Fastballs at 99 mph and sliders at 93 mph: That's usually what excites fans and gives managers confidence before a postseason series.
That's not Marco Estrada's strength, though. The hurler's average four-seam fastball velocity this season was just 88.1 mph -- fifth-slowest among qualified starters. Fortunately, he has a secret weapon. Just as Batman has his utility belt and Sherlock Holmes has his hat (I assume that's where his genius comes from), Estrada has his changeup. Less a pitch and more a 77-mph bowling ball that flummoxes hitters, the hurler used it to great effect to defeat the Rangers, 10-1, in Game 1 of the ALDS.
Estrada went 8 1/3 innings, gave up only four hits and struck out six batters thanks to the time-slowing abilities of his change of pace. He tossed it 33 times, got 21 swings and got eight whiffs.
Want an example? Well, open your eyes and prepare for changeup glory, like when Jonathan Lucroy could do nothing against this pitch that perfectly hugged the edges of the strike zone:
Seriously, just look at this location:
Shin-Soo Choo could do nothing on this one in the bottom of the sixth, and the Blue Jays were even able to catch Elvis Andrus stealing thanks to Russell Martin's great throw.
For what it's worth, Estrada's pitch was 78 mph. Martin's throw: a Statcast-measured 81.1 mph.
The next batter, Carlos Gomez, had no chance. He whiffed off the change twice in one at-bat:
Even when batters were able to get a piece of the pitch, they could do nothing with it.
Estrada's fastball may not leave a trail of fire behind it, but thanks to his great equalizer, he can decimate a lineup just the same.
Tune in for Game 2 on TBS/Sportsnet at 1 p.m. ET on Friday.