Game Ten Recap
Jason Vargas is no longer wearing a hat, because it has officially been thrown into the leave-me-in-the-rotation-even-after-Lee-returns ring. Like Fister last night, he pounded the strike zone with mediocre stuff, but changed speeds and hit spots well enough to keep the A’s off balance. Unlike Fister, he actually missed bats, racking up another six strikeouts, giving him 11 in 11 1/3 innings pitched in his first two starts. He won’t keep that up, but his change-up is a plus pitch and he moves his fastball around well, so he has the ability to get a swinging strike when he needs one. I know Fister pitched well last night, but I’d rather have Vargas in the rotation after Cliff Lee returns, for various reasons that we’ll discuss in a future post.
The offense is showing signs of life, which was both inevitable and still nice to see. Figgins is swinging the bat well and still drawing walks, so once Ichiro comes around, there will be plenty of RBI opportunities for the 3-4-5 hitters. Gutierrez continues to make a strong case for one of those spots, and Bradley’s swinging the bat well enough that he should be back in the cleanup spot in no time. The bottom of this line-up is really poor, no doubt, but the top of the order is coming into focus.
While the hitting was better, the baserunning was atrocious. I think we’re all beyond being surprised when Lopez makes a mental mistake, but Bradley getting caught between third and home on Moore’s infield single was rough. This offense isn’t good enough to afford to give up outs, and the Mariners made three running the bases tonight. We’ve seen too many outs made from guys on base so far this year. While I know that the idea of being aggressive is appealing, the chance at advancing an extra base is generally not worth giving up an out, so the Mariners will simply have to be smarter on the bases the rest of the year.
The M’s saw the Brandon League they traded for tonight, as he just owned the A’s hitters in the 7th inning. That two seam fastball with tailing action in on right-handers, coming in at 94-96 MPH, is just ridiculous. When he’s throwing it near the strike zone, he’s going to be nearly impossible to hit. The pitch has so much horizontal movement that it almost breaks the pitch f/x charts. Given how Brandon Morrow’s season is going up in Toronto so far, I doubt the M’s are having too many second thoughts about that deal.
One of the problems with this roster reared its head in the 5th inning today. Right now, Tui is both the only backup infielder on the team and Casey Kotchman’s pseudo-platoon partner, so when he starts at first base, you can’t really pinch hit for him, no matter what the situation is. In the 5th inning, he came up with the bases loaded after the team had chased the lefty starter from the game, so he had to face Chad Gaudin, who is death to RHBs. Sending Kotchman or Griffey up to take advantage of Gaudin’s huge splits was out, however, because otherwise the team would have had to play the rest of the game without any backups for Lopez, Wilson, or Figgins. These are the effects of having a 12 man pitching staff and two designated hitters on the bench.
But, overall, a nice win heading into an off-day. Felix goes on Friday, so the M’s have a pretty decent shot at a three game winning streak, and may be playing to get back to .500 on Saturday.