Mets' Jannis continues to dominate AFL with knuckler
By Jonathan Mayo
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Scottsdale Scorpions couldn't manage much offense against the Mesa Solar Sox on Friday afternoon. Luckily for them, they had Mets right-hander Mickey Jannis, and his knuckleball, on the mound.
The 29-year-old's knuckler confounded Mesa, resulting in five shutout innings and a 3-0 Scorpions win, as former knuckleballer and Jannis mentor Tom Candiotti watched. Jannis only allowed one hit and a walk, striking out five in his gem.
Jannis has now allowed just one earned run over 17 innings of work this fall for a 0.53 ERA. He threw 66 pitches on Friday, 44 for strikes, setting a brisk pace that led to a 2:03 time of game.
"With any pitch, you have to be able to throw it for strikes, but even more with the knuckleball because of its unpredictability," Jannis said. "You need to have it in the strike zone, and you're pitching to contact. You're not really going for swings and misses. You're just trying to put the ball in play."
The contact Jannis did get was of the weak variety, with the Solar Sox lineup never figuring out how to time any of the right-hander's offerings. And Jannis said he wasn't even commanding the specialty pitch as well as he has at times this fall. That sometimes can lead to effectiveness.
"If I don't know where it's going, I guess they don't know where it's going, so it works out both ways," Jannis said. "Today, it was a little more difficult because it was moving a little more than normal. It was a little bit harder to keep it in control and throw it for strikes. I was able to mix some other pitches well and it worked out."
Jannis' fall performance is just a continuation of what he was doing at the end of the 2017 season. Pitching for Double-A Binghamton, he had a 2.36 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in seven second-half starts as he continues to get a better feel for the pitch.
"He's been doing what he's been doing every outing here so far and what he did at the end of the season," said Mets catcher Tomas Nido, who was behind the plate as his AFL teammate and caught him often in Binghamton. "Just pace himself, keep a good tempo and not try to do so much, just trust himself, stay behind the ball. The command has been there, and with his secondary pitches as well."
"I think it's just consistency," Jannis said. "With the pitch, you just need to throw it all the time. I was getting a feel for it and I was able to repeat mechanically. I had Tomas behind the plate calling great games for me. We just really work well together and it's carried over here. I've been able to stay consistent and keep throwing it for strikes."
Scottsdale pushed a run across in the bottom of the first inning, and it turned out to be the only one it needed to pull within a half-game of the Solar Sox in the East. Mets No. 11 prospect Luis Guillorme singled with one out and moved to third on a groundout from Nido. When Tigers outfielder Cam Gibson had trouble with the sun on Yankees No. 23 Billy McKinney's fly ball to left and it dropped, ruled as a hit, Guillorme was able to cross the plate.
The score stayed 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth. Angels No. 20 prospect Troy Montgomery picked up a one-out single and moved to second on a single off the bat of Yankees No. 17 Thairo Estrada. One out later and with runners on the corners, Reds third baseman Taylor Sparks singled in Montgomery to give the Scorpions a two-run edge. Sparks added another RBI single in the eighth.
Jannis was certainly dominant, but he wasn't alone. Cubs No. 20 prospect Alec Mills, who started for Mesa, gave up just the one dubious earned run and struck out four over four innings. Big Giants lefty D.J. Snelten came in for Scottsdale after Jannis and struck out three in two hitless innings of relief. Mets relievers Matt Pobereyko and Kyle Regnault finished off with a perfect inning apiece, with Regnault registering his first AFL save.