Terry Collins was not placing Bobby Parnell in Justin Verlander's class. Not by a long shot. But the Mets skipper thought there was a valid point to be made in terms of their relative pitching repertoires.
As with Verlander, Parnell has the ability to dial up his fastball when needed to get a big out.
New York Mets
That's exactly what Parnell did in the eighth inning Wednesday, when he was summoned to protect a two-run lead with two runners on base and two out. Parnell struck out Andrew McCutchen, the most dangerous Pirates batter, with a diving, 98 mph fastball to strand both players in scoring position. The Mets ultimately won, 3-1, after Frank Francisco converted the save.
"I knew I had to beat his bat," Parnell said. "That was a situation where I worked on a downward plane and just let it go a little bit."
Parnell clearly has ascended in terms of bullpen responsibilities since the start of the season. He also entered in Pittsburgh on Monday night -- that time with a tie score in the seventh -- to keep the Mets in the game. That time, he coaxed a weak groundball to third by Josh Harrison on which there was an error, then also struck out McCutchen before turning the ball over to Tim Byrdak.
Parnell noted it's not so much that he is adding velocity to his fastball in a big moment -- it is that he generally is taking a few mph off the pitch in order to maximize control.
This season his average fastball velocity is 94.9 mph, as opposed to 97.2 mph last year. That does not mean he has lost oomph. It means he's purposely subtracting speed a lot of the time to ensure he knows where it's going. Then he'll dial it up at the appropriate moment and blow his fastball by a batter.
"I used to just let it 'eat.' I've kind of dialed back and tried to work on location more than anything," Parnell said. "There are certain situations where I'll let it go. But I've learned the other way -- going from throwing 98 mph to 94-95 mph."
Said Collins: "You don't find a lot of pitchers who can 'add.' One of the things that makes Verlander so tough is that he's pitching at 94, and the next thing you know, here's one that's 100. That's what Bobby is doing. He's making pitches at 94, 95. The next thing you know, here's one at 98. It makes a big difference."