ANAHEIM – Only seven of the first 41 pitches Angels right-hander Dan Haren threw to the Detroit Tigers in a virtuoso two-hitter Tuesday night at Angel Stadium were fastballs.
So, yes, it’d be fair to say he did a superb job mixing his pitches against a tough Tiger lineup.
In earning his 100th career win, Haren threw cutters and split-fingers galore in baffling Detroit’s potent 4-5-6 combination of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta as the Angels won 1-0.
“Dan should frame that one, because that was incredible,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Haren’s work of art. “That’s a very, very tough lineup he was facing.”
Haren didn’t even know how few fastballs he had thrown through three innings, but he knew it was abnormal. Then, as the Angels batted in the top of the fourth, he approached rookie right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who was charting the pitches he threw from the dugout. Haren said later he was a little surprised when Chatwood told him the exact number: seven of 41, or just 17 percent of his pitches.
Over the course of his career, Haren has thrown fastballs just over 50 percent of the time. He went back to a more normal ratio later in the game, but the ruse had already worked.
“I kinda set ‘em up, then threw more fastballs as the game went along,” Haren said afterward. “The last pitch of the game was a fastball. My fastball was feeling better later on, so I threw a lot more of it.”
Scioscia said Haren’s split-finger fastball was moving around more than he’d ever seen it in an Angel uniform. That’s saying a lot, considering the performances Haren has already turned in through 33 starts with the Angels.
His second start with the team last July was a five-hit complete game, and he threw three more scoreless outings of at least seven innings before the 2010 season ended.
This year, his third start was a one-hit shutout against the Cleveland Indians. But Haren said he felt more dominant Tuesday than he did at any other point with the Angels – even including the start against the Indians.
“Even in that game, I didn’t have everything working,” Haren said. “Tonight, I had my stuff working. Everything was really working well, especially against that lineup, one of the best. It ranks right up there with Texas, Boston and New York.
“The middle of that lineup is as good as it gets, and it definitely means more against a good team like that and a good pitcher.”
The good pitcher? Only MLB’s strikeout leader, Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who went 7 2/3 strong innings against the Angels and gave up seven hits and just one run.
The game was being billed as a premium pitching matchup, and it delivered in every way. Verlander’s only run allowed came on a hit-and-run double from Erick Aybar where Detroit right fielder Magglio Ordonez mistakenly threw to second, allowing Howie Kendrick to come home.
Haren faced only one significant challenge, and even that came with two outs. Tiger center fielder Austin Jackson tripled to the right-center gap in the fourth inning on a ball that the Angels’ Peter Bourjos just missed. Haren got Brennan Boesch, one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the last month, to hit a come-backer to end the scare.
Haren threw 122 pitches in all, his second-highest total this season. Roughly half of those were probably of the cut-fastball variety, a pitch he picked up midway through his career in 2007 but has since become perhaps his most dominant.
And, well after he was done shying away from his fastball in Tuesday’s duel, Haren went back to the cutter, again and again, to retire the Tiger hitters.
“My cutter’s been my best pitch all year, and, in a 1-0 game, you want to get beat with your best pitch,” Haren said. “I threw it quite a bit. I had to.
“The game called for it.”