Game 3, Mariners at Rangers
Wade Miley vs. Colby Lewis, 11:05am
After a triumphant, decisive win last night, the M’s have a great opportunity to win an early series at a divisional rival’s place today. Wade Miley makes his first official start for the M’s in something of a tough situation for him. At a very high level, he’s a middle-of-the-order guy who’s struggled at times with the home run, so playing in a park like Arlington’s going to challenge him (and everyone else, of course). That said, this *specific* game has some positives as well. First, Texas’ line-up has been re-jiggered a bit to get more right-handed bats in there. That makes sense given Miley’s pretty normal platoon splits, but it also means that the Rangers are throwing out something of a B team line-up, particularly down the batting order.
Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder are two of the Rangers’ best bats, but they’re also lefties. Miley will need to be wary of Adrian Beltre, but other than that, he’s going to face Ian Desmond (playing CF!!), Brian Holoday, Ryan Rua, Justin Ruggiano and Hanser Alberto. Rougned Odor’s another tough out, but he too bats lefty, making Miley’s job a bit easier. Choo’s platoon splits are fairly extreme, and it’s something that’s tugged his overall value down a bit, but Prince Fielder’s are sizable, too. This is a divisional game in a hitter’s haven, but this is still a favorable way for Miley to get his M’s career going.
Colby Lewis gets the start for Texas. The righty now throws in the high 80s, and has been dogged by platoon split issues of his own for many years. A more pressing concern has been health, as Lewis had Tommy John a few years ago. Impressively, he topped 200 IP last year for the first time in years, so he clearly put in the work, but I think that also says a lot about the dire situation the Rangers were in in 2014-15 with their pitching staff just decimated by injuries that Lewis was required to stabilize the rotation and become a workhorse.
Lewis throws a rising four-seam fastball and a lot of sliders at 83-84. He’s got a decent curve ball, but, like his change, he uses it sparingly and mostly against lefties. Lewis has great control, which is probably what’s kept him in the big leagues. Against lefties, he gets very few strikeouts and thus has a very high career FIP against them, but at least he doesn’t give up free passes. The M’s offense *liked* facing fly-ball pitchers (and Lewis is an extreme fly-ball guy) last year, and figures to do well against them again this year: Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager love pitches they can elevate and drive. It’s not dispositive, but it’s nice to see that Seager and Cano in particular have clubbed Lewis over their careers.
1: Martin, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Lind, 1B
6: Smith, DH
7: Sardinas, LF
8: Clevenger, C
9: Marte, SS
Marte’s defensive lapses have been unfortunate, but it’s easy to chalk up to nerves. Something to keep an eye on, perhaps. Luis Sardinas, the utility man brought in in large part for his ability to play a competent SS, has now seen time at 1B and LF. The M’s will give the lefty-swinging Steve Clevenger his first start – a great move against a guy like Colby Lewis. Finally, after a spring in which pretty much no one could get him out, it’s great to see Seth Smith race out of the gates. As an M’s fan, it’s often hard to separate the beauty of a hitter’s swing from the results it produces, and I’m not sure I can, but I will just say that I love watching Seth Smith hit.
So, last night’s game was an entertaining one. After several innings in which pitching had the upper hand, the M’s broke through against the bottom half of the Rangers bullpen, getting to Federal Way’s Tony Barnette and then absolutely destroying Tom Wilhelmsen. Like many of you, it wasn’t as fun to see Wilhelmsen self-destruct as it would’ve been to see, I don’t know, Shawn Tolleson, but the M’s line-up looked much more potent than we’ve seen in a while. In a sense, that’s been the most surprising aspect of the first two games: the M’s got away from the all-HRs, no-glove approach and yet they’ve produced six HRs in two games with some pretty shoddy fielding thrown in. Whatever works.