Game 74, Red Sox at Mariners
Hernandez vs Gabbard, 7:05 pm.
Happy Felix Day.
I’m going to be honest – this game scares me. Felix owned the Red Sox in his second start of the year, but his stuff hasn’t been the same since. His velocity is down, he’s not getting the same movement on his two-seam fastball or slider, and he hasn’t been able to keep his change-up consistently below the belt. Felix, with less than his best stuff, is most effective when the opposing hitters are willing to swing early in the count, chase pitches out of the zone, and generally focus on putting the ball in play.
That’s not the Red Sox. They have a line-up full of guys who will stare at strikes to get into deeper counts, lay off breaking balls out of the strike zone, and swing for the fences when they expect a fastball. If Felix doesn’t have better command than he usually does, he’s going to fall into a lot of three ball counts, which will let the Red Sox lefty hitters aim for the short porch in right field.
Jeff Weaver, for all the crap we’ve given him, put on a pitch selection clinic last night, throwing curveballs, change-ups, and sliders in almost any count, and mixing the off-speed pitches in with his fastball to keep the hitters off balance. We know from experience that Felix isn’t going to do that for the first 15-20 pitches, which will be overwhelmingly laden with fastballs. If he’s not peppering strikes in the first inning and getting easy groundball outs, it could get bad in a hurry.
As for the offense, Kason Gabbard isn’t anything special, but he’s another one of these guys with a below average fastball that gives the Mariners fits. He’s a lefty, and the M’s hit those better than most, but Hargrove continues to run out asinine line-ups, sticking Jose Vidro (.297/.329/.344 vs LHPs) in the 3-hole and Jose Guillen (.359/.438/.641 vs LHPs) in the 6-hole. For a guy who plays the L/R matchups by the book in making bullpen changes late in the game, Hargrove has no regard at all for platoon splits when setting a line-up, and his suboptimal positioning of the hitters costs the team runs. How hard is it to take the guy who destroys lefties and hit him higher in the order against southpaws, while taking the guy who leads the team in sac bunts and double plays out of the middle of the line-up? Even nine-year-olds with their Playstations have a better understanding of line-up construction than the Mariner manager.
But, I’m going to try not to think about Mike Hargrove, because after all, it’s Felix Day. Here’s to a happy one.