Game 126, Athletics at Mariners
Mike Montgomery vs. Jesse Chavez, 7:10pm
Last night’s game was a painful one, as Safeco welcomed Hisashi Iwakuma back to Seattle and then watched as his defense failed him. Let’s be clear: Iwakuma was as responsible as anyone for a rough 7 run inning that turned a 5-0 lead into a 7-5 deficit they’d never recover from. Danny Valencia’s HR scraped the wall, but Kuma was giving up plenty of loud contact in that inning. That only made it worse: yet again, there’s plenty of blame to apportion around, and unfortunately, the M’s got a mediocre performance from one of their stars. It happens, and it’ll happen again. I saw some fans on twitter took this one particularly hard, but it wasn’t close to some of the Felix disaster starts or a good old fashioned bullpen meltdown. The problem is that the field of “painful M’s losses” is so crowded that it’s hard for each game to stand out. There are as many ways to be frustrated about this team as there are M’s fans, apparently.
Today, the M’s face familiar foe Jesse Chavez. The righty’s had a solid season again after beginning the year in the bullpen, and this’ll be his third start against Seattle on the year. As I mentioned last time, Chavez is constantly tweaking his repertoire. Back in early July, he’d thrown very little of what had been his primary breaking ball – a curve – and instead threw a slider he’d just developed. He was also throwing a lot of the four-seam fastball he’d put on the shelf when he reinvented himself as a sinker/cutter guy. In the past six weeks, though, the curve is back, and it’s the *slider* that’s become quite rare. Similarly, he’s cut back on the four-seamer and now looks more like what he was a year ago. This is obviously natural for him, but it’s also somewhat interesting because his most successful pitches based on results had been his slider and four-seamer. As he’s thrown his cutter more often, it’s been less effective, as lefties are now hitting it fairly hard – he’s given up 5 HRs to LHBs on his cutter, with 4 of them coming since July 1st.
Your philosophical-fx question of the day is: What IS a cutter? If it’s a fastball-like-thing that breaks gloveside, then Chavez’s doesn’t qualify – it breaks armside, albeit only a tiny bit. If it’s a half-slider/half-fastball hybrid, then Chavez is out of luck again, because at 90-91mph with very little horizontal break and with essentially no sink, there’s no discernible trace of a slider in the pitch’s DNA. Last night’s starter, Felix Doubront, throws a “cutter” with a lot of natural sinking action – it has 4″ or so less rise than his *sinker* and comes in at about 4mph slower. Chavez’s cutter is only 1 mph or so slower than his sinker, but it actually has fractionally more *rise*. Both of these guys, and Dan Haren, and Brandon McCarthy and Collin McHugh – they all may call the thing that they throw a cutter, but there’s very little that tangibly ties these offerings together. Their shape is different, as is their speed. The word “cutter” is now a catch-all term, and that can make it difficult to evaluate and compare them. This may make very little difference when watching the game, but I hope it doesn’t affect instruction. I don’t know if players and coaches really discuss what they want a pitch to DO, and why they want it to do X and not Y, but that seems like it could be a fruitful conversation to have. It’s just a conversation that needs a shared vocabulary, and that’s where catch-all terms like cutter and, yes, “fastball” have the potential to confuse more than they clarify. So, uh, M’s, take advantage of Chavez’s decidedly un-cuttery…pitch and make him pay if he leaves one in a bad location.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, DH
4: Cano, 2B
5: Smith, RF
6: Jackson, CF
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
Austin Jackson apparently cleared waivers and is now garnering some attention from other clubs. Seems like a no-brainer move for a guy who’ll be walking at the end of the year.
The Rainiers smashed 5 HRs as they took out the Memphis Redbirds 10-6. Jabari Blash, Justin Ruggiano, Chris Taylor, Stefen Romero and Patrick Kivlehan all went deep, with 4 of them coming off Memphis starter Nick Greenwood. Chien Ming Wang faces off against just-demoted Tyler Lyons, who’d been effective as a back-of-the-rotation guy for the loaded Cardinals. The minor league season wraps up very soon, so head down to Cheney to check it out.
As you remember from yesterday, the Jackson Generals were shut out and Montgomery Biscuits starter Jacob Faria K’d 11 in 7 IP. In last night’s game, Biscuits starter Jaime Schultz held the Generals scoreless through 6 IP and struck out 10. The Biscuits are a good team, but these aren’t the Rays top prospects – Blake Snell already dominated this group months ago. The problem is that the Generals had the league’s worst pitching staff in the first half, and through a lot of hard work, have brought their offense to the bottom of the league as well (as measured by runs per game). Losing Jabari Blash hurt a tiny bit, but there’s not been a wave of promotions or injuries that could explain this. They’ll endeavor to correct this tonight against Montgomery starter Austin Pruitt, a control artist who’s been solid in the SL this year. Dylan Unsworth starts for Jackson.
Bakersfield let a 6-3 lead slip away as they lost the opener of their series with Visalia 9-7. Today, the Blaze send Ryan Yarbrough to the mound against Brett Shankin of the Rawhide. True die-hards of these recaps might remember Shankin’s name – he was a 28th round pick by the M’s in the 2011 draft and played a few years in the org, reaching AA briefly, and was released after 2014. After a brief stint in the independent leagues, Shankin signed with the D-Backs organization and dominated in the Northwest League (which, to be fair, he should). He’s made one pretty good start in the Cal League 5 days ago, and now faces the org he played for last year, though of course he played for High Desert last year, not Bakersfield.
Look, I don’t mean to slam Clinton and I don’t take any pleasure from their remarkably bad 2015 season. This can’t be any fun for the players, and it has to be brutal on the coaching staff. Some of their players are improving, and that’s all you can ask. But then there are games like yesterday’s and you wonder if all the losing isn’t getting to people. Quad Cities is probably the class of the MWL, and the Astros are doing impressive things in player development, but… sigh… Quad Cities beat Clinton 18-0. Clinton was one-hit for the second time in 3 games. They were hitless until Gianfranco Wawoe singled with one out in the 9th, as QC starter Dean Deetz K’d 9 in 7 no-hit innings. It’s ugly right now. Eddie Campbell tries to get a win against QC’s Justin Ferrell, who’s posted a low ERA despite so-so peripherals.
Salem-Keizer scored 4 runs in the 2nd inning against Luiz Gohara and made it hold up, beating Everett 4-3. Drew Jackson had 2 hits, because of course he did, and Darin Gillies was excellent in relief, tossing 4 2/3 scoreless with 7 Ks (though he did allow 2 inherited runners to score). Alex Jackson’s been struggling since dealing with a hand injury; he’s 5 for his last 32 with 15 Ks. Jake Brentz, another lefty the M’s got in the Mark Lowe deal, starts today.