Ivan Nova just wrapped up the best start of his career a little while ago. He pitched eight shutout innings (a career best), striking out seven (tying a career best), and most impressively, not allowing a single free pass (another career best). In addition, he allowed 16 of his 21 balls in play on the ground (the other five were line drives). He went to work with a different approach than in previous starts - for only the second time all year (and the first time since April 9th), Nova used his slider as his primary off-speed pitch. He threw 26 sliders this evening, making up 25% of his 105 total pitches. He used it in different situations, throwing it on the first pitch (five times) and in strikeout counts (eight times, including once on a full count). Most of them were thrown to righties, though lefties saw two. The breakdown for all of Nova's pitches is below:
Ball Called Foul Swinging In Play
FF 17 11 15 1* 15
SL 11 6 3 6 0
CU 7 0 3 3 1
CH 0 0 1 0 5
What's very encouraging is that Nova was able to get both called and swinging strikes with his slider. After tonight's performance, Nova's slider whiff rate (per swing) for the year is at a gaudy 60%. That will almost certainly go down, but while it's working, it's good to see him increase usage of it.