KANSAS CITY, Mo. — José Suarez pitched one of his best games of the season on Tuesday night, while giving the team hope that perhaps he’s discovered something that will make a long-term difference for the 24-year-old left-hander.
Suarez threw more sliders than he ever had before in the Angels’ 6-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
He got the offensive support he needed from Shohei Ohtani’s 21st homer and a nice night from Luis Rengifo, whose two hits included a two-run double in the seventh.
Suarez had only lasted five innings in two other games in this disappointing half-season, carrying a 5.60 ERA into the All-Star break. After an encouraging 3.75 ERA in 2021, Suarez started this season so poorly that he was sent back to Triple-A for a few weeks in May.
He got back into the Angels’ rotation, essentially by default, and had not pitched consistently well. He’d allowed 10 runs in his previous two outings.
Suarez had not pitched in 10 days, though, with the All-Star break in between his outings, and when he took the mound against the Royals, he brought a different strategy with him.
Through his first 11 outings this season, Suarez had mostly used his four-seam fastball and his changeup, with those pitches accounting for 61% of his offerings. He had thrown his sinker and slider just 18% of the time.
On Tuesday night, he flipped.
Suarez threw his slider alone with 44% of his pitches, after averaging 10% over the rest of the season. He didn’t throw the slider at all last year, or in his first few starts this season.
Suarez also threw his sinker 24% of the time, so the slider and sinker accounted for more than two-thirds of his pitches in the game.
With the new mix, Suarez was able to efficiently move through the Royals’ lineup, inducing soft contact. He only struck out three, but he still recorded 16 outs on just 78 pitches.
He needed just 57 pitches to get through the first five innings, allowing only an infield single to Hunter Dozier in the fourth.
In the sixth, he hit Nicky Lopez with his first pitch. An out later, Andrew Benintendi fought Suarez through an eight-pitch at-bat – all sinkers and sliders – before lining a single into right field. MJ Melendez then saw seven pitches – again, all sinkers and sliders – before reaching on an infield hit to load the bases.
Manager Phil Nevin then came to get Suarez, handing the ball to lefty José Quijada, who escaped the jam without allowing any of Suarez’s runners to score. Dozier hit a bouncer to first baseman Jared Walsh, who threw home for a force. Vinnie Pasquantino then hit a fly ball to left.
The Angels then padded their 2-0 lead with three runs in the top of the seventh, including Rengifo’s double. Jo Adell was also hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Max Stassi hit a homer in the top of the ninth.
Quijada and Elvis Peguero finished off the shutout.
More to come on this story.