streak like this? Probably not. But I knew I’d start pitching better.”

The question now — the $55 million question — is whether Meche, with his new-found confidence of pitching inside, is making the leap to dominance that the Royals envisioned some 20 months ago when they signed him to a five-year contract.

That question prompted a wry smile.

“Every year I have a good streak at some point,” Meche said. “I had a good streak at the start of last year. Right now, I’ve won four in row, but I’ve never won five in a row in my career. So this next start is the one with pressure on me.”



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Meche on a two-month roll

Top AL starters between June 8 and Aug. 6

(Minimum seven victories)


Pitcher, Team Starts W-L IP H ER K/9 W/9 ERA
Gil Meche, Royals 11 7-1 70 1/3 59 21 7.17 2.82 2.69
Andy Pettitte, Yankees 11 7-4 70 66 28 7.84 2.57 3.60
John Lackey, Angels 10 7-1 70 1/3 64 30 7.68 2.43 3.84
A.J. Burnett, Blue Jays 11 8-3 70 1/3 68 32 9.60 3.58 4.09
K/9 is strikeouts per nine innings; W/9 is walks per nine innings.

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/story/738743-p2.html

Sure-Oz
08-08-2008, 12:42 AM
He's doing great lately, he is definetly a #2 starter on any other team, but hell im just glad he's kicking ass, we need him to.

Demonpenz
08-08-2008, 08:54 AM
Giving up a gopher ball or two is a nessessary evil to get people off the plate

Ari Chi3fs
08-08-2008, 12:48 PM
He is 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA in his last 11 starts

NICE!