Game 5, Mariners at Athletics
JA Happ vs. Sonny Gray, 1:05pm
Today’s game can’t be worse. So we’ve got that going for us.
JA Happ takes the hill after a shaky spring, but again, if he can embrace fly balls, he’ll find the AL West can be a pretty welcoming place. As I mentioned back in the early spring, it might be a good idea to shelve to the two-seamer he uses occasionally and simplify a bit to a four-seamer, curve and cutter. He’s got a change, but it hasn’t been a great pitch thus far. Might be nice as an occasional pitch to show off, but it’s probably not great as his primary weapon against right-handers.
The A’s send their ace Sonny Gray out for his second start of 2015. In the first, he carried a no-hitter into the 8th against a punchless Rangers team. He’s got an arrow-straight, almost cutter-style four-seam fastball, a sinker that he uses against right-handers, a big curve ball at around 82mph, and an occasional slider and change. With his distinctive four-seamer movement and curveball, his minimal platoon splits shouldn’t be a big surprise. Gray exploded onto the scene with 10 great starts down the stretch in 2013, with a big K rate and low HR rate leading to a FIP of 2.70. Last year, he wasn’t able to sustain that, as his K rate that fell to league average, and a K:BB ratio a touch below that. As a result, his FIP wasn’t as gaudy as it had been, but his ERA was still pretty good. In essence, he took a page from James Paxton’s playbook, managing contact and running absurdly high GB rates for a four-seam hurler to minimize HRs and BABIP. The HR rate thing isn’t just a product of O.co coliseum – in fact, he was much better on the road, and gave up twice as many HRs at home as he did on the road. The biggest worry going forward for Gray was that he seemed to tire down the stretch; his small size resulted in durability concerns that sent him tumbling down the draft board in 2011, from a guy once seen as a top 5 pick down to #18. He’s still a tough, tough match-up for the M’s, but some patience might be rewarded today – run up the pitch count, foul some pitches off, and wait for a grooved FB – despite the results, he threw quite a few mistake pitches in his first game.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Smith, DH
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Sucre, C
On paper, this looks as unfavorable, as unwatchable, as yesterday’s game was anticipated and favorable. Last night’s game turned out to be a completely digusting mess, so hey, games rarely unfold as they’re ‘supposed’ to. At least the M’s get Seth Smith back, but his groin injury seems like it’s still a factor, as he’ll be DHing today.
Yesterday in the minors, the Rainiers countered the Chihuahuas opening day blow out by scoring 17 runs against the hapless lapdogs, knocking Aaron Northcraft out in the 2nd, and then pouring it on against ex-Rainier Steve Kohlscheen after that. Patrick Kivlehan hit his first AAA HR, but it came against the El Paso 2nd baseman, not an actual pitcher. Franklin Gutierrez continued his hot start with 2 2Bs, and Stefen Romero hit 2 2Bs as well on his way to a 4-6 night. Carlos Rivero was 4-5 with a walk, and hit a HR on opening day. Today marks the org debut for pitcher Sam Gaviglio, who the M’s acquired from St. Louis in exchange for IF Ty Kelly. Gaviglio’s from Ashland, and went to OSU, and utilizes a sinking four-seamer around 88-90 to generate ground balls. He’s also got a slider and a firm change around 84.
Tyler Pike makes his season debut for the Jackson Generals in Jacksonville. One of the minor league stars of 2013, Pike battled serious control problems throughout 2014, and his overall numbers last year were awful as a result. Pike hasn’t shown a lot of bat-missing ability, so dramatically dropping his walk rate is going to be imperative going forward. High Desert undoubtedly impacted him last year, though he fared even worse after a late-season promotion to AA. Still, he’s just 21 and still should have some of the pitchability that scouts raved about in 2013.
Dan Altavilla takes the hill for Bakersfield today. The righty was a 5th round pick out of tiny Mercyhurst college, and spent 2014 in the Everett rotation. The Bakersfield offense hasn’t found their footing yet, as they’ve scored just 3 runs in two games. Ryan Yarbrough was solid last night, giving up 2R in 4IP with 4Ks, but the offense scored just one run, and the Blaze fell to 0-2. The middle of the order, from Timmy Lopes to Tyler O’Neill to Austin Wilson hasn’t clicked yet, but they should soon. Bakersfield’s home park isn’t *quite* as hitter-friendly as High Desert’s, but it’s surprisingly close thanks to its extra cozy dimensions: The CF wall in Bakersfield is an absurd 354 feet from home plate.
Clinton dropped their opener too, despite a solid performance from Daniel Missaki, who went 6IP, giving up 2R on 5H and striking out 5. He left with a 3-2 lead, but the bullpen coughed it up. Alex Jackson was 1-4 with a 2B, and Joe DeCarlo hit a HR for the LumberKings. Clinton’s got a double-header scheduled today, with Tyler Herb – a 29th-rounder last year with a solid K rate across three levels – and intriguing Venezuelan Osmel Morales starting.