Game 12: Rangers at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Yu Darvish, 7:10pm
Deep breath. Dave’s post below adds some sobering numbers to the ill omens so many of us have already seen. The team has plenty of time to stop producing said omens and start cranking out good ones, but this is a team with a hobbled offense and that’s going into the next 9 games with a good pitching match-up maybe once or twice. Hisashi Iwakuma’s been very good so far, but you can’t give him a true-talent edge tonight. So the M’s need to forget about true talent and steal some wins the way Houston did, and the way the White Sox (behind Dylan Axelrod) and the Rangers (behind Justin Grimm/Joe Ortiz) did.
It’s not completely crazy. As we’ve talked about here before, Yu Darvish has been pretty mediocre in his four starts against Seattle. For whatever reason, he’s allowed a higher OPS to the M’s than any other team he’s faced more than once. He had stunning command lapses both in his first home start and then last summer at the USSM/LL meet-up game; while he’s not exactly been a control pitcher to the rest of the league, he’s nibbled more against the hapless M’s offense last year than any other team. Maybe that irrational and small-sample oddity will continue! Ho boy, that would really be helpful. Darvish already has my favorite pitch fx page, with 8 distinct pitches, and an average velo spread between his FB and his slow curve of 24mph. Everything he throws has crazy movement, and he throws essentially everything. This might be a time to wait and watch a few pitches and hope several of them slide out of the zone. He really struggled in Safeco, just as he struggled in his one game in Oakland. Maybe he just really hates the cold? All of this is extrapolation based on miniscule samples, but remember: if we’re throwing out true-talent, we can’t get caught up in sample size or logical argument.
On the other side, Hisashi Iwakuma’s been struggling with a finger issue that’s hampered his ability to grip his splitter, far and away his best pitch. While it’s not exactly clear what pitch he grooved to Adam Dunn last go-round in Chicago, he’s got to keep the ball out of the center of the zone. It’s going to be interesting to see the movement on his splitter tonight, and it’s an important pitch for a guy looking to limit home runs. So far, there’ve been 15 HRs hit in the four games in Safeco this year, and a hobbled Iwakuma’s not the kind of pitcher who’s going to hold the Rangers homerless.
With a tough right-hander on the mound and injuries to Morse and Saunders, the M’s line-up is not going to strike fear in the Rangers’ hearts. We’ve wondered if we’d see an OF with Morse, Ibanez and Bay, but while that would be GIFable, it might also hit a dinger or something. Tonight’s OF is Ibanez, Endy Chavez, and Bay, and there’s really nothing to say about that. I understand why Wedge has deployed these players in these positions, and he doesn’t have a whole lot of choice, but the M’s are facing Yu Darvish, at home, with a starting pitcher who may not be 100%, and it *kind of makes sense* to start Ibanez/Chavez/Bay in the outfield. That’s why the M’s are in trouble in the short term. But if you’re going to steal a win, *steal* one. Make it hurt. The M’s felt like crap after dropping a series to the Rangers, and the M’s have the ability to do something similar to Texas tonight in their feeble, grizzled hands.
1: Chavez, CF
2: Bay, RF
3: Morales, DH
4: Ibanez, LF
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Shoppach, C
8: Ackley, 2B
9: Ryan, SS
Or, you know, check out the Rainiers home opener tonight at Cheney Stadium. Due to a combination of work and family commitments, I’ll be missing my first home opener in several years, which sucks – I make games started by Chaz Roe or Luke French, but I have to miss James Paxton pitching to Mike Zunino. But you don’t! I’m going to try and watch it, so if you’d like updates via milb.tv, follow me on twitter. If you’d like some updates from people at the game, check out Jason Churchill (@prospectinsider) and/or Mike Schwartze (@Mike_Schwartze). I’ll be there this weekend, but I’m not happy to miss Paxton tonight. If Paxton’s velo and stuff rebounds from where it was in Arizona in March, that really helps change the picture on the M’s rotation depth, especially with Erasmo Ramirez still ailing.
Jackson’s playing a double-header tonight, though they’re down early in game 1. Hector Noesi goes in game 2; hopefully he sees a repeat of his very encouraging first start. Clinton’s double-header today was rained out again. Send dry thoughts to the midwest; hopefully they can start their home season soon.