Game 159, Astros at Mariners
Tony Zych vs. Scott Kazmir, 7:10pm
Imagine you’re an Astros fan. You’ve been through years of one of the most comprehensive, painful, soul-crushing rebuilds on record. Cable carriage-fee wrangling left most of Houston unable to watch the club on TV, and the owner who’s overseen all of this has a…uh, controversial past. Thanks to savvy drafting and a player development group that seems several standard deviations from average, and boom, the club contends in 2015 at least a year ahead of schedule. Not content to hope that they’re good enough as-is, the club then goes out and picks up Scott Kazmir, Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez at the deadline. And then it all goes to hell, and the Angels – the ANGELS – get off the mat and start winning a bunch of one-run games. It’s ok, says this long-suffering Houston fan, we can just beat up on a Mariner team that seems to have divested itself of starting pitching. Just beat Vidal Nuno on short rest and
Mayckol Guaipe Tony Zych, and everything’ll work out. To quote an old phrase well-beloved by veteran M’s watchers, “There is no floor.”
Mayckol Guaipe was listed as the starter tonight at Fangraphs, as he initially came up as a starter in rookie ball. Following a third-straight disaster start in April of 2013, he gave it up and hasn’t been back since. Now, the M’s tweet that it’ll be Tony Zych, who closed in his junior year at Louisville and has been a reliever since then. His last appearance as a starter came in 2010, when he was a college sophomore. I find this so amazing, I have to repeat it: Tony Zych is making his first start as a pro of any kind. Joe Beimel? Ex-starter. Logan Kensing? Definitely. Danny Farquhar’s the closest you can get, as he hadn’t made any starts until one this year in Tacoma, but he was a college starter. The same’s true of Carson Smith, who started at Texas State before moving to the ‘pen in the pros.
Tony Zych is perhaps the least-likely starter given his pro experience and two-pitch repertoire, but hey, maybe the M’s can innovate here. As the wildcard game often means pitching your ace *before* you get to the “real” playoffs, there’s a potential for a club to essentially play match-ups the entire game with their relievers. That is, start a lefty-reliever, get the other club to stack righties in their line-up, then bring in a ROOGY in the 2nd or 3rd. Switch again a few innings later, etc. In this game, the Astros may have no choice but to start a righty-hitting line-up, leaving them somewhat vulnerable if the M’s then put in Joe Beimel….or Rob Rasmussen. Hmm. Okay, let me amend this theory by saying that IN THEORY a team with expanded rosters would have a plethora of left-handed relievers that could replace Zych. But because Nuno just pitched, Furbush is hurt, Olson’s in extended, and Rasmussen and Rollins have been shaky, the Astros may have a bit less to worry about.
And to be fair: Zych’s been remarkably effective. It’s not just that his fastball’s tough to square up, but his slider breaks so much that it may be tough to read for guys who aren’t familiar with him. And at this point in his career, NO ONE’s familiar with him. Without a ton of drop, it’s going to be hard to keep those minimal splits forever, but hey, he’s developing a change-up, and Chaz Roe’s shown that as long as you don’t get blown out of the building by lefties, there’s a way to stick around with a solid FB and a swerving slider.
The other big news item out of M’s-ville is related to the scramble for a starter here: Felix Hernandez won’t pitch again this year. That’s probably for the best, but given the state of the M’s rotation, I can imagine Lloyd McClendon lobbying for one final start, even if it was only 5 IP or so.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, DH
4: Cano, 2B
5: Gutierrez, LF
6: Trumbo, RF
7: Montero, 1B
8: O’Malley, CF
9: Sucre, C
With the M’s win last night, the Astros fell behind the Angels by a half game. It was the first time they’d been out of a playoff position since mid-April.