Game 160, Athletics at Mariners
King Felix vs. Bartolo Colon, 7:10pm
Ah yes, the final series against the A’s in a lost season. I know thee well. The classic of the genre, a tragedy, naturally, occurred in 2008, when the M’s came in to the final series at 58-101 and proceeded to sweep the hapless A’s and rise from 30th to 29th in baseball, thereby missing out on first pick in the 2009 draft – Stephen Strasburg. Yes, Strasburg’s been injured, and the M’s have been intermittently pleased with Dustin Ackley, but the whole thing was seen by many as perhaps the most Mariners thing ever – they lost 101 games, but in the end, they couldn’t even lose effectively, and in doing so lost out on a generational talent.
Tonight’s match-up is one of those completely incongruous Cy Young battles. Felix has the edge in WAR (behind Max Scherzer who, let’s be clear, is going to win), while Colon’s got the edge in ERA and the whole going-to-the-playoffs thing. I’ve mentioned so many times that the A’s are one of the strangest good teams in recent memory, and it all begins with their portly ace, Bartolo Colon. He came out of retirement or rehab or whatever the hell he was doing in 2010 to post a surprisingly decent 2011 with the Yankees. That’s all well and good, but you’d have had a hard time convincing anyone at that time that the A’s signing him to a free agent deal in 2012 was one of the most important deals of the off-season. With Oakland, he refined the approach he’d shown with the Yankees – gone were the big fastball and hard slider. In their place was, by and large, well-located fastballs. That’s….that’s it.
Like many, I saw Colon as a classic regression candidate. Not only was he 40 years old without much in the way of offspeed pitches, he’d been suspended for PEDs, which made his success seem tainted. Instead, he’s returned this year to post even better numbers. He’s throwing a few more (softer) sliders this year, but he’s fundamentally a four- and two-seam fastball guy who pitches to weak contact. None of this seems sustainable, particularly if you’re watching the 40-year bowling ball putting this approach into practice. But here we are, with the A’s as two-time defending AL West champs, and with Colon racking up nearly 6.5 fWAR in two abbreviated seasons.
(Since that final series in 2008, the A’s have won 418 ball games. The M’s have won 358.)
1: Miller, SS
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Saunders, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: Franklin, 2B
SP: King Felix