Game 27, Angels at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Jason Vargas, 1:10pm
Is this the day that the M’s take their first series of the year? That’d be nice, as the M’s would leapfrog the Angels and into the largely irrelevant but schadenfreudelicious 3rd place in the AL West. As angst-filled and angry as the first few weeks of the season has been for M’s fans, it’s got to be worse for the Angels – a club who acquired the top free agent hitter for the second year in a row, and fancied themselves World Series contenders heading into 2013. So far, it’s been ugly for the Halos, as Josh Hamilton’s struggled, and the pitchers they brought in to replace Ervin Santana and Dan Haren have been even worse. (Meanwhile, Santana’s been excellent for Kansas City).
Today’s Angels starter is old friend Jason Vargas, whom we all know pretty well – he’s a fly-baller, throwing a fastball, slider/cutter and, most famously, a change-up. Like every other pitcher on the Angels, he’s gotten off to a poor start, but he’s always pitched well at Safeco field. And hell, if you get largely shut down by 2013-model Joe Blanton, it obviously doesn’t matter how well/poorly a pitcher’s last few games have gone.
Hisashi Iwakuma’s platoon splits have always looked a bit odd thanks to his change-up like splitter. Over his brief MLB career, he’s given up more HRs to right-handers, but it’s not as severe as, say, Steve Delabar. Instead, Iwakuma’s problem has traditionally come on fastballs, where he tried to sneak in a 90mph FB to get ahead in the count. His four-seamer’s been the most frequently victimized, and as he throws more of them to righties, he’s given up more HRs to them. His slider should help against righties, but it remains his weakest offering. That said, his splitter remains an equal-opportunity weapon, and been effective as long as Iwakuma’s fingers allow him to throw it. I’ve been worried about his short starts leaving too much work for the bullpen, but it hasn’t been too much of a problem so far, as he’s been more efficient than he was in 2012, and in any event the bullpen’s been solid behind him.
1: Chavez, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Morales, 1B
4: Morse, RF
5: Shoppach, C
6: Montero, DH
7: Ackley, 2B
8: Bay, LF
9: Andino, SS
I love giving Smoak a day off and getting Montero a few more at-bats as the DH. Good spot for Jason Bay too, I suppose.
Michael Saunders is starting for Tacoma in CF in preparation for his return to the M’s tomorrow.