Game 89, Angels at Mariners
Taijuan Walker vs. Andrew Heaney, 1:10pm
Today’s game marks the end of the first half. Clearly, it hasn’t gone the way we hoped, but like any team, they’ve had their moments. Last night’s bases-loaded, no-out start looked like a disaster in progress, but Hisashi Iwakuma wriggled off the hook and then fired 8 shutout innings. It’s the kind of remarkable turnaround we’d remember for years if we hadn’t seen the exact same thing recently in Mike Montgomery’s start against Kansas City. Trumbo got timely hits, Jackson looked decent, and Mark Lowe (!), who I suspected would be an early cut this spring, finished the game with a 97mph fastball and another scoreless appearance. This is how it was *supposed* to look.
Another Taijuan Walker gem would really help go into the break feeling…well, if not exactly good, then a bit less sour. He’ll be facing the Angels top prospect to start the year, and their return for dealing Howie Kendrick, Andrew Heaney. Heaney was the 9th overall pick in 2012 out of Oklahoma State. Blessed with a fast arm and very good control, he seemed like the classic high-floor college pitcher – a guy with very good odds to make the majors, but perhaps not the top-flight stuff of bigger name prospects. In the minors, he pitched extremely well – a K:BB ratio nearing 4, thanks to low walk totals, and encouraging reports about his velocity. He pitched in AAA in 2014 and struggled a bit for the first time – his K rate was great, but he had HR issues a bit for the first time.
Traded twice this off-season, he ended up with the Angels and was sent to Salt Lake to open the year back in the PCL. In 14 starts, his HR issues disappeared, but he allowed a sky-high BABIP that pushed his ERA far above his FIP. In 3 starts since being called up, his FIP is exactly where it was in AAA, but his BABIP is just .222, giving him a superficially sparkly ERA. He’s walked just 3 in 20 1/3 innings, and while that’s even better than his MiLB track record, control is clearly Heaney’s calling card. He throws a sinker, a curve and change, and while his zone% isn’t all that spectacular, Heaney’s got the ability to hit the edges when he needs to.
His sinker’s averaging 92mph thus far and it’s got plenty of armside run. It gets a bit more rise than average, though, which explains the fact that Heaney’s GB rates aren’t noteworthy despite his sinker-dominant approach (he throws it about 70% of the time). His curve seems to be a pretty solid pitch, at least to lefties. It’s his putaway pitch to lefties, but he’ll use it to righties when he’s ahead in the count. Even with just two pitches to lefties, Heaney’s dominated southpaws at pretty much every level. Righties, though, have proven more difficult. His change has great run, but not a ton of sink – maybe that’s why it’s not been a swing-and-miss pitch thus far. It hasn’t hurt him yet, thanks to righties’ awful BABIP on the pitch, but he was surprisingly hittable for a top prospect coming through the minors, and it could be a problem for him going forward. This is a decent match-up for the M’s right-handers.
[EDIT: Guti’s back is barking, so the M’s have changed the line-up.]
1: Jackson, CF
2: Cano, 2B
3: Cruz, RF
4: Seager, 3B
5: Trumbo, LF
6: Montero, DH
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
Ketel Marte and Edwin Diaz take part in the Futures game today in Cincinnati, representing the World Team. Lucas Giolito gets the start for the loaded US team, which also features C Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs. Marte actually faced Heaney three times- once last year against New Orleans, and twice this year when Heaney pitched for Salt Lake. Marte hit Heaney hard, going 5-8 with 2 doubles and a walk.
Tacoma heads into the AAA all-star break after their final game in Reno. Roenis Elias takes on ex-Colorado Rockie Jhoulys Chacin. Yesterday, the Aces beat the Rainiers 7-4, as Forrest Snow had his second straight sub-par start after his long string of excellent outings. Reno’s not a place to pitch if you don’t have everything working. Leon Landry homered and singled for the R’s.
Jackson gave up 2 runs in the 8th and lost to Birmingham 3-2. Dylan Unsworth had his best AA start, giving up a run in 5 2/3, but the South African took a no-decision when Grady Wood couldn’t find the plate, walking 3 in the 8th. CF Ian Miller had 3 hits and 2 2Bs for the Generals. Moises Hernandez faces off with Birmingham’s struggling sinkerballer, Tony Bucciferro, who has given up an astonishing 105 hits in 70 2/3 IP thus far, while striking out only 28 (and walked 20).
Bakersfield was on the right side of a late come-back, as they scored twice in the top of the 9th to beat Visalia 5-3. Rafael Pineda picked up the win in relief of Eddie Campbell – Pineda K’d 4 in 3 innings, giving up one run. Dan Altavilla starts today opposite righty Anthony Banda, who shut out the Blaze back in June.
Clinton played another extra-inning game, going 15 innings before losing to Peoria 7-4. The top of the order got 8 plate appearances – Austin Cousino was 2-7 with a walk, and Arby Fields was 3-8. At the other end of the spectrum, Gianfranco Wawoe was 0-7 with 5 Ks, giving him the rare platinum sombrero. Joe DeCarlo homered and walked *4 times* which seems like it should have a nickname – some very different kind of headgear, I’d guess. The golden pickelhaube, maybe. That’s just a first draft, but feel free to use that. Tyler Herb starts for Clinton, while Peoria will send Jack Flaherty to the mound. Flaherty’s the Cardinals 1st-round pick in 2014 out of Harvard-Westlake, and faced the L-Kings on July 1st.
Everett beat Boise 8-4, behind Alex Jackson’s 2-4 night featuring a 2B and a HR. Matt Clancy, a lefty out of St. Johns the M’s picked in the 13th round of the draft, pitched the final 2 1/3 IP without incident, and he’s now thrown 8 scoreless innings with 4 BB and 11 Ks to start his pro career. Andrew Moore starts tonight for Everett in Boise against Venezuelan righty Javier Palacios.