Game 147, Athletics at Mariners
King Felix vs. Sonny Gray, 7:10pm
Wildcard odds – Fangraphs.com: 55.9% Baseballprospectus.com: 50.1%
I’m tempted to leave Jeff’s piece below up to function as the game thread, because it encapsulates what this game feels like so well. As it turned out, the M’s didn’t exactly build off the momentum they had following that sweep of the Blue Jays. Instead, they meandered around for a few weeks, getting some huge wins, but losing to the Astros. Playing well against Oakland, but dropping a series to Texas. That can be frustrating, in that you can see what a difference a few wins would make in the standings right now, but a part of me is glad we get this game, in this situation, with these two guys on the mound. This doesn’t feel like a playoff race, this feels like a playoff game.
King Felix stumbled in recent weeks, as his incredible run of HR prevention gave out for a time. He’s now essentially right at the same HR rate he’s run for the past few season, and that means his FIP is now merely incredible instead of otherworldly. His numbers are down across the board in the second half, which makes sense as they essentially had nowhere else to go. Still, Felix is the M’s ace, and even down the stretch in a long, unusually hot summer, he’s still the guy the M’s want to see on the hill. Put aside the fielding independent stats, and he’s (mostly) the same guy. BA allowed in the first half? .199. In the second? .198. His slugging is up thanks to that HR barrage a while back, but you just expect Felix to pitch like an ace.
Contrast that with Sonny Gray, who, like the rest of his team, has declined in the second half. Gray’s fastball/curve combo was so effective because it neutralized lefties and righties equally, and because he gets ground balls, he could be effective at home and in places like Arlington and Houston. Gray’s still a work in progress, as his control isn’t ace-level yet, and while the curve’s been useful in generating bad contact, he hasn’t racked up as many K’s as he should at Felix’s age. In the second half, Gray’s numbers have declined across the board, and unlike Felix, he couldn’t fall as far and still be great. In the 2nd half, Gray’s FIP and ERA are in the low 4’s, and his K:BB ratio is a pedestrian 1.96. Gray’s still an extremely talented young hurler, but you wonder if he’s wearing down a bit; remember that Gray fell in the draft as evaluators saw his size as an impediment to his development as an ace/workhorse.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Chavez, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Jones, RF
9: Taylor, SS
SP: The King
Best M’s news I’ve seen in a while, courtesy of Ryan Divish: The M’s have announced that today’s game is a sell-out. Nice work, M’s fans.
Dustin Ackley’s ankle continues to bother him, hence Endy Chavez in the 2 spot tonight. Michael Saunders gets a day off.
Logan Morrison’s first half/second half splits still look identical, thanks to an abysmal July, but he’s followed a decent August with a good start in September. With Zunino fading a bit, and with Morales still stuck a bit, the resurgence of both Morrison and Brad Miller has been critical to the M’s offense.
For the scoreboard watchers, the Tigers are playing Cleveland tonight, while the Royals take on Boston. Ex-Rays prospect turned Rule 5 guy Kyle Lobstein’s pitching for Detroit against diminutive fireballer Danny Salazar, while the Royals have Jeremy Guthrie taking on Sox prospect (ex-Dodgers prospect) Rubby De La Rosa.