SAN DIEGO — Camilo Doval turned around after firing strike three past Padres first baseman Josh Bell for the final out of the Giants’ 1-0 win here Monday night and looked at the reading on the radar gun.
“I asked myself, I hope it’s correct,” Doval said later, laughing, through Spanish-language translator Erwin Higueros.
Technically, the pitch was clocked at 102.9 mph, tying Brian Wilson for the fastest thrown by a Giant in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008). He threw it to record the last out of possibly his toughest assignment of the season — Juan Soto, Manny Machado and Bell while protecting a one-run lead.
Throwing hard is nothing new for Doval: since 2008, the Giants have thrown 35 pitches at least 101.5 mph (or 102 mph, rounded), and 22 of them have emerged from Doval’s right hand. (“Once I let go, I can tell that it’s going to go fast,” he said.)
What’s different — and what has helped the 25-year-old fireballer turn in a 1.93 ERA and clean outings in eight of his last nine appearances since July 14 — is the addition of a third slightly slower offering that plays off his already tantalizing four seam-slider combo.
Doval began playing around with a sinker in spring training, but he waited to show it off until July 14, the Giants’ fourth-to-final game before the All-Star break. Since then, the sinker has accounted for nearly half of his pitches (47.8%).
“I was holding it back,” Doval said. “Practicing, practicing, practicing. Now I feel very comfortable with it. I know I can throw it for strikes. So now I’m using it.”
Just look at the pitch sequence to Bell: sinker, sinker, sinker, slider, sinker, cutter.
From a hitter’s perspective, that’s three straight pitches between 99 and 101 mph running away from the left-handed batter’s box. Followed by a 90 mph breaking ball moving in. Polished off with 102.9 mph on the outside corner that cut back just enough to catch the edge of the plate.
“The way the sinker’s coming out of his hand, it’s really, really not fun to hit … it’s just got so much late life that guys can’t time it up,” catcher Joey Bart said. “They feel like they’re on it and it’s just swooping under their barrel. Then he comes in and says nah, I want to throw a four-seam at 103 with some cut on the black right there on the edge. I’ve faced him a few times and I’m glad I’m on the other end of it.”
It was no match for one of the most fearsome trios in the majors.
Soto, the youngest ever NL batting leader and a two-time Silver Slugger, saw three straight sinkers and grounded out.
Machado, a proven Giant killer with nine extra-base hits in 40 at-bats against San Francisco this season, got two sinkers before lining out on a slider.
And Bell, well, game over.
“Props to him for coming in and seeing Soto, Manny Machado and Josh Bell and slamming the door,” Bart said. “That’s big time stuff.”
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