Game 65, Astros at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Dallas Keuchel, 7:10pm
In his last start, Hisashi Iwakuma went 8 scoreless innings with 5 Ks and no walks, yielding just three hits. The M’s scored zero runs, and lost in (a lot of) extra innings. Yesterday, King Felix went 7 innings, giving up one run and five hits while striking out seven. The M’s scored one run and lost in the 9th, 2-1. The M’s aren’t built to overcome poor starts by the back of their rotation. They can hang in games occasionally, and the Astros pitching staff pretty much precludes the M’s from being out of any of these games, but fundamentally, the hope is that they wouldn’t need many wins from Harang/Saunders/whoever. With Felix and Iwakuma pitching brilliantly, the team could get wins in close to 40% of its starts and hang around until reinforcements came. The M’s are 7-8 in Felix’s 15 starts thus far, as a weak offense, some untimely bullpen problems and just a bad start or two have prevented the M’s from taking advantage of their ace.
That’s what makes it so stunning that the M’s have won NINE of Iwakuma’s 13 starts. He’s not been the recipient of a ton of run support, as his last start makes clear. He’s given up zero earned runs in four starts this year and has been credited with a win once.* The point isn’t that he needs the will to win, or that he’s able to pitch to the score, it’s that he’s on an absolutely unreal tear right now. Felix has put up the best stat line in his career so far, and Iwakuma has just about matched it, pitch for pitch. The FIP gap looks so large because of Iwakuma’s penchant for (solo) HRs, and that’s a longstanding issue, but the drop in his walk rate has made it a minor one.
In 2010, we M’s fans got to watch a ton of absolutely atrocious baseball. But we also got to see King Felix take his game to a new level pitching alongside Cliff Lee** if only for half the year. Lee and Felix put up over 9fWAR and 10 fielding-dependent WAR that year. Iwakuma and Felix are at 4.8fWAR and 6.4 fielding-dependent WAR right now, with more than half the season to go. That season felt like an absolute kick in the stomach, and in many ways the M’s have been flailing around trying to ‘un-do’ the damage that season did, but at least we get to watch something like the old Felix/Cliff Lee rotation again. I’m pretty sick of the atrocious baseball though. Here’s hoping the next front office is able to build something around Felix, and that Iwakuma fends off injuries and aging the way he dispatches good left-handed opponents.
Dallas Keuchel sounds like a regional dessert of some sort***, but he’s actually a lefty starting pitcher. If you saw Matthew’s preview, you may have seen that he’s able to get a decent number of whiffs with his change-up. That’s true, but the problem with the pitch is literally everything else. Batters have hit it hard, and righties have been able to hit for power against it. His fastballs are nothing special either. He throws a slider/cutter and curve as well, which have generated a bit better results, though this is probably due to the fact he throws more of them against same-handed hitters. What Keuchel does well is keep the ball on the ground. His sinker is a GB machine, and his breaking balls get grounders too. This is a good match-up for M’s righties, though I should point out that the M’s have seemed to struggle against ground-ball pitchers this year, as we saw the last time these two teams played. The M’s have fared best against pitchers with low GB%, and worst against those with very high GB%, so I guess it’s good the M’s will miss Lucas Harrell. This was a non-ironic comment about the Astros pitching staff. Man, this team could use better hitters.
1: Bay, RF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Morales, 1B
4: Morse, DH
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Shoppach, C
7: Chavez, CF
8: Ryan, SS
9: Triunfel, 2B
Mariners. Astros. No Nick Franklin, No problem. Tune in tonight at….awww, come back!
The biggest story in the minors today is the return to game action for LHP Anthony Vasquez, who needed emergency brain surgery in late 2012 after a blood vessel in his brain burst. He’s pitching for Clinton tonight.
Tacoma heads to Las Vegas to take on the 51s some more. Hector Noesi in a park that greatly helps hitters. What could go wrong?
AA Jackson is playing two tonight in Chattanooga; Chance Ruffin starts game 2.
Dustin Ackley’s doing well in Tacoma, with a park-adjusted wOBA of .495 in a tiny sample. Houston’s wayward prospect, Brett Wallace, is also faring well in the minors. The guy who started 2013 1-24 with *17* strikeouts is hitting .302/.381/.523 for Oklahoma City. The PCL is a hell of a drug.
* There’s a sentence you never thought you’d read here.
** Not actually alongside him. That wouldn’t work, and would be a total waste. It’s a metaphor, though not a very good one.
*** “…the Keuchel was invented by German immigrants in 1885, who decided that even a sweet dessert pastry should have an abundance of grilled meat on it, and…”