On Thursday night, Scott Diamond allowed four runs over six innings against the Phillies. It qualified as arguably his worst start since being called up back in early May, but it was hardly a disaster and would have kept the Twins in the game had the offense mustered any kind of production against Joe Blanton.
Even after turning in just his second non-quality start in eight tries, Diamond remains the class of the Twins' rotation. His recipe for success up to this point has been quite simple, and it's one that he strayed from against Philadelphia:
Keep the ball in the park.
In the four starts where he has not allowed a home run, he is 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA. In the four starts where he has allowed a home run, he is 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA. Nine of the 12 earned runs tallied against the lefty have crossed on homers, including all four on Thursday.
That trend won't last forever – he's holding opposing hitters to a clearly unsustainable .175 average with runners in scoring position – but his ability to limit the long ball has clearly been a big factor in his effectiveness. And fortunately, that trait has proven to be very
sustainable over the course of his professional career.
Before yielding two home runs against the Phillies on Thursday, Diamond had coughed up only four in 44 1/3 innings this season. Last year, even when he was getting knocked around in the majors as a rookie, he gave up just three bombs in 39 frames. In the minors, opponents went deep against him 31 times in 600 innings – a sparkling average of one home run per every 19 innings pitched.
Grounders never travel over the fence, so for a pitcher that lacks strikeout stuff they are a powerful weapon. Diamond entered his latest start with an elite 61.1 percent GB rate. Only two qualifying MLB pitchers top that number.
The 25-year-old hung a couple pitches on Thursday night and paid for it, but overall the outing should not be viewed as a discouraging one. The biggest keys to his success thus far have been throwing strikes and burning worms; even though he issued two walks and surrendered two bombs against the Phillies, he threw 65 of 100 pitches for strikes and induced 14 ground balls in six innings.
If that's his idea of a bad night, I'll take it.