Game 29, Mariners at Astros

marc w · May 4, 2014 at 10:41 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Brandon Maurer vs. Collin McHugh, 11:10am

At least this series has been interesting. The back-to-back bullpen collapses yesterday turned a pitchers duel into a laugher into a nail-biting save situation, but all’s well that ends in archery practice.

Collin McHugh made his Astros debut 10 days ago, during the M’s long losing streak. A journeyman who’d knocked around the minors, racking up the miles on his old Toyota Corolla, he’d signed with the Astros and pitched terribly in Spring Training. So he headed to Oklahoma City and pitched unremarkably there. There’s a reason no one anticipated McHugh: he looked like the very definition of a replacement level player. Beyond the generic repertoire, he’d been knocked around a bit by a few of the M’s in that game’s line-up. Last April, McHugh started for Las Vegas, the Mets AAA affiliate, against Tacoma. He faced Michael Saunders and Mike Zunino that day in 2013 – Saunders led off with a booming triple, and Zunino singled and walked (!). So of course McHugh went out and dominated, striking out 12 in 6 2/3 IP. He then backed it up by shutting down the A’s – nearly managing a shutout, but giving up a run in the 9th on a HBP, catcher’s indifference, and a single. He’s pitched back to back games with game scores of 80, a mark Felix hasn’t touched this year.

It’s a great story, and the fact that McHugh managed a second great start separates him a bit from the legions of Doug Waechters who can only do it once, and only against the M’s. It’s a small sample and while it’s changed his projections *some* it hasn’t completely overwritten them. It’s not like he was struggling in the minors years ago…it was last month. No one saw this coming, probably not even McHugh (I’m looking forward to the blog post he’ll write about it). It’s the sort of thing that defies probabilities, and thus much of sabermetrics. It defies scouting, too. If the Astros saw that he’d changed something or picked up an unhittable new pitch, it probably wouldn’t have taken an injury to bring him up. We think of genius as an attribute, like brown eyes or right-handedness. It can be honed and developed or it can be ignored and make a sudden appearance later, maybe on accident. But McHugh’s a case story in another kind of genius – genius as free-floating, itinerant wanderer, alighting on people seemingly at random. Sometimes it stays for years, sometimes its gone within hours. I don’t want to go too far with this, as it’s not like McHugh had no talent or anything. His MLB debut was excellent, after all. But this run is one of the more unlikely, unforecastable things I’ve seen in a while, maybe since Danny Farquhar turned into a hard-throwing, excellent reliever. There’s basically nothing in the pitch fx data to pick out (though Mark Simon notes he’s leading batters off with breaking balls/change-ups much more than he used to), and, as I’ve noted, nothing in his minor league record. Nothing’s different except the results, only that implies luck or something. McHugh just turned really, really good. How long he stays awesome is impossible to know.

Brandon Maurer could use some of that random, unaligned, unaffiliated genius.

1: Saunders, CF
2: Bloomquist, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Romero, RF
8: Ackley, LF
9: Buck, C
SP: Maurer


Tacoma’s got a double-header today after last night’s torrential rains. Mark Rogers starts game 1 and Andrew Carraway gets the call for the nightcap. Lefty Tyler Olson makes his first start in AA thanks to some injuries.

The MiLB game of the day yesterday was the slugfest in Appleton, WI, where the M’s current MWL affiliate beat their ex-affiliate (the host Timber Rattlers) 16-13. After a bullpen meltdown, the Lumberkings trailed 12-4, before scoring 11 runs in the final three innings.

I was curious to check out hittracker’s estimate of the distance on Justin Smoak’s absolute bomb off of Raul Valdes yesterday. As it turns out, it was only 403 feet, though it certainly felt much further because it was pulled down the line in a park without much depth beyond the left field wall, and because it was hit so high. So while it wasn’t the longest HR of the day, or of Smoak’s career, it was one of the highest. That’s…well, that’s much less cool, but it’s something.


122 Responses to “Game 29, Mariners at Astros”

  1. Longgeorge1 on May 4th, 2014 2:43 pm

    Aside from pitching catching, and hitting we look pretty good, nice win

  2. Kazinski on May 4th, 2014 2:45 pm

    The bullpen has to be better against Oakland, we aren’t going to be scoring 8 or 9 runs per game vs their pitching.

  3. MrZDevotee on May 4th, 2014 2:45 pm

    “Ok explain again why Willie F Bloomquist is a waste of oxygen.”

    1 hopper to SS bottom of the 9th with 2 outs?

  4. Longgeorge1 on May 4th, 2014 2:46 pm

    Call up Erasmo and send down Medina

  5. Dennisss on May 4th, 2014 2:46 pm

    Farquhar has learned the art of high-drama save from watching the master.

  6. Longgeorge1 on May 4th, 2014 2:47 pm

    Who do WE have that is better at SS? He is still a major reason we had a lead today. Last I looked we don’t have Derek Jeter ( age 31) on the roster

  7. Kazinski on May 4th, 2014 2:53 pm

    Willie isn’t perfect, but its because he can play all 4 infield positions that is allowing us to carry 5 outfielders now, and give that some more time to sort its self out.

  8. MrZDevotee on May 4th, 2014 3:01 pm

    Derek JETER is about as good as Willie at SS, so I’m not sure where to take that… He didn’t win Gold Gloves (irony coming) for his glove.

    WFB’s like Morse, he may do some helpful things but he usually gives it back in other ways…

    I don’t mind Willie as a sub, but there is certainly better uses of oxygen out there. And he’s from my High School so I’m predisposed to like him (his sister was my dentist). Unfortunately his abilities are what they are.

  9. Westside guy on May 4th, 2014 3:05 pm

    Pretty much any playing time debate we engage in has to start “given the existing roster…”. 😀

    I don’t want Bloomquist starting all the time – I still think Miller can be “fixed”. His peripheral numbers this year are just bizarrely out of whack with what he did last year. BUT until (or unless) that happens, I can’t fault McLendon for starting Willie some of the time.

  10. Westside guy on May 4th, 2014 3:06 pm

    Willie Bloomquist’s sister is a dentist?

  11. Westside guy on May 4th, 2014 3:10 pm

    News Flash: Almonte has been sent down.

  12. tehmc on May 4th, 2014 3:10 pm

    Yes she has a practice in Gig Harbor

  13. Westside guy on May 4th, 2014 3:16 pm

    Reading between the lines of Lloyd McLendon’s comments a day or two ago, I suspect he definitely wanted Almonte to go down but Jack was not yet willing to do it at that time.

    Of course the problem is – the team now has exactly one guy on the 25-man roster who is capable of playing center. I don’t ever want to see Ackley out there again, and neither Romero nor Gillespie seem likely to be anything but bad in center.

  14. Kazinski on May 4th, 2014 3:20 pm

    It is surprising that Miller got the day off today. He’s only had 12pa in the last week, and had 3 hits a bb, with ‘only’ 2k’s. That’s a definite improvement in a very sss. Its time to see if can sustain it.

  15. Kazinski on May 4th, 2014 3:41 pm

    Like I said, I think having Almonte as a 5th outfielder is as good as use of the roster spot as we have right now, but don’t see anything wrong with Ackley being the back-up CF. I think he’s gotten a little better this year in lf, so there may be a slight improvement in center too. He’s bad but not a disaster and I don’t think it matters much for a few innings or a game or two. Bloomquist has not played CF since 2010 in KC, so I think those days are behind him.

  16. MrZDevotee on May 4th, 2014 3:58 pm

    I could see Gillespie in CF… Not preferred, but decent OF skills compared to Ackley or Romero. He has some games in CF logged during his days with Chicago and Arizona.

    Melanie Bloomquist, DDS

    His dad was a dentist too, she took over the office when he retired… William (Bill) Bloomquist, DDS… That’s why WFB grew up as “Willie” to distinguish him from his dad.

  17. HighlightsAt11 on May 4th, 2014 4:02 pm

    Oakland pulls one out on the road at Boston. M’s still four games behind but only one game out of .500. Impressive considering how down everything appeared to be after the 8-game losing streak.

    Recent road vs home W-L splits in the AL West are a bit backwards from expected. Not much of a home field advantage. Oakland gets swept at home by the Rangers. Then the A’s sweep the Rangers in Texas. And the A’s split four games in in Houston. And Rangers take two of three in LA.

    The M’s can win the “initial” road series with the A’s by winning the second game of the doubleheader game on Wednesday.

  18. Westside guy on May 4th, 2014 4:13 pm

    I’m still pessimistic about this team’s chances – especially with the current bullpen – but they are certainly still in the hunt.

    The A’s seem to be underperforming their run differential, though. And, perhaps more worrisome, the Angels are significantly underperforming their run differential! But, more fortunately, Texas doesn’t currently look all that good.

  19. Paul B on May 4th, 2014 6:09 pm

    Word is they might call up Jones.

  20. MrZDevotee on May 4th, 2014 6:48 pm

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Chris Taylor come up and see how bad he can muff plays at SS (he’s actually playing really well in Tacoma– PCL Player of the Week last week…)

    .361/.395/.583 He also has 60 steals, to 12 CS in 2+ years…

    Give him a shot, let Franklin play short in Tacoma while he’s up…

  21. MrZDevotee on May 4th, 2014 10:34 pm

    Man, Root Sports is showing Game 4 of the ALDS in ’95… We had such a stacked baseball team back then.

    Batting Order:

    Vince Coleman
    Joey Cora
    Ken Griffey Jr
    Edgar Martinez
    Tino Martinez
    Jay Buhner
    Mike Blowers
    Dan Wilson
    Luis Sojo

    Edgar had a 3 run earlier and a grand slam in the 8th… To send it to the legendary Game 5. I had forgotten about Game 4 being so dramatic. He was the AL batting champ that year too (which I had forgotten).

    I can see why folks like to cling to these memories in terrible times. Goosebumps, man. Toe to toe and outslugging the Yankees.

    And yet, there’s some reliever perspective too– Charlton was all over the place that game, wild pitched the tying run in during the top of the 8th, and we needed the win to even up the Series. And THEN, Ayala comes in and gave up 2 of the 5 run lead in the 9th… Dan Wilson was basically taking a stoning from all the wild pitches the last couple innings.

    But man, Junior, Buhner and Martinez 2x’s going yard that game. I had forgotten how easily the Kingdome made Xbox seem difficult by comparison.

  22. The_Waco_Kid on May 4th, 2014 11:33 pm

    Saunders has gotten on base multiple times in each of his last 5 starts!

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