Game 18, Twins at Mariners
Roenis Elias vs. Kyle Gibson, 1:10pm
James Paxton couldn’t overcome some errors, and while I agree with Lloyd McClendon that his start showed some improvement, the M’s are still 7-10, and Paxton’s numbers are still ugly. Of interest is his strand rate, which is currently below 50%. As you might imagine, this is in turn the product of his incredibly poor results with men on base. With nobody on, Paxton’s giving up a .208/.250/.377 slash line. As soon as someone gets on base, that plummets to .412/.477/.618. He’s been terrible with two outs as well, though that may be the result of one awful inning against Texas. Still, it makes you wonder if there’s something out of whack when he’s in the stretch. His HR rate is elevated, but while it’ll likely come down, we’re getting close to having to say that his previous record of HR *suppression* was more small-sample-oddity than real, lasting skill. Hope I’m wrong there.
Today, the M’s look to win the series behind Roenis Elias, just called up from Tacoma after yesterday’s game. As you probably know, Hisashi Iwakuma was placed on the 15-day DL with a lat injury, but he’s having an MRI on his shoulder, so that’s….that’s just fantastic. Elias was one of the surprises of 2014, but he was so so in the spring, and he’s been a bit worse than that in three starts for Tacoma. The Cuban lefty’s given up 21 hits in 15 2/3 IP, along with three HRs – one for each start. Last year, Elias was good enough against righties despite a low 3/4 delivery that *looked* like it would make his pitches easier for righties to track. He gave lefties fits, often dropping down to make his arm angle even more extreme, but it was his performance against righties that enabled a very solid 1.3 fWAR year. It could mean nothing, and it could be the result of working on specific pitches, but AAA righties have dominated Elias in the early going, and that’ll be something to look for today. Elias remains a great option for the rotation. Not every team can recall a guy who pitched 163 *good* big league innings last year. It’s just that this isn’t the way the M’s wanted to deploy Elias, and there’s now a bit more pressure on Taijuan Walker, as there’s no one else on the 40-man who could conceivably slot in. Making a 40-man move isn’t the end of the world, and pitchers get hurt all the time, but the pitching depth drops off markedly after Elias, and you’d hate to require a DFA just to bring in someone the team didn’t think was ready.
Kyle Gibson is a ground-balling righty with a sinker, a change and a slider. His fastball sits around 92 and has good arm-side run, but, as with everything Gibson throws, the intent is poor contact, not whiffs. In the minors, Gibson was something of a strikeout pitcher, with K% over 20% most everywhere, and over 21% in two long stints in AAA. Upon his call-up, though, the K’s were essentially gone – his K% hit 14% last year, a bit higher than the 12% he managed in 2013. This year, he’s K’d 3 of the 73 batters he’s faced, or 4%. Worse, he’s walked 9 and plunked another. Grounders can help you pitch around some control problems, but Gibson’s GB% is down as well in 2015 – all in all, it’s not been a great start to the year for Gibson. That’s a bit surprising, given that there were reports in the off-season and spring that Gibson’s velocity was up, and he had a solid spring, leading the Twins in strikeouts. It’s actually nice to see the whole “great spring, regular season face plant” thing happen to other teams too. For a sinker guy, he’s had relatively minor platoon split issues, but this does seem like a good spot for the M’s lefties.
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
With Elias on his way up, Forrest Snow got a spot start last night for Tacoma and pitched well, as the Rainiers downed Sacramento 6-1. Snow went 4 2/3 allowing a run on 5 hits and no walks, while striking out 4. Joe Beimel pitched an inning, and then Logan Bawcom closed it out. Chris Taylor went 2-4, and John Hicks had a big double to help the offense. Sam Gaviglio starts today against Ty Blach.
Montgomery downed Jackson 7-4, as Dylan Unsworth gave up 5 runs in 2 IP. DJ Peterson had three hits for the Generals, though all were singles. Misael Siverio leads the Generals today, with Montgomery countering with mustached righty Austin Pruitt.
Bakersfield twirled yet another shutout, their 5th on the year, to beat San Jose 3-0. Ryan Yarbrough went 6 for the win, and Tyler O’Neill supplied the offense with a three-run HR. Bakersfield, who plays in the Cal League, in a park where the CF wall is 354′ away, now has a team ERA below 3.00. Dan Altavilla starts today against San Jose’s Nick Vander Tuig.
Clinton dropped a 4-3 contest to Beloit, though Gianfranco Wawoe’s hitting streak remains intact. Wawoe’s hitting .349/.417/.512 on the year in a pitcher-friendly league. Clinton plays a double header today, with Daniel Missaki and Tyler Herb starting.