Although the Los Angeles Dodgers lost their series opener to the Toronto Blue Jays, Michael Grove turned in one of his most encouraging starts of the season.
The right-hander only pitched 4.2 innings, but he had swing-and-miss working, picking up six strikeouts along the way while limiting the damage to just two runs. In addition, Grove recorded 15 swinging strikes along with a swinging strike rate of 38%, much higher than his season mark of 23%.
He got through four scoreless innings before running into some trouble in the fifth. Grove’s slider was his most effective pitch, recording 10 swinging strikes on 20 pitches.
“My slider was pretty good tonight, so just leaned on it heavy,” Grove said after the Dodgers’ loss in extra innings. “I threw a pretty bad one at the beginning of the fifth inning to jumpstart that inning. I would’ve to go six or seven and keep our bullpen out of the game a little longer, but it was a step in the right direction.”
While there were encouraging signs for the Dodgers, Grove’s start did not come without some controversy. Between the fourth and fifth innings, Grove changed his pants after a substance was spotted on his right leg in an area he kept touching, and his struggles began after putting on the new pants.
With MLB cracking down on illegal substance use over the past year, accusations began to swirl among opposing fans and media, but Grove explained his pants just began to get dirty after drying his hand off in that spot.
“I guess they (Blue Jays) wanted him to check my pants,” Grove said. “I kind of rub my hand here after every pitch because of sweat and stuff, and there was some dirt buildup. I told them I didn’t it to be a problem, so I just came in and changed my pants.”
Grove’s spin rates throughout the night were consistent with his previous outings, and all the differences between his start on Monday and his yearly spin averages were actually decreased, which does back up his explanation.
Spin rates do vary slightly from start to start due to multiple factors that are generally out of a pitcher’s control.
Nevertheless, Grove’s struggles began the following inning, but he doesn’t blame the check for getting him out of rhythm. “I mean, it’s kind of annoying, but it doesn’t matter,” the 26-year-old said.
Grove has struggled to pitch deep into games throughout the season, and this start was no different. However, his new cutter does seem to be making a significant difference in his results.
Michael Grove gaining confidence in pitch mix
With the addition of the cutter, Grove has seen increased effectiveness against left-handed hitters, which have given him trouble over the year. This has helped him have quality outings in consecutive starts at the perfect time for the Dodgers.
“I think it’s the options,” Grove said. “Having the cutter for lefties, having the slider and ideally throwing some more curveballs as well to be able to kind of mix how I attack guys. If I want to throw more fastballs, I can. If I want to lean more on one pitch, I can.”
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