Game 99, Mariners at Redsox
King Felix vs. John Lackey, 4:10 PDT.
After being swept aside by the 4th place team in the AL East, the M’s arrive in Boston to face a team with a wOBA of .354. The only Mariners with a wOBA that high are Dustin Ackley and Doug Fister.
As you all know, the M’s have lost 12 in a row, and I’m sure reactions to the streak differ from fan to fan. Jeff Sullivan says that losing 12 in a row has made each successive game more captivating – that a win wouldn’t just be a meaningless win in a lost season, it would feel like an accomplishment. Others may be secretly (or not so secretly) hoping that the streak continues; if the team isn’t going to win, the least it can do is lose grandly. While it might be hard for some to justify rooting against the Mariners, the line-ups they’ve trotted out must give even the die-hards pause. I’m not big on “true fan” debates; the pointless and often heated arguments wherein one group of baseball fans spews venom on another for enjoying the game in all the wrong ways. If you’re still here after the past two years, you’re a fan. If you think an epic losing streak is more likely to produce meaningful change in the future, great. If you want Felix to destroy and demoralize the Red Sox hitters because he’s Felix and they’re the Red Sox, yeah, that’d be nice too.
The M’s may find themselves in what’s going to have to pass as a decent match-up. No, I know, the Mariners are still playing, so I’m not going to push this too far, but the Red Sox are starting John Lackey, owner of a 4.71 FIP on the year and an RA near 7. Lackey’s fastball has gone from a solid pitch to a liability. He’s walking more lefties, and his walk rate against righties is a bit misleading: he’s already tied his career high in hit-by-pitches, with 9 of 12 coming against righties. That pushes his walk rate vs. righties from around 7.3% to 10.6%.
He’s using his slider more this year, and while it’s not as effective as it once was, it’s still been his best pitch in terms of generating whiffs. When the M’s faced him in late April, they ran out a lefty-heavy line-up, but he handled it fairly well, yielding 2 runs in 6 innings. In that contest, he threw a blizzard of curves to the M’s lefties, and while he gave up walks, that was about all he gave up. Of course, there’s not a lot whole lot to glean from a game in which Lackey faced Mike Saunders, Milton Bradley, Ryan Langerhans and Jack Wilson. Guys like Carp and Ackley can probably expect a steady diet of curves and change-ups, and the right handers will see quite a few sliders.
But if they can be patient, they’ll see Lackey’s fastball, which now has so little arm-side run that the Pitch FX algorithm classifies it as a cutter. Now, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but you’d think if he was intentionally throwing his FB this way he’d just, you know, stop. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Whatever you call it, the 90mph thing that he throws hasn’t been good, and the M’s (especially the lefties) need to jump on it. Justin Smoak, if you’re still in there somewhere, give me a sign. Blink twice if you can understand me.
7: Carp (LF)
8: Cust (DH)
9: Halman (CF)