DENVER -- I just watched Joe Musgrove breathe fire.
OK, so maybe no literal flames spouted from his mouth, but there was a roar. And a heavy punch of the glove as he entered the dugout. With his 101st pitch of this Saturday night at Coors Field, Musgrove fanned Yonder Alonso, capping off six full innings and giving him a quality start in the Pirates' 11-4 thumping of the Rockies.
But that roar? That punch? Yeah, that came from a place of passion for Musgrove. He wanted this one.
Listen to it for yourself:
It's not rare to see (and hear) Musgrove express this type of emotion. Jacob Stallings told me Musgrove is "probably the best competitor on our team" after the game, and it's not just moments like that up there but his start as a whole that backs up such a claim. It wasn't lights-out by any means.
Musgrove gave up one run in each of the second, third and fourth innings, including a solo shot to Ryan McMahon in the second (nice snag by the man in the crowd by the way — worth keeping an eye on):
He struck out five hitters while conceding eight hits. None of it pops off the page. But through it all — at this park, no less — Musgrove repeatedly battled out of tough spots to get out and to keep his team well ahead on the score sheet.
"He followed his game plan well," Clint Hurdle was saying. "He didn't give in ... He left men on base tonight, multiple times, with big pitches, with strikeouts or outs to finish innings."
"You want to limit the innings as much as you can," Stallings added. " ... Especially in this park against this lineup. Their top four, five hitters are really, really good hitters."
Charlie Blackmon — one of those "really, really good hitters" — went 2 for 4 on the night. Garrett Hampson turned in two hits of his own. After them, though? No multi-hit games. Trevor Story was held to just one in five at-bats. Nolan Arenado also got one and added a sacrifice fly RBI.
But we're talking musket vs. machine gun in this one when you line up those stats against what the Pirates offense did tonight (more on that in a second). Musgrove's ability to repeatedly get out of jams, to work his way back to safety and to minimize the damage in the process, made the difference as he turned the ball over to Michael Feliz in the seventh.
You know what else made a difference? This little nugget Musgrove casually dropped in his postgame interview:
"I've been working on a new delivery this past week out of the stretch, trying to improve the quality of my pitches and the velo[city] on my pitches out of the stretch," Musgrove said. "I was able to do that today. My velo maintained throughout the game, out of the stretch I was 93, 94, which I haven't been. I've been more 91, 92. So making those adjustments now, things are going to pay off for us a lot next year."