Melancon continues to baffle opposing hitters
Two years ago in Boston, Mark Melancon had so much trouble keeping the ball in the park that he was shipped to Triple-A Pawtucket following a disastrous three-homer appearance against the Texas Rangers. Melancon coughed up 1.6 home runs per nine innings pitched during his lone season with the Red Sox, getting mauled for a 6.20 ERA. But these days, you've got a better chance of spotting Jaws in the Allegheny River than taking the Shark Tank's set-up man deep.
Melancon has not surrendered a home run since April 14, 2013, when Cincinnati's Joey Votto drove one of Melancon's patented cutters into PNC Park's center field stands. His run of 65 consecutive homerless innings pitched is the longest current streak in the majors, easily surpassing A.J. Ramos (52.2 innings pitched), Fernando Rodney (49.1), Steve Cishek (47.2) and Joe Nathan (46.1).
Votto's shot aside, Melancon's cutter is the key to his long-ball turnaround. He increased his use of the pitch from 26.3 percent in Boston to 56.1 percent with the Bucs, according to Fangraphs. The bat-breaking, low-90s offering helped boost his ground ball rate from 50 percent in 2012 to 60.3 percent last year.
While Melancon is the game's current king of homer prevention, he'll have to avoid the cheap seats well into this season to touch the streaks put together by relief ace Kent Tekulve, who holds three of the five longest homerless stretches in Pirates history during the Expansion Era (1961-present).
HR-less Pitcher Years streak
Kent Tekulve 1979-80 111.2
Dave Giusti 1974-75 99.0
Kent Tekulve 1983-84 85.1
Kent Tekulve 1975-76 85.0
Ramon Hernandez 1974-76 83.2