Game 7, Nomar MazaRangers at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Colby Lewis, 7:10pm
What a difference three games makes. The M’s capped a painful three game sweep at the hands of Oakland with the most painful game of all, an extra-innings one-run loss in a game Felix tossed seven scoreless with 10 Ks. It’s not that any one game means a whole lot in the standings, it’s just the kind of game that gives this scarred fanbase some flashbacks to the Bad Times of 2010-12.
The M’s offense, riding high after the opening series, was wholly ineffective against the A’s. The M’s batting average on balls in play tanked, in part because the A’s seemed to shift a bit better than the M’s. To be clear: the M’s defense has looked atrocious, but they’ve done a decent job of turning balls in play into outs. But the A’s were able to beat the shift several times, from Jed Lowrie’s two opposite field grounders to Yonder Alonso’s bunt in yesterday’s game. Meanwhile, the M’s offense has been really hurt by the shift. The M’s are hitting .184 into the shift, in part because they’ve got the second-highest GB% when the shift is on. The highest, Kansas City, has an even *lower* average in the shift. Teams know which M’s to shift, and to date, those M’s hitters have hit accordingly. The other big problem with the offense was their putrid performance with men on base. In both cases, though, a freakishly low BABIP is part of the problem. The shift thing is concerning, because it hints at a *reason* the M’s BABIP might be low, but the M’s have had their share of bad luck thus far as well.
Today, they take on Texas, whom they obviously enjoyed hitting against in the opening series of the season. Colby Lewis starts, and just like last time, that makes for a solid match-up for the M’s. The big story of the game isn’t the M’s sweep or Lewis, or ‘Kuma, but rather the Rangers newest call-up, catcher Brett Nicholas. The 27-year old backstop was drafted back in 2010, and slowly worked… Ok, in actuality, the big story is the Rangers promotion of one of the top position-player prospects in the game, Nomar Mazara. Mazara’s first game was yesterday in Anaheim – the Rangers hit him second in the line-up. I can’t think of the last time a 20-year old call-up hit 2nd in the line-up. In Mike Trout’s debut (against the M’s), he batted 9th. Carlos Correa hit 6th, as did Miguel Sano. Kris Bryant batted 4th in his first game, but he was 23. Mazara’s approach and ability to drive a variety of pitches has had scouts drooling for years, ever since he signed the highest international signing bonus ever in 2011, right before the new bonus cap system went into place. After a couple of slow years (and aggressive assignments), he began settling in and putting up solid, but not eye-popping numbers. Still, scouts have given Mazara’s bat and overall talent for hitting grades that are absolutely in that Correa/Sano class. In his debut yesterday, he had hits in his first three PAs, with the third a home run off of Jered Weaver. Rangers fans probably expected to see Mazara at some point this year, but his early arrival and dominant debut were unexpected bonuses, and take the sting out of losing Shin-Soo Choo to a hamstring injury.
As I talked about in the minor league preview, Texas’ AAA affiliate in Round Rock was a loaded group, and they’ve still got Joey Gallo waiting another call-up. They may add to it by promoting CF Lewis Brinson, a guy I’d have right about equal with Mazara in terms of overall value (Brinson’s a CF, which helps balance out Mazara’s more advanced bat). Gallo is somehow still only 22, and Jurickson Profar is at Round Rock as well, trying to show he can stay healthy and contribute.
Here’s tonight’s line-up:
1: Aoki, LF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Lind, 1B
6: Smith, RF
7: Iannetta, C
8: Marte, SS
9: Martin, CF
I don’t really want to, but I suppose I should address this stupid click-baity fan loyalty ranking thing. Nathan at LL already remarked that it’s irrelevant, but I just wanted to point out that this kind of thing is designed to be controversial and generate click-throughs and pageviews. How? By imbuing a series of survey results with a big, overarching, vaguely moralistic heading. The marketing group (there’s your first hint, people) responsible for measuring “Loyalty” asked some fans about how entertaining they are (?), how “authentic” they are as a team (??), and some other dubious “metrics” and summarize the whole thing as “loyalty.” They do so annually, which leads to the insanity/inanity of seeing certain fanbases jump up* (or tumble down) in the rankings on a year-to-year basis. The genius here is the headline, and the vague whiff of “science” to it. There are like, metrics and stuff, and sub-categories, and people from the marketing group that would be happy to talk to your reporters. As a culture, we can’t stop consuming this stuff, even as the social sciences undergo a reproducibility crisis, and even as people demonstrate exactly how to turn nothing into viral stories. No, the M’s are not a disloyal fanbase. Safeco wouldn’t have been packed with yellow-shirted crazies yesterday if that were true. No one would be reading this if that was true (uhhh, never mind, let’s go back to the Felix thing).
In much happier news, I got to see the Rainiers nuke the Albuquerque Isotopes yesterday, 13-1. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicates, actually. Stefen Romero launched a long, long HR, Boog Powell had hits and scored runs in each of the first two innings, and Chris Taylor was on base four times. You get the picture. Lost in all of the run-scoring was a great outing by Adrian Sampson, who went 6 scoreless innings, yielding just one hit. He sat 90-91 for the most part, touched 92 frequently, and showed a change and workable slider/breaking ball. Donn Roach makes his first start today as the R’s open a series with El Paso. The Chihuahuas have an interesting team – a pitching staff anchored by veteran Jeremy Guthrie, an IF made up of several ex-prospects like one-time Ranger prospect Mike Olt, ex-Giants prospect Nick Noonan, and ex-Dodger prospect James Loney. Then, they have actual prospects in the OF, led by top-100 guys Manual Margot and Hunter Renfroe. LF Alex Dickerson is something of a prospect himself, and made his big league debut last season.
Jackson finally lost to Mongtomery, 9-2. Brett Ash and reliever Ryne Harper struggled, and the offense didn’t score until the 8th inning. Guillermo Heredia had three hits, and Tyler O’Neill had two. The Generals were rained out today.
Bakersfield dropped another close one, losing 3-1 to Visalia in extra innings. The Rawhide tied the game at 1 in the 9th, then scored 2 in the 10th to win. Tyler Pike pitched very well, which is incredibly encouraging, given his struggles over the past two years. 1B Kyle Petty had three singles for the Blaze. Left-hander Eddie Campbell takes the mound for Bakersfield tonight.
Clinton beat Kane County 4-3, with a 2-run rally in the 7th capped by another Ricky Eusebio hit. Eusebio is now 6-13 on the year. The relievers for the L-Kings were great, especially Joey Strain, who went two perfect innings to close it out. Prospect Nick Wells starts for Clinton today; the lanky lefty was part of the return for Mark Lowe last year.
* This year, Pittsburgh jumped up 10 spots in loyalty. Loyalty is essentially *defined* by the persistence or durability of a connection or affiliation, but Pittsburgh’s loyalty jumped 10 spots in a year. That’s an awesome loyalty measure you’ve got there. The Cubs, who sell out every game, are 16th. It is nonsense on stilts, and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.