Game 97, Blue Jays at Mariners
King Felix vs. Drew Hutchison, 7:10pm
Happy Felix Day. I’m sorry I missed the last two games of the Detroit series, if only because Guti’s pinch-hit slam was probably the best moment in this go-nowhere year. Iwakuma matching up with fellow trade-deadline-target David Price wasn’t bad either, if you can get past the volume of missed chances the M’s had.
Today, the M’s welcome the Jays, a team that’s close enough in the wild card chase to be a buyer over the next week. One reason they’re targeting pitching has been the disappointing year from tonight’s starter, Drew Hutchison, who was dominant down the stretch last year. He altered his slider a bit and it turned into a righty-killing strikeout pitch, and helped elevate Hutchison from “promising” to potential star. There were problems, though. His change-up wasn’t terribly effective, and as a result, lefties hit him hard. Like most pitchers in Toronto, he gave up a few too many HRs, and despite a solid K rate, he allowed too many baserunners to score thanks to dreadful numbers from the stretch. He seemed to find a way forward in the second half of 2014, but he had a well-defined list of issues to work on as well.
In 2015, he’s been a different pitcher. Instead of working on his weaknesses, it’s what we thought were his strengths that have failed him. The slider is back to its first-half-of-2014 shape, and righties are now hitting it without a lot of trouble. Worse, they’re also teeing off on his fastball. Some of this is BABIP related, and some of this is the result of a terrible April when his velo was down a tick. I don’t think a bad April can explain away all of the problems, however. One thing he may want to look at is predictability. Hutchison loves to use his fastball up, especially against lefties. He throws his slider to one spot – low and away to righties. That’s a decent spot and all, but he’s thrown it there more than he has thrown it in every part of the strikezone combined. Whatever the reason, the result is that righties are hitting him harder than *lefties* did last year, and his strand rate has only gotten worse. Last year, he seemed like a guy on the cusp of a breakout thanks to an ERA that was well above his FIP. Instead, he’s just pushed that gap wider, as his ERA is now 1.4 runs higher than his FIP.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, RF
4: Cano, 2B
5: Smith, LF
6: Trumbo, DH
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
SP: King. Felix.
Tacoma was crushed 9-2 by the Salt Lake Bees, though the game was notable for the CF debut of Ketel Marte. Marte homered in the game as well, but Chien-Ming Wang was hit hard.
The M’s MWL affiliate got no-hit last night by Peoria. Rehabbing Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia went the first 5, and the Chiefs bullpen kept the Lumberkings hitless.
Edwin Diaz pitched pretty well, notching seven consecutive strikeouts at one point, but his Jackson Generals were shut out by Montgomery. Have I mentioned how dispiriting this year’s been in the minors? Yeah.
Tyler O’Neill hit 2 HRs in his first game back from Pan-Am games duty with Team Canada, and Bakersfield beat San Jose 8-5. Those were O’Neill’s 17th and 18th bombs on the year.
Everett cruised past Spokane 8-1 behind solid pitching from Anthony Misiewicz and Andrew Moore. Misiewicz had 7 Ks in 4 IP, and Moore still hasn’t given up a walk this year in 18 IP. \
Jimmy Gilheeney, Stephen Landazuri, Dan Altavilla, Tyler Herb and good ol’ TBD start for the M’s affiliates today. The game of the day is probably in the Cal League where Altavilla faces off with Giants’ prospect Martin Agosta, who blanked Bakersfield over 8 IP recently.