But that’s not the only reason the Toronto Blue Jays’ starter stood out.
If you saw Thornton’s five innings, you also likely noticed his wind-up. With a leg kick like his, it’s hard not to.
“I’ve heard it’s extremely unorthodox and funky, looks like I’ve got a noodle arm and all that stuff,” Thornton said with a laugh when asked about his unique pitching motion on The Jeff Blair Show Monday morning.
The 25-year-old Pittsburgh native said he’s been throwing that way his whole life.
“I’ve honestly done that ever since I was a kid. I know my arm motion is a little weird. I grew up and I loved watching Dontrelle Willis and clips of Nolan Ryan and guys with bigger leg kicks and funky arm motions. I found out at a young age it just kind of worked for me. I’m able to repeat my delivery enough to where it’s effective.”
It was certainly effective on Sunday. Not only did his eight-strike outing write his name into the Blue Jays’ record books, it also pushed the club to 24 consecutive scoreless innings from Blue Jays starters (Marcus Stroman threw seven on Opening Day, Matt Shoemaker did the same in Game 2, and Aaron Sanchez kept the streak alive in the third game with five). That foursome now holds the longest such streak since the Atlanta Braves’ 25 scoreless innings in 1994.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 31, 2019
As you might imagine, Thornton’s mechanics have led to a few bloopers on the mound.
“When I was in high-A with the Houston Astros, I was playing out in Lancaster, California and it’s super, super windy there. There were a couple of times that I actually fell of the mound, the wind blew me over,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, I might need to change my delivery here.'”
That didn’t last long, however.
“I kind of went to a conventional leg lift and that screwed up all my timing, my rhythm, my tempo,” he said. “So I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to go back to what’s gotten me to this point,’ and since then, I haven’t turned around the other way. It’s just kind of been something that’s always worked for me.”
All told, Thornton allowed just two hits on 75 pitches through five innings against the Tigers, giving up zero runs with no errors. Despite his performance, Toronto couldn’t come away with the win and split the four-game series. The club begins a new series Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles.