Last night, the Mets won a game it seemed they had no business winning. Bartolo Colon started the game and retired the first batter he faced, but he did so on a line drive that deflected off his right thumb and resulted in a 1-4-3 out to begin the game. Colon left the game immediately, and right-handed reliever Hansel Robles came in to replace him.
Robles was excellent and threw three-and-two-thirds innings, gave up one run, struck out six, and walked one. He’s no stranger to strikeouts, as he’s averaged over ten of them per nine innings in his major league career, but his performance in the Mets’ win was particularly impressive. Robles threw 65 pitches and generated nine swings-and-misses.
Of those whiffs, Robles got six with his slider, which he threw 21 times in his outing. He got swing-and-misses on the pitch a staggering 28.6 percent of the time he threw it. For reference, his whiff rate with the pitch was 13.5 percent last year and 13.2 percent this year coming into the game.
A couple of those whiffs came in the top of the fourth inning. Robles had allowed a leadoff double to Alcides Escobar, but he escaped the inning without allowing a run—thanks in large part to a couple of strikeouts that he got with his slider.
Robles struck out Eric Hosmer first. He was ahead in the count 1-2 and threw a slider low-and-in. Hosmer swung and missed.
While Hosmer didn’t look great on that pitch, Robles made the Royals’ next hitter—Lorenzo Cain—look even worse. He got ahead in the count 1-2 again and threw a slider that Cain merely flailed at and missed.
And just in case that angle weren’t enough, here’s how that pitch looked from camera positioned directly behind the mound in slow motion.
One long-relief appearance doesn’t guarantee anything moving forward, but it was encouraging to see Robles pitch like that. In his last two appearances in the month of May, he gave up six runs in two-and-one-third innings, and his ERA for the season jumped from 1.31 to 3.52. Since then, he has a 2.45 ERA in 10.2 innings in June. If he can throw his slider like he did against the Royals going forward, it wouldn’t be surprising if he maintained those sorts of numbers.