Daniel Mengden has bested the Red Sox twice this season. On April 22nd, the Oakland A’s right-hander was credited with a win after allowing the visiting Boston squad a lone run over 6.1 innings. This past Tuesday, he got another W while giving up a pair of runs, one of them unearned, over six equally effective innings at Fenway Park. In the combined outings, Mengden fanned eight, walked none, and surrendered just three extra-base bits, only one of which left the yard.
On Wednesday, I asked the mustachioed 25-year-old about his attack plan versus four of the Boston batters he’s faced. Here is what he had to say.
Mengden on Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi: “Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi… when I faced [the Red Sox] in Oakland, I had a changeup-heavy game against them. My changeup was working really well that day. Moreland got me twice yesterday, once on a changeup. He also got me on a 1-2 curveball that I should have bounced. I left it up and he flipped it down the [right field] line. He’s one of those guys who I feel sits offspeed, and you have to be tricky with some of those guys.
“The game plan versus Moreland was to go hard in and soft away, kind of going back and forth and maybe mixing in a bounce curveball. If we were going to throw him a slider, it was going to be back foot. It wouldn’t be anything over the plate, kind of back into his bat path, because he’s kind of a lower bat path kind of guy.
“Benintendi, kind of same thing. We attacked him with a lot with changeups and hard in. Yesterday, I kind of gave him a two-seam that pulled a little bit, right into his bat path, and he launched it 440 feet to right field. He’s one of those tricky guys where you can get under his hands at times, but he and Moreland both have that down-and-up bat path down and in — that big hot zone down and in — and if you sink a slider or a fastball down and in, you have to make sure it’s a really good pitch. If not, they’re going to do some real damage to it.”
On Mookie Betts: “Mookie is different. And good. He covers the whole plate. He’s a tough guy to strike out, so I was excited and pumped to strike him out yesterday. But yeah, you try getting him hard away — hard away with fastballs and sliders.
“I threw him a good get-me-over curveball in his third at-bat — had to see one — and it was timely pitches in. We got ahead going away with heaters and expanded hard, white line in, brushing him off the plate. Then we went straight back away, brushed him off the plate, then straight back away. We really tried to keep him off balance. We tried to keep him uncomfortable, showing him the inside fastball to brush him back off the plate.”
On Rafael Devers: “A guy like Devers… I mean, he’s kind of weird. Being a young guy and a free-swinging guy, you’d think you’d be able to just sneak a couple of pitches by him at times. But you can throw a ball at his head and he’ll foul it off. You can throw… I threw him a curveball that was maybe a 56-footer and somehow and he fouled it off. He literally looked like he dug up dirt.
“A big-swinging guy like that who can cover a lot of the plate, you have to make him expand. Once I got one strike on him, I started trying to get him to nibble at stuff. I’d throw a sinker way off. I’d throw a changeup way off… [H]e chased and fouled it off. I wanted to let him get himself out, because he’s overaggressive, especially with guys on base. I think I did that really well, expanding the slider away, the slider down and in… and he would yank them foul.
“The first time I faced him [in Oakland], I struck him out twice on curveballs. I knew he knew that, so yesterday we said we were going to attack him with fastballs hard up, and then once we got ahead we were going to try to let him get himself out. I think he flew out to center field once. It was a good heater up and in, and he still got barrel to it and hit a line drive to center.
“His last at bat last night, when we got to two strikes I called [Jonathan] Lucroy back out and asked, ‘Hey, do you think curveball down would be good here, and right after that heater back up, hard on the hands?’ We did that. He fouled off the curveball — like I said, I don’t know how he did that — and then we went fastball hard up and in, and he popped up. We got him out.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.