Jake McGee’s maturation into one of the game’s top left-handed relievers continued on Wednesday night.
McGee entered a messy situation. Runners stood on first and second in the fifth inning of a tied ballgame. Wilson Betemit walked to the plate, looking for a pitch to drive. McGee flicked a fastball to the outside corner for strike one. He missed low with another heater before going back over the plate for strike two. McGee shifted his attention to the outside corner again, but chose to elevate a fastball. Betemit swung underneath and ended the inning.
Joe Maddon opted to leave McGee in the game for the sixth inning to face Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado. McGee fell behind Reynolds 1-0. He pumped a fastball inside for a strike, teased Reynolds with a slider over the plate (fouled off for the second strike), and then went to an elevated outside fastball for strike three. Against Davis, McGee moved his fastball from down and away on a 1-1 count for strike two, to up, over the plate for ball two, and then up and away for strike three.
Machado managed to survive seven pitches, though he, like the others, eventually fell to McGee’s fastball. Nineteen of McGee’s 20 pitches registered as fastballs. Nine were faster than 96 mph, according to PITCHf/x data. The slowest of the bunch came in at 93 mph. McGee worked inside, outside, high, and low. He almost made it look too easy, as fastball-heavy pitchers are wont to do; zip, zap, two strikes on the board and the batter hasn’t put lumber on the ball. Everyone knows what comes next and it doesn’t matter.
McGee always had a special arm. Now he’s having a special season because of outings like the one on Wednesday night.