Game 80, Mariners at Athletics
JA Happ vs. Jesse Chavez, 6:05pm
For the umpteenth time, we have to start off by acknowledging a dreadful offensive performance last night. This time, it was Scott Kazmir who sliced through the M’s line-up, limiting the M’s to 2 hits and no walks in 8 innings. Kazmir is tough on righties, but that’s not much excuse for Jackson, Cruz, Trumbo and Zunino to go 0-13 with 5 Ks. The M’s runs per game is under 3.4, which is as remarkable as it is unacceptable.
Today, the M’s face right-hander Jesse Chavez, who’d been a career reliever before rebuilding his confidence and repertoire in Oakland. Coming up with Pittsburgh, he threw a hard four-seamer and, after some input from the club, a slider. Never blessed with exceptional command, Chavez’s rising fastball also led to a spate of home runs. During some struggles with his breaking ball, Chavez developed a cutter, and while he didn’t throw it much in games, it became his bread and butter in Oakland. Brandon McCarthy made it famous, but the Scott Feldman approach of a cutter, a sinker, a curve and change is now a pretty standard arsenal, and Chavez took to it nearly as well and as quickly as McCarthy did. Not only did he get a few more grounders (which helped with the HR problem), but he was now quite effective against lefties, which helped his transition to the starting rotation. As a starter, Chavez pounded the zone with cutters/sinkers, and tried to get batters to chase his curve. The slider was gone, but he now used his change-up equally to lefties and righties. He gave up a fair number of HRs, but was at least in the acceptable range, as opposed to the “fatal flaw” range it was with the Pirates.
Now in his second stint in the rotation after a number of A’s hurlers had issues with performance and injury, Chavez has improved again – his HR rate is vanishingly low, and while that’s in part due to luck, he’s also running his lowest walk rate. I’m always fascinated that pitchers can bounce around as back-of-the-bullpen guys, and can live in fear of the DFA, then find a bit of success with a new approach – but then change it, because baseball *requires* continual tinkering and adjustments. We saw Brandon McCarthy try this and get knocked around for a while before settling into a new routine, and we’re seeing it now with Chavez. After telling Eno Sarris the four-seamer was basically out as a game-usable pitch, he’s throwing a lot of them in 2015, and it’s been one of his best pitches. The curve that he loved much more than the slider that he seemingly developed under protest? All but gone, and replaced by a new, better slider. Even the cutter, the pitch he throws most, has seen an overhaul. This year, it’s more fastball-like than ever. He’s throwing it a bit harder, and it has less slider-like horizontal movement and drop. Some part of this may be chance, but a lot of it has to be the result of a distinctive, conscious change in approach. Baseball tends to reward pitchers who’re able to make these kinds of adjustments, and thus far Chavez has the best FIP of his career. The slider’s helped his results against righties, while the four-seamer has been effective against lefties.
1: LoMo, 1B
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smith, LF
7: Trumbo, RF
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
Las Vegas jumped all over Tacoma’s Jordan Pries in the first inning and kept up the pressure, ending up with a 12-2 win at Cheney. David Rollins was the sole pitching star of the game, working 2 scoreless innings while striking out 4. Rollins is an interesting case, as his rehab assignment (following an 80-game suspension for performance enhancers) runs out today, necessitating a move to the 25-man roster (he’s a Rule 5 draft pick). He looked great in spring training, and has yet to give up a run in 9 1/3 AAA innings, but the roster’s full. Bob Dutton speculates he could move up for Vidal Nuno, another lefty. But the M’s will deal with another move once Hisashi Iwakuma’s back. Ryan Divish reports that Lloyd McClendon says they’ll announce the roster move tomorrow – Rollins will either head to Oakland to join the M’s, or return to the Houston Astros org. Anyway, Sam Gaviglio starts tonight for Tacoma. Big firework show at Cheney tonight.
Jackson’s game against Mobile was suspended with Mobile up 2-1. They’re finishing that one now, and will play another game tonight. Moises Hernandez was brilliant in 5+ innings yesterday, striking out 6 without a walk. Dominic Leone, Gabby Guerrero and Jack Reinheimer are all in the game for Mobile.
Bakersfield beat Modesto 3-2 behind a great start from Dan Altavilla. The 2014 5th round pick threw 7 IP with 1 run allowed and 8 strikeouts to no walks. It was Altavilla’s first start of the season without giving up a free pass. Reliever Aaron Brooks (a Seattle native and Edmonds CC product) finished the game with 5 Ks in his 2 innings of work. Today, Tyler Pike gets the start against Modesto’s Alex Balog.
Clinton lost to Kane County 7-5. Estarlyn Morales hit his 4th HR for Clinton, but the Cougars scored 2 runs in the 8th off Nick Valenza for the final margin. Today, Lukas Schiraldi of Clinton faces off with Canadian righty Ethan Elias, who was cut by the Cubs org two years ago and spent 2014 pitching in the Independent leagues in Illinois. Signed after a try-out by the D-Backs, and then pitching his way into the Cougars rotation, he’s suddenly sporting a 7-3 record with a 2.61 ERA. Do his peripherals support that? No, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind.
Everett beat Tri-Cities 8-3, with 1B Ryan Uhl getting 4 RBIs. Andrew Moore gave up 2 unearned runs in his 3 IP, and WSU product Joe Pistorese continues to impress with 1 2/3 scoreless with 3 Ks. The Montana native hasn’t been scored on in 6 1/3 innings thus far. Luiz Gohara starts tonight for the AquaSox.