Game 94, Mariners at Royals
Felix Hernandez vs. Will Smith, 11:10am
Happy Felix Day! The temperature’s supposed to hit 108 today in Kansas City, so I’m hoping our illustrious king’s well hydrated. The M’s are looking for a 3-1 series win, which isn’t exactly a playoff berth, but it’s the kind of meager little prize that’s within the 2012 team’s grasp. So grasp it, guys.
Opposing the M’s is another of Kansas City’s young hurlers, lefty Will Smith. Pitching, and left-handed pitching in particular, was a strength of their system in recent years. Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer – they had projectable lefty starters coming out of their ears. So why have the M’s faced Ryan Verdugo and Will Smith? Because the Royals have struggled to develop these talented pitchers, and they’ve struggled to keep them healthy. M’s fans have been through this, but the Royals have lost Lamb and Duffy to Tommy John surgery, while Dwyer and Montgomery have faltered badly in the high minors. Thus, it’s been up to guys who they’ve acquired in trade – like Verdugo (Giants) and Smith (Angels) to fill in, at least temporarily.
Smith has a 91-92 mph fastball and a slider-curve-slurve breaking ball group around 78-80mph. It’s not a bad pitch, especially against lefties, but he’s not a strike-out pitcher – he’s more of a Bruce Chen type: a guy who’ll get a few K’s, but is otherwise content to pitch to fly-ball contact. Like Chen, Smith doesn’t walk too many, though his very small-sample MLB stats show he may not be able to maintain his solid MiLB walk rates. In any event, this would be the time to load up on right-handed hitters, which…Jaso, huh? This’d be a perfect day for an Ichiro day-off, though I understand the Gutierrez injury makes that tough. In the minors from 2011-12, Smith had a K/9 of 8.55 against lefties with a BB/9 of only 1.67. Against righties? 5.47 and 2.79.
In another sign that the M’s battering Royals pitching has officially driven the Royals crazy, the team signed retired catcher Jason Kendall to a minor league contract, and he’ll report to AA and play tomorrow. The Rainiers drove Ryan Divish crazy last night by playing an 18 inning game, that ended on a walk-off HR from Scott Savastano. The winning pitcher? Scott Savastano. Divish’s laments at his luck in covering the game eventually became more intriguing than the game itself, at least until he reached his daily tweet limit (I had no idea such things existed). Obscured by the bad at-bats and decent relief work by both teams was the very good start by Danny Hultzen. He went 6 innings, giving up 1 run on a HR, and walked 2. He threw a wild pitch with a runner on 3rd, but catcher Brandon Bantz threw out the runner at the plate – apparently Danny Hultzen blocked the plate expertly, which, you know, good for you, but please don’t do that again. Dan Straily’s dominant start was spoiled when he was left in one batter too long – Darren Ford doubled to lead off the 9th and later scored on a sac-fly to send the game into extras.
Victor Sanchez and reliever Grady Wood, both of whom had been excellent up until yesterday, got blasted in last night’s loss to Salem-Keizer. Disappointing. Wander Marte lost for Pulaski, but I’m pleased to announced the Clinton Lumberkings defeated Stalin (Gerson) last night 4-1. All eyes are on the Arizona League today as Cubs prospect Jorge Soler (a Cuban defector who drew a big, but not quite Cespedes-sized bonus) makes his US debut against the AZL Mariners. Hector Noesi starts for Tacoma as the Rainiers try to keep within 9 innings. They’ve gone 13 and 18 in back-to-back nights. Forrest Snow starts for Jackson today.
4: Montero (DH)
7: Jaso (C)
SP: King Felix