Game 136, Mariners at Athletics
Chris Young vs. Jason Hammel, 1:05pm
Wildcard Odds – Fangraphs.com: 45.6% Baseballprospectus.com: 40.2%
What a comeback yesterday – it looked like the M’s were on their way to a crippling series sweep when Dustin Ackley’s three-run shot off Tanner Roark turned the game around. Yesterday’s odds were in the mid-high 30% range, so you can see what a difference the M’s comeback (and the Tigers loss) made to their wild card odds. It’s still August, so there aren’t technically must-win games, but that one felt pretty big. If you mapped win probability to playoff odds, Dustin’s HR was as big a single play as we’ve seen in a while – it felt like it was up there with the 9th inning win over Uehara in Boston. Now they need to keep it up against the reeling A’s.
The A’s enter today’s game five games behind the Angels in the West – a divisional lead that looked un-losable has been lost, and the A’s have all but played their way out of the all-important division win/first-round bye. The A’s and Tigers were the most active teams on the trade market before the deadline, with Oakland grabbing Jason Samardzija and today’s starter Jason Hammel and then getting Jon Lester a month later. The Tigers picked up David Price in the Nick Franklin/Austin Jackson deal, with everyone hailing the moves as two playoff-bound teams tweaking their post-season rotations. Since the trades, though, both teams have scuffled. Samardzija’s been solid, but the A’s offense has gone AWOL. Hammel was awful in his first handful of starts for Oakland, but has bounced back recently. Price has been alternately brilliant and mediocre, with his famous nine-straight hit, 2IP/8R disaster against the Yankees his last time out. This isn’t to judge the deals in hindsight or to argue that teams shouldn’t trade for pitchers, but it’s a lesson that pitchers – even great ones – have rough patches, and when you acquire one, you just have to hope that you’ll miss that rough patch.
Jason Hammel seems to be coming out of his rough patch. He’s had three solid starts in his last four tries, with a hard-luck no-decision in Houston’s comeback win on the 26th. Hammel throws a sinker and a four-seamer around 92, with a slider, curve and change up as his secondaries. To righties, he’s primarily a fastball/slider guy, and while he’ll throw his slider to lefties as well, he mixes in the change and curve to them as well. In recent years, he’s not shown too much in the way of platoon splits; a bad 2013 is balanced with even splits this year and even reverse splits in his breakout 2012 year. Even after picking up the sinker in 2012, he’s still been something of a fly-ball pitcher, and that’s made him vulnerable to homers. It’s an interesting career arc – a fly baller in Coors Field who didn’t actually give up a ton of HRs but wasn’t consistent enough (and didn’t have enough swing-and-miss in his arsenal) to be effective, he remade himself as a ground-ball pitcher in Baltimore. He posted the best GB% in his career in 2012 while also seeing a strikeout rate spike…despite moving to the AL. Unfortunately, injuries limited his time, and they took a bite out of his 2013 as well. His velocity was down a bit in 2013, but not enough to explain the barrage of HRs he gave up, the GB% dropping by 13 percentage points, or his K rate sliding back. He’s been better in 2014, but while all of his rate stats have bounced back somewhat, they’re not close to his 2012 rates. Despite his success with the sinker and slider in 2012, he’s throwing more four-seamers again, perhaps just to keep hitters off balance, and perhaps because it’s easier on his arm.
Chris Young got some extra rest heading into this start, which is part of Lloyd McClendon’s canny usage of his rotation down the stretch. Felix and Iwakuma have received an extra day’s rest here and there, and now the veteran Young – coming off another shoulder surgery – will too. Felix and others have struggled a bit, but I don’t think it’s due to the shake-up of the every-five-days grind of the rotation. In any event, this is a huge game for the skyscraping righty. The M’s need a win with the Tigers and Royals facing lesser teams (although at least the Tigers are facing Corey Kluber today).
1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Chavez, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
The rosters have expanded, so the M’s called up seven players from Tacoma. You see Smoak’s name in the line-up, and Corey Hart, Stefen Romero, Taijuan Walker and Lucas Luetge have been recalled. Two newcomers are Humberto Quintero, a back-up catcher who hit a big HR in yesterday’s game in Fresno, and Carson Smith, the relief prospect with a riding sinking fastball and a big slider. The M’s made room on the forty-man for these two first by moving Willie Bloomquist to the 60-day DL and then by placing Jesus Montero on the suspended list. This is a suspension without pay for Montero, and it opened up a spot on the roster. Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton should be called up after the Rainiers’ season ends today.
Eno Sarris has a great article and interview with Danny Farquhar at the Fox Sports blog Just a Bit Outside. Check it out.