Game 36, Royals at Mariners
Chris Young vs. Yordano Ventura, 6:10pm
Back on April 18th, I mentioned that The pitching match-up between Chris Young and Nate Eovaldi had a chance to feature a rare gap between average fastball velocities of 12mph. Not for the first time, real life decided not to use my handy storyline and went with something boring. Chris Young had, for him, a lively fastball at nearly 87, while Eovaldi sat just above 97. It’s about as big a delta as MLB offers, but while Mark Buehrle still stymies hitters, we’ve got to do better. Thanks to Yordano Ventura, we will.
Ventura’s the talk of the AL, as he’s fixed the two issues that tarnished his first few MLB starts last year: walks and HRs. Ventura wasn’t dominant in MiLB largely due to the former malady, and I think many expected his HR rate to stay kind of high (Iwakuma high, not demote-him-now high) thanks to a FB that generated fly balls. This year, though, Ventura’s showing that a truly elite fastball makes its own rules. He’s striking out over 10/9, limiting HRs, and throwing strikes.
His curve has long been visually stunning, but with improved command, it’s turned into a real weapon. Batters swing and miss plenty, but they also top it for grounders, which helps Ventura keep his GB% over 50. But to me, the big improvement has been with his change up. It gets essentially the same number of whiffs and the same GB rate as the curve, giving him a third very good pitch, and allowing him to dominate lefties and righties alike.
The M’s offense could use a break after seeing two solid performances from Duffy and Vargas. Ventura, however, is not a break. Ventura is quickly moving from one of the most intriguing young arms to one of the best pitchers in the league. Sure, it’s really only been a month at that level, and maybe if the M’s are patient, his command could get a bit sloppy. Could easily happen. But right now, I’d rather face Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish.
1: Jones, CF
2: Miller, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Buck, C
7: Ackley, LF
8: Saunders, RF
Tough to face a guy like this with something of a second-choice line-up, but Seager’s illness forces their hand. Jones has been better than expected, but seeing him lead off is a reminder of just how bad M’s #1 hitters have been on the year – a combined .233/.287/.336 line.
3B Patrick Kivlehan, the ex-football player the M’s took out of Rutgers a few years ago, has been promoted to AA. Given his age, he absolutely needed to force a promotion. Well done to him for doing so – he was killing the ball. Of course, now DJ Peterson has the 3B role to himself, a fact that may have played into this move.
The big game in the minors is the rematch between Andrew Carraway and the Rainiers against Noah Syndergaard and the Las Vegas 51s. The first game was a pitchers duel the R’s ended winning in the 9th. Syndergaard is a flame thrower, and deservedly one of the top prospects in the minors, but the R’s made him work. Carraway was inefficient, but ended up with better results. Fun match up, and one with a massive FB velocity gap of its own.