Before Buster Posey caught Matt Moore for the first time in a game last Saturday, the Giants’ catcher asked the recently acquired left-hander if he had thrown a cut fastball in his career.
Moore had experimented with a cutter for part of last season. But he scrapped it and had not thrown the pitch this season. Still, when he and Posey played catch before Moore’s start against the New York Mets, Moore threw some cutters to give Posey a look at the movement.
“He was like, ‘So what are you going to do if I put down a three?’ ” Moore said, referring to the sign for a cutter. “And I said, ‘I guess I’m going to throw it.’ ”
Moore threw only a handful of cutters in that start against the Mets. But Thursday night, he used it often and effectively while taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning of a 4-0 win over the Dodgers. Moore fell an out short of the no-hitter when Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager hit a soft single into right field, and the pitcher settled for his first win in a Giants uniform.
The cutter gives Moore a fourth pitch and another, along with his changeup, that mimics his fastball before exhibiting late movement. Of the career-high 133 pitches Moore threw Thursday night, 29 were cutters, according to Brooks Baseball, which gauged his use of the pitch as virtually equal to his curveball (28) and changeup (25).
“I think it was as much of a difference maker as my changeup,” Moore said Friday. “Having a changeup last night contributed to the success of my fastball and being able to pitch off the fastball, which is how I need to pitch to have consistent success.”
Moore said he tinkered with a cutter while coming back from Tommy John surgery last year but decided that was a bad time to introduce a new pitch. He did not revisit it until urged by Posey, who said Friday he “felt like it would be an effective pitch (for Moore) just by catching it.”
Asked why he felt that way, Posey said, “Because it was good.”
“It’s another pitch they have to think about, and he’s got a good one,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It became a very effective pitch for him last night.”
Moore credited Posey with giving him the confidence to throw the cutter and Madison Bumgarner with giving him tips about the grip. Moore said he recorded a few outs with it Thursday night, including Adrian Gonzalez grounding out on a pitch he hit toward the end of his bat – the result of the cutter’s movement away from left-handed hitters.
“Heading into the game, I had a lot of confidence in that pitch particularly,” Moore said. “Just adding one more pitch really does open up some things.”
Thursday night was special, Moore said, and not just because of the near-historic result. Before Seager’s single, Moore had allowed just three baserunners on walks. Aside from two drives to the outfield gaps that required dazzling catches by Denard Span, Moore did not allow much hard contact while pitching into the ninth inning for the first time since 2013.
The 133 pitches were 19 more than Moore had thrown in a game since his surgery. Both he and Bochy, though, said they do not anticipate that being an issue. Moore said he could shorten his routine between starts and bullpen session, if needed. He also will have an extra day before his next start due to the Giants’ day off Monday.
“Yesterday there were just things that were available to us that aren’t going to be there every night,” Moore said. “I think most starting pitchers will agree that maybe a third of the games you throw in, you’re going to have all your stuff working like you’d like to.”
That did not, however, leave Moore feeling he’d missed an opportunity at history. As he had Thursday night, Moore prioritized the Giants’ win, which allowed them to avoid a sweep in Los Angeles and pull within two games behind the Dodgers in the division, over the near-no-hitter. Others said it was likely the most important win of the year.
“It was really just a big lift for everybody,” said right fielder Hunter Pence.
Moore, who won for the first time in five starts since the Giants traded fan favorite Matt Duffy to the Rays for him, was asked why he wasn’t more disappointed about losing the no-hitter.
“I didn’t want to steal the moment from a win heading out of town by trying to be upset about it,” Moore said. “I thought it was one of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched in. Just being new to the atmosphere – Giants-Dodgers – in the middle of a race right now, all those variables going into it, I think it’s one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.”