Pitchers don’t like to talk about scoreless innings streaks — they’re kind of like no-hitters that way.
So when a pitcher who was competing for a spot in the rotation in Spring Training finds himself more than halfway to the team record, it’s understandable if he doesn’t have a lot to say.
But Erick Fedde told reporters after allowing just two hits in seven shutout innings against the New York Mets that he’s gaining confidence with every pitch in a season when he’s made the most of an opportunity to pitch regularly.
“Confidence is key going into every start, so probably starting with that, but it’s a lot easier to be confident and move well and have fun when things are going your way,” Fedde told reporters. “Every time I step out there I have to tell myself I belong here, I need to pitch with aggression and think I’m better than whoever steps into that box.”
But the consistency that often eluded the 28-year-old right-hander for the first four seasons of his big-league career seems to be with him this season, at least in his last three starts, in which he’s 2-0 with an ERA of 0.00 in 19 innings.
Add in a scoreless fifth inning of his May 11 start against Philadelphia, and Fedde has tossed 20 straight innings without allowing a run to cross the plate.
The Nationals’ team record is Stephen Strasburg’s 35-inning scoreless streak in 2017.
Friday against the Mets, Fedde and catcher Yan Gomes worked around four walks, with Fedde striking out six batters and getting key ground ball outs and Gomes throwing out two runners trying to steal.
Manager Davey Martinez told reporters he can see his young hurler’s faith in himself growing as gets ahead in counts.
“He’s got some confidence right now, he really does,” siad Martinez. “He’s throwing all of his pitches really well, locating really well, a lot of time, if you notice, he’s going 0-2, 1-2, and he’s trying to make that really nasty pitch. All he’s got to do is continue throwing the ball the way he’s throwing when he’s 0-2, and he’s going to get outs.”
What make’s Fedde’s streak even more remarkable is that it was interrupted early on when he tested positive for COVID following his since May 16th start in Arizona.
After holding the D-backs to three hits and two walks in seven scoreless innings, the Nats’ 2014 1st round pick tested positive when the team arrived at its next stop in Chicago, and he spent 14 days in quarantine under COVID protocols.
“Luckily I was able to continue to just throw and work on things this last month or so, and you have to find ways to work out and stay in shape,” Fedde said.
“These 20 innings are something that I’m really happy with and want to continue on.”
Another impressive part of this run for Fedde has been his stamina. He had rarely worked past the fifth in starts prior to this season, but has gone seven in two of his past three starts.
He had no trouble after the fifth, when Gomes erased the threat from the second single of the night off Fedde, catching Luis Guillorme in a steal attempt.
So Martinez had no problem sending him out to face dangerous left-handed hitters in the seventh.
Fedde got himself into a jam with a leadoff walk to Pete Alonso, and after a flyout and a fielder’s choice, Martinez had him walk lefty Guillorme to face righty Tomás Nido, who grounded out to third.
“He kept on throwing the ball really good, I mean, he was throwing the ball at 95,” said Martinez.
“And I told (pitching coach Jim) Hickey, ‘I’m going to let him go,’ you know, and I decided to walk Guillermo to get to Nido in the situation, with first base open, and he got a big ground ball for us and got us out of the inning.”
Fedde says he’s glad he can contribute in a season when top pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg have both missed starts.
“A lot of my career has been being called up for somebody being down,” Fedde said.
“I think this is the first time I can really say I feel like I fulfilled that role, so for me that’s — part of self-accomplishment, something I’m happy with.”