Phil Humber's fantastic command of his fastball, curveball and changeup led to his brush with a no-hitter Monday in New York.
Of all the possible pitchers to take a no-hitter into the seventh against the Yankees, Humber was the most unlikely candidate. The Yankees, despite being shut out last night, have the second-best offense in baseball as measured by wOBA. They're the most powerful team in baseball (.230 ISO) and boast the sixth-highest OBP.
What Humber did, obviously, was no small feat.
But Humber's seven-inning, one-hit shutout performance didn't come *completely* out of the blue. He had pitched admirably in his three starts prior to Monday, with his first start (six innings, one run) against Tampa Bay being his best. While he allowed four runs in each of his next two starts, he lived up to at least my expectations—Humber, under normal circumstances, would've kept the Sox in both of those games.
Humber had the start of his life last night, and it may not be dethroned. And even if Humber regresses back to pitching five innings and allowing four runs every start, Monday confirmed that he's pitched well beyond expectations this season.
Where Humber has success last night was in mixing three very effective pitches. Brooks Baseball rated his fastball, curveball and changeup all as above-average pitches, but more importantly, he threw those pitches at nearly identical rates. Humber threw 37 fastballs, 30 changeups, and 29 curveballs, leading to him successfully keeping Yankee hitters off balance. His fastball didn't touch 90 after about the 50 pitch mark, but his great command of it led to plenty of weakly-hit balls in play.
I'm not expecting Humber to put everything together again like he did last night. I won't be dismayed if he doesn't—last night's 2-0 win may serve as one of the most important wins of the first half for the Sox. While the Sox only managed two runs, as a unit they looked better at the plate against A.J. Burnett than at any point during the Tigers series. And with Ivan Nova (7.63 ERA) starting tonight for New York, maybe this is the night the bats wake up with the momentum of Monday carrying over.
Justin Verlander made sure the White Sox's momentum from last Thursday's win over Tampa Bay didn't carry over to Friday. I'm not sure Nova can do the same.