Game 65, Yankees at Mariners
Chris Young vs. Masahiro Tanaka, 7:10pm
After a tough loss, the M’s now face the league’s best rookie (if that’s the right word for someone with so much experience), Masahiro Tanaka. It seems like we’ve been talking about his move to MLB for years (because we have), and the story dominated the off-season. Despite the hype, the incredible NPB stats, and the nine-figure contract, there was still some question about Tanaka’s upside. Everyone loved his splitter, and as it turns out, they were right to. But scouts seemed to agree that his raw stuff and velo weren’t at Yu Darvish’s level, and that it was possible that he’d settle in as a solid #3 starter, which has a lot of value, but not if you pay over $100m for one.
As it’s turned out, Tanaka looks quite a bit like the M’s own Hisashi Iwakuma – he’s using a four- and two-seam fastball, a slider to righties, and of course his splitter. Tanaka’s got a few wrinkles, like a cutter, but fundamentally, they have a very similar repertoire. Like Iwakuma, Tanaka’s been excellent, pretty much from day one, striking out lots of hitters, limiting walks, but giving up a fair number of HRs, especially on fastballs. So far, he’s even showing Iwakuma’s slight reverse splits, as righties have hit a few more HRs off of him, though it goes without saying that the sample’s tiny. Essentially, the Tanaka optimists are feeling pretty good right now, and those that saw him as a league-average pitcher don’t tend to bring that up so much. Tanaka looks like he’s well on his way to a ROY award, and the only question is whether he can continue to be a Cy Young front runner, or if Felix Hernandez completes his transformation into a sentient energy cloud, firing unhittable laser-change-ups at helpless mortals.
This is a tough test for anyone, but last night’s game illustrated some of the M’s injury-driven flaws. They just don’t have a healthy bench right now with Smoak ailing. Using John Buck as a pinch hitter wasn’t the worst thing given the context, but the context shows that the M’s are going to struggle to mount a rally if they’re behind late. So look fastball and get ahead of Tanaka early.
1: Chavez, RF
2: Jones, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Morrison, 1B
6: Ackley, LF
7: Zunino, C
8: Miller, SS
9: Gillespie, DH
Logan Morrison returns from his rehab stint in Tacoma. Justin Smoak moves to the 15-day DL; Smoak had been taking up a bench spot as the M’s hoped to get him healthy, but last night illustrated that they simply can’t hold players who aren’t capable of playing. John Buck PHing in a big spot looks completely insane, but injuries and the 7-man ‘pen made it…well, not ‘smart’ or ‘the best of a bad situation,” but something more like tolerable.
The M’s moved MiLB back-up catcher Manny Pina to the Tigers org for a PTBNL. I basically forgot about this move by the time I got to the ‘P’ in PTBNL. Best of luck to you, Manny, whoever you are.
I’m off for a few weeks, but JY will be around, and he’s a better writer anyway. Go M’s!