Game 6, Athletics at Mariners
King Felix vs. Chris Bassitt, 1:10pm
Happy Felix Day. May the King lead us out of rather ugly two-game skid and back to the happier times of dingers and doubles, and annihilating opposing relievers.
The King faces off against Chris Bassitt today, an A’s right-hander acquired in the Jeff Samardzija trade. Bassitt seemed like a classic Oakland target – a big-league ready starter without much in the way of pure stuff, but solid command of four pitches. For the team that got Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin for Josh Donaldson, this seemed pretty normal/predictable, if a bit underwhelming considering what they were giving up. Bassitt’s been surprising, though – his velocity last year kept climbing, going from 92 with the White Sox to averaging 94 in Oakland. That, combined with very low HR-allowed marks allowed him to post a string of quality starts after getting a July promotion from AAA. To be clear: with a K rate solidly below average and a few too many walks, it’s not like Bassitt turned into a #2 starter or anything, but the improvements he’s made to date allow A’s fans to think the missed bats could come soon enough.
In his first start this year, the velocity was 95, suggesting he could average even higher by June/July. Again, though, he’s not yet a strikeout pitcher. As many have observed, including in the preview of the last time he faced off with El Cartelua, he doesn’t have much of a weapon against lefties. He’s been primarily a sinker/slider pitcher, and like most sinker/slider guys, he had big platoon splits in the minors and in his cup of coffee in Chicago. In recent games, he’s shifted to his slow curve a bit more. He’ll still throw his hard slider (85+ mph) to lefties, but he’s going with the curve as his putaway pitch. That sounds bad for an M’s offense that looked absolutely lost against Rich Hill’s curve (which he threw an astounding 54 times), but Bassitt’s a righty, and that should make a difference.
The real reason Bassitt’s put up very nice FIP (and ERA) marks in 2014-15 isn’t because he’s putting batters away, and it’s not due to great control. He’s been remarkably good at keeping the ball in the park. Oakland’s park probably has something to do with that, and there’s no way we can ascribe some kind of skill to him given the short track record, but I’m hoping the M’s can drive a pitch or two today. Bassitt gave up one HR in his 5 1/3 IP start against the White Sox last week, so hopefully the regression in HR/FB is already underway.
1: Aoki, LF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Lind, 1B
6: Smith, DH
7: Marte, SS
8: Clevenger, C
9: Martin, CF
SP: KING FELIX
EIGHT lefties in the line-up today, plus Nelson Cruz.
Ryan Divish tweeted last night that the early MLBAM gameday total showed Hill had thrown 52 curves. This morning, BrooksBaseball had revised that upwards to 54. My first thought was: that has to be at or near a record, but it’s not. Last September, Lance McCullers of the Astros threw 54 against the Angels, and then 54 against the Royals in October. Jose Quintana of the White Sox threw an astounding 59 in September, also against KC. AJ Burnett got to 57 in a 2013 game, too. It’s still incredibly rare, but it’s not quite AS rare as I’d thought.
The Rainiers dropped their first game of the year yesterday, 2-0, to Albuquerque. Jeff Hoffman was solid, tossing 6 scoreless frames with 3 walks and 6 Ks, and the Isotopes bullpen made it hold up. James Paxton struggled with his mechanics a bit, according to BP’s Brendan Gawlowski, and sat 91-93. That’s pretty much on par with what we saw in the Spring – and perhaps a bit better – but still noticeably down from where he was in April a year ago, and in 2014. Not sure what it means. Paxton didn’t get hit hard – he gave up 2 hits in 4 IP – but he walked 5 against 3 K’s. Lefty Paul Fry made his AAA debut and K’d 3 of the 4 hitters he faced, tossing a perfect 1 1/3 IP. Today, the Rainiers finish up their opening series against the Isotopes, and the R’s send Adrian Sampson to the hill. He’ll face off with Albuquerque’s Shane Carle.
Jackson beat Montgomery 3-1, taking the first three games of the season against a very, very good Biscuits starting rotation. The Generals have now beaten Jacob Faria (the Ray’s #6 prospect) in game 1, Taylor Guerrieri (the Rays #3 prospect) in game 2, and Ryne Stanek, the one-time M’s draftee, then a candidate to be the #1 overall prospect out of Arkansas several years ago, and now the Rays #16 prospect last night. Sam Gaviglio got the win for Jackson, tossing 5 solid innings, and then the Generals got good relief performances by Steven Landazuri and Dan Altavilla, who struck out 3 in 2 IP for the save. Guillermo Heredia and Tyler O’Neill led the offense with two hits each. Brett Ash takes the hill for Jackson today.
Bakersfield was rained out for the first time since 2012 last night. Tyler Pike makes the start for the Blaze today.
Kane County beat Clinton 5-4, despite three hits from Ricky Eusebio. Zack Littell went 5 shutout innings for the L-Kings, striking out 8, but the bullpen kind of imploded behind him. Kyle Wilcox makes his 2016 debut on the mound today.