Mark Reynolds comes alive as Orioles top Yankees

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Mark Reynolds had his second two-homer game in three days Sunday as the Orioles beat the Yankees 8-3 to win two out of three games at Yankee Stadium.

Reynolds, who entered the series with just 12 homers in 103 games this season, also had two homers in Friday’s 6-1 victory.

Baltimore won despite losing starting pitching Chris Tillman to a sore elbow after three innings. Randy Wolf took over and allowing a run over 3 1/3 innings in relief to earn the victory in his Orioles debut.

Phil Hughes was the loser after giving up both Reynolds homers. He’s tied with the Angels’ Ervin Santana and the Orioles’ Tommy Hunter for the major league lead with 32 homers allowed this season.

By taking two out of three games, the Orioles have pulled within two games of the Yankees in the AL East. The two teams will square off four more times next weekend at Camden Yards. First, the O’s will play three against the Jays, while the Yankees will take on the Rays.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.