Cubs hitters looked back in anger three different times on Friday afternoon.
Aside from a 1-0 White Sox victory over the Cubs, that was one of the true indicators it was a “good day” for Tyler Flowers.
Not only do White Sox pitchers continue to vouch for his blocking skills, his pitch framing abilities played a significant role as the White Sox won for their eighth time in 10 games.
Utilizing the technique he labored over in the offseason, Flowers — who entered Friday sixth among big league catchers in pitch framing, up from 14th in 2014 — earned strike calls on 12 borderline pitches for White Sox pitchers as they combined for a dozen strikeouts.
“He does an exceptional job back there,” said White Sox closer David Robertson, who struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to capture his 19th save. “He blocked a lot of curveballs I threw today. He knew they were coming in the dirt and I was able to put them where I wanted to do and he was able to stop them. He was like a wall back there.”
While his main job with Robertson was to block pitches against Jorge Soler, Flowers’ framing was critical during a Dexter Fowler at-bat in the eighth inning.
With Zach Duke on the mound, the tying man on first and the White Sox ahead by a run, Flowers called for a curveball and had his glove hovering just above the ground.
Duke hit his target and even though the pitch was well below the zone, plate ump Dan Bellino wrung up Fowler much to the leadoff man’s dismay.
According to brooksbaseball.net, Flowers earned five low strikes that were visibly out of the strikezone. Five of the team’s 12 strikeouts also came via called third strikes.
“You always want to be (low), but that was borderline,” Flowers said. “That’s kind of where you live though. Being a pitcher, the lower you can throw it the better — to a point. I mean you can’t bounce it in there 3-2, you have to get him to swing.”
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The framing also worked to Carlos Rodon’s benefit on a day in which the rookie was effectively wild. Rodon threw strikes on 57 of 104 pitches but it would have been less had he not received several wide and low ones thanks to his catcher.
One of the more notable encounters came in the fifth inning, when Starlin Castro believed he drew a walk on a 3-1 pitch only for Bellino to call a strike inside. Castro fouled off a 3-2 offering before Rodon hit thevery outside edge with a 94-mph fastball for the third strike.
An inning earlier, Rodon, who struck out six and walked six over six scoreless innings, got out of a trouble spot with Flowers’ help. With runners on first and second off with a 3-2 pitch that resulted in a strikeout of Chris Denorfia, Flowers fired to third in time to throw out Kris Bryant for an inning-ending double play.
“Tyler defensively was great,” Rodon said. “Big throw out to third there for that strike-‘em out, throw-‘em, out. Whatever he threw down, I was going to throw it. He's always good, always great.”