Tonight in Anaheim California, Joe Boyle, the 6'7 24 year from Notre Dame, climbed the mound for the single best pitching performance of an Athletics' rookie for a long, long time . He only pitched 35 innings at Notre Dame before being drafted by the Red's in the 2020 draft, the A's traded for him for Sam Moll. It was a good decision. But who was Joe Boyle, then? A pitcher that could not seem to find the strike zone on postage stamp.
After tonight the A's only have one more game but after tonight it feels like the season will last well into October for the Athletics. Boyle's outing tonight gave every A's fan the joy of watching baseball again. We have seen Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Mason Miller but no young pitcher will keep our hearts warmer through winter than Joe Boyle.
With the ability to compress his body together, like a cork screw, and lunge forward down the hill from 60 feet 6 inches give a batter the feeling he is throwing from half of that. He throws overhand, with a release point on average of 6'4, the ball comes screaming down toward the strike zone. Noticing how he induces fly ball after fly ball gives the game away on how hitters see Boyle. 2 inches too low.
His night started regular enough. A strikeout here, a walk there. He had an early lead thanks to a Zach Gelof homerun in the top of the 1st. An absolute rocket off the bat to left field. 1-0 Oakland. He then started to make us all think we were dreaming. Picking up and sitting down batter after batter. Striking-out Angels with swings and misses. They also went down looking. Several walking away just staring at Boyle. We all were. With smooth sliders and running fastballs, Joe Boyle looked unhittable.
There is no need to go batter by batter. But it is important to go pitch by pitch. His fastball is built off his slider with continuous first pitch strikes with breaking balls. It was only until the 6th inning he started throwing curveballs. Alot of curveballs. Nick Allen did not mind. Why? Because he wanted to remind us what kind of glove sits between 2nd base and 3rd for Oakland. He had a 360 degree spin going to his left, throwing like his arm was a rifled. An easy 3 foot straight up in the air catch. You will never see a man so short, jump so high.
He had a total of 4 fielding assists and 6 total out recorded over 6 innings. Each out required all of what we have seen flashes of all season, Gold Glove quality.
I still contend that Joe Boyle is throwing slurves. With such a high overhand delivery the break on his slider appears to be coming out of his hand so high the amount of rotation on the ball causes it to dip, nearly north-east to south-west.
But the night belonged to Joe Boyle. It was his hill. It was his game. In the top of bottom of the 7th, we started to wonder. We tried to remember. What did we think of him when he first came to the Athletics. Was he worth Sam Moll? Was he a project? Will he be healthy? And all Joe Boyle did was to keep us wondering. As he stood there, by himself, in splendid isolation, we were all there with him. We did not care what the pitch count was but for the sake of honesty, he only had 4 full counts against the Angels. He only had 68 pitches.
Still touching 98 on his fastball he faced down Nolan Schanuel and walked him on four pitches but had the guts to throw Zach Neto a first pitch, again, breaking ball. Working to a 1-2 count a 98 mph fastball caught the hitter for his 6th strikeout. 6 1/3 inning of no hit baseball. On deep fly ball Ruiz made a diving attempt on a ball we all wished would have been scored an error. But it was the first hit. With runners on 2nd and 3rd Joe might have lost the no hitter but he found trouble. Giving up a deep sacrifice fly. 1-1. He then surrendered a 2 run homerun to deep right center by Logan O'Hoppe. 3-1 Angels.
Baseball is a cruel mistress. One moment You are the best pitcher in Major League Baseball, right now. The next, you are in line to take the first loss of your career.
In the top of the 8th, the A's would not allow the insult to Joe Boyle to go unanswered. Nick Allen made it to 1st base on what was, incorrectly at the time, scored an error on the 1st baseman. Ruiz then singled sending Nick Allen to 3rd. Ruiz almost immediately spirited to 2nd base for his 66th steal of the season. Ryan Noda walked.
Bases loaded, no outs. Zach Gelof then stood in and then quickly bailed out with a 100 mph fastball directly where his head, was. Gelof then did something he does not normally do on this abnormal night, hit a sharp ground ball on a 100mph pitch, directly to the left of the 2nd baseman. The ball was hit so fast he did not even move. 3-2 Angles.
With Rooker at the plate, still no outs a balk was called on the new pitcher. A truly extraordinary night. "Sometimes you see things you have never seen before" called the Oakland radio broadcaster. I know I have never seen a balk like that before. He just dropped the ball on the delivery. The no-decision was secured for Joe Boyle. Baseball is a game of individuals but one does play alone.
After back to back strikeouts, Shea Langeliers took the first pitch he saw over the right center field seats. Joe Boyle now is in line for the win. Insult avenged, In 2 full frames the game went from 1-0, then 3-1 and then 6-3. Baseball is a beautiful mistress.. 7 IP 2 hits 3ER 2 BB 6K's and 17/24 first pitch strikes. 88-59 strike/pitch ratio. These were the first earned runs Boyle has allowed. ERA; 1.69 over 16 IP.
Now in the top of the 9th, Ruiz earns a walk (rare evening indeed) after a solid single by Tyler Soderstrom. Gelof , with two outs, hits a sharp ground ball right up the middle. Gelof's 3rd RBI of the night. 7-3 Oakland. Trevor May came on in the bottom of the 9th. Quickly sitting down the Angels in order. Abnormally quiet for extraordinary night.
Both Nick Allen's and Zach Gelof's performance tonight will leave us dreaming on a cold December night of another Joe Boyle outing, on a warm Spring afternoon.