With plenty of uncertainties going on when it comes to sports, one thing did become official, Tullahoma native Justus Sheffield recorded his first major league win Sunday afternoon.
Sheffield, a 2014 Tullahoma High School graduate, notched the victory in the Seattle Mariners’ 5-3 home win over the Colorado Rockies. The left-handed pitcher tossed six innings of shutout baseball, allowing just four hits and struck out seven batters.
“It means everything,” Sheffield told reporters on a Zoom press conference following Sunday’s ballgame. “It means the world, honestly. Not only for myself, but to come out and finish this series with a win before we get on the flight, is always great. I’m definitely happy and excited about that.”
Sunday’s win also allowed the Mariners to avoid getting swept by the Rockies, who lead the National League West with an 11-4 record.
“It was an awesome performance by Sheff,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters. “Really fun to watch. He’s a young guy and we’ve seen some outings like that leading into this in Spring Training and Summer Camp. But to see him perform on the main stage here was awesome to see. He was in total command all six innings he was out there. The future is very bright for him.”
Sunday’s start came after a pair of rough outings for Sheffield. In his first two games of the season, the former Wildcat had gone 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA. Sheffield was a combined 0-3 record with a 6.18 ERA in 10 appearances for Seattle dating back to last year.
In Sunday’s win, Sheffield avoided walks, something that he struggled with in his first two starts. In his first two outings of 2020, Sheffield had allowed a combined six bases on balls.
However, in the victory, Sheffield was able to get ahead of hitters and had command of his secondary pitches. Six of Sheffield’s seven strikeouts came off his slider.
“It’s a wipe-out pitch, a pitch that as he continues to get comfortable with, he’s able to land it for strikes, take it down and into the righties,” Servais said. “His pitch usage and what he’s doing is a little different. He’s really gone primarily to the two-seam fastball, living in the bottom of the strike zone. In today’s game, a lot of people want to ride the ball up at the top of the zone. But it’s got to be your strength. We’ve found Sheff’s strength is at the bottom of the zone, working the two-seamer and the slider and then some really good changeups in there today as well.”
That strategy to attack with the slider worked against one of baseball’s most high-powered offenses.
“On his breaking ball, we just couldn’t get a handle on it,” Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters. “We don’t have a lot of history with him. We looked at a lot of video. We talked about his stuff. It was a little bit different than what he did last year and a little bit different approach. It looked like he was trying to have a running fastball, as opposed to a four-seam fastball with more velocity.”
Sheffield (1-2) will look to build on Sunday’s win and will get the nod this coming Sunday when Seattle heads to Houston to face the Astros. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.