Game 44, Mariners at Rays
Roenis Elias vs. Jake Odorizzi, 4:10pm
The M’s loss yesterday pushed them behind the Rangers and into 4th place in the AL West. The Rangers’ surge hasn’t dented the M’s playoff odds that much, both because the Rangers are bad, and because it’s coincided with 2 straight losses by the Angels.
The M’s head to St. Petersburg today to face the surprising Rays, who currently lead the AL East. Many expected something of a rebuild this year from Tampa after losing David Price, Wil Myers AND GM Andrew Friedman over the past year. Instead, they’ve been remarkably solid in all phases of the game – a 101 wRC+ at the plate, a 6th-best ERA/10th-best FIP from the staff, and excellent defense. Ex-Mariner Rene Rivera was a known defensive asset, and Kevin Kiermaier may be one of the best defensive OFs in the game, but they’re getting defense from unlikely sources, like, er, ex-Mariner farmhand Asdrubal Cabrera. They currently sport the 2nd best BABIP-against/DER in baseball, behind only the Royals. This has been critical, as they’re already missing two of their better pitchers in Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly. Cobb’s been a brilliant but injury-prone starter for Tampa, but he’s still contributing to the club.
It was Cobb who taught today’s starter Jake Odorizzi a splitter, and changed the career trajectory of the young right-hander. Odorizzi was part of two huge trades (one for Greinke, one for Shields) but never had an outpitch. He seemed like a solid #4-5 guy, but nothing more. Worse, with a sub-par change-up, lefties destroyed him. Before the 2014 season, he picked up Alex Cobb’s split-change thing (both Cobb and Odorizzi actually call it ‘the Thing’) and began throwing it a lot. He threw about 1/3 splitters last season, and he’s actually begun 2015 by throwing *more* of them. He now throws it nearly 1/2 the time to lefties, and now instead of getting destroyed by lefties, he’s running reverse splits. The pitch isn’t perfect – it gets fewer whiffs and grounders than Cobb’s or Iwakuma’s splitters. He gave up 6 HRs on it last year, or one fewer than Iwakuma’s given up in his *career*. The pitch also helps Odorizzi balance his fly-ball heavy fastball. With a 11″ of rise and little in the way of horizontal movement, Odorizzi’s fastball is an extreme fly ball pitch, and you can see that in his overall stats: only Chris Young had a lower GB rate than Odorizzi last season. That’s led to some issues with HRs, and that may be what’s behind his changing use of the pitch.
This year, Odorizzi is throwing fewer fastballs, with lefties seeing a lot more splitters and righties seeing more cutters. He started moving away from his slider last year and towards a firmer cutter, and that transition’s essentially done this year – he’s not thrown any sliders. The cutter isn’t really a swing and miss pitch; Odorizzi seems to use it to generate weak contact. And because he uses it so much to righties, it’s a big reason for his odd platoon splits. Odorizzi doesn’t just have a better wOBA against or FIP vs. lefties – he looks like a different pitcher. Lefties strike out much more and walk less. His K-BB% was twice as good vs. lefties last year, and this year the gap’s even bigger. Instead of chasing Ks, it looks like he’s trying to limit HRs and hard contact, and thus far, he’s done so. Still, given his approach and his improving command, the M’s should really get as many *right* handed hitters in the line-up as they can.
1: Smith, RF
2: Miller, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Ruggiano, CF
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Taylor, SS
9: Zunino, C
The Rainiers dropped the finale of their series against the I-Cubs yesterday 7-4, as Cubs prospect Javier Baez knocked two HRs against R’s starter Sam Gaviglio. Jesus Montero and Pat Kivlehan homered for Tacoma, and Kevin Gregg pitched his 2nd scoreless inning since joining the team. The Rainiers played an early game today in Omaha, and lost a tough one. The Storm Chasers scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th to beat Mayckol Guaipe and the Rainiers 8-5. Forrest Snow started and pitched well before he lost his command all of the sudden in the 2nd. Logan Bawcom came in, got out of a bases loaded jam, and pitched another 3 innings after that.
Jackson reeled in the Pensacola Blue Wahoos 6-5. The Generals trailed 4-0 before mounting a comeback. Dan Paolini had a 2 run triple that gave Jackson the lead. More importantly, the game featured Jabari Blash pinch hitting for Jabari Henry, the best pinch-hit since Corey Hart pinch hit for the other Corey Hart back in 2005. Jimmy Gilheeney starts for Jackson today against Wandy Peralta of Pensacola.
High Desert held off Bakersfield yesterday in 11 innings despite HRs from Tim Lopes and Carlton Tanabe. Dan Altivilla pitched well, but the 3-4-5 hitters for Bakersfield went 0-11. Tyler Pike starts today for the Blaze.
Clinton was rained out yesterday, and they’re playing two today. Lukas Schiraldi went in game 1, and Jarrett Brown starts game 2 against Burlington.