Game 8, Rangers at Mariners
Wade Miley vs. Derek Holland, 7:10pm
Four home losses in a row, and it’s easy to feel detached, pessimistic, angry, or a mix of the three. Perhaps worse, there’s no clear, easily identifiable problem with the way the team’s been constructed, no obvious solution for people to rally around. Adam Lind looks awful (“why go after declining 1B/DH types in free agency?”), but so does Ketel Marte (“The M’s had no plan B if their beloved prospect flopped”). The line-up can’t score, but the biggest problem – even bigger than their issues with left-handed pitching – is BABIP. The bullpen doesn’t *feel* secure, but they’ve struck out 28 in 22 IP.
It’s still too early to really get a sense of the team’s flaws, or rather, which flaws to target. That’s unnerving for fans of a team that’s been out of it by mid-June rather frequently, because the AL is so tightly bunched, the M’s don’t have the luxury of taking a few months to do a proper diagnostic evaluation. If the run-scoring is all just BABIP luck, then it could turn around tonight. If the team’s made some bad bets on low-cost, over-30s complementary pieces, that’s another thing entirely. Still, it’s almost reassuring how all-over-the-map M’s fans are on twitter. I’ve seen everything fingered as the Real Problem, from two-strike approach at the plate, to Safeco Field, to the bench players. The M’s have opened with one of their most frustrating weeks in a while, and that’s saying something. But they’re clearly not as bad as they’ve looked. The question now is how much the start’s hurt them, and how quickly they can reach their potential.
Tonight, they face lefty Derek Holland. Holland’s an oft-injured hurler who never quite regained the form he showed in 2011 and 2013 as key contributor to some of the Rangers’ best teams. Yes, the injuries have had a lot to do with that, but even when he’s been healthy (and his 2015 velocity looked about the same as it always did), he’s been ineffective. Because of his approach and home park, home runs are always going to be a concern with Holland, and the M’s need to take advantage. Holland has a fastball, a change, a curveball, and a slider he’ll throw to righties as well as lefties. His velocity’s a bit better than average, but right-handed bats have done plenty of damage to each of his offerings. The slider’s his best pitch, but it may be declining – righties slugged .500 on it last year.
1: Aoki, LF
2: Sardinas, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Iannetta, C
7: Gutierrez, DH
8: Lee, 1B
9: Martin, CF
So, last night was Donn Roach’s first start for Tacoma. Which Roach would we see? The lights-out, bat-missing Roach from spring training or the early-80s throwback who couldn’t miss a bat if it was laying on a chair, but succeeded by inducing grounders? In 5 2/3 solid innings against El Paso, Roach struck out… nobody. Ok, cool, glad to know that career numbers are still more predictive than spring training. Huh. The R’s won 6-3, as Roach racked up the groundouts, and the bats stayed hot against draft cautionary tale Greg Reynolds. Joe Wieland takes the mound tonight against the Chihuahuas’ Carlos Pimentel.
Jackson was rained out yesterday, but kicks off a series with Chattanooga today behind South African starter Dylan Unsworth.
Bakersfield mounted a late comeback against Modesto, eventually winning the contest 8-7 in 11. The Blaze fell behind early, as starter Eddie Campbell couldn’t locate the zone, walking six with no K’s in 3+. Meanwhile, Modesto starter Ryan Castellani held the Blaze in check, but the Blaze found lots of suitable kindling in the Nuts’ bullpen. Drew Jackson had 2 hits and his first stolen base of the year, and Ryan Horstman was the best reliever on the day, with two absolutely perfect innings – he faced 6 hitters and K’d them all.
Clinton lost to Beloit 10-6, as Nick Wells had a forgettable start to his 2016, giving up 7 runs in 3 1/3 IP. Luis Liberato had 3 hits, Ricky Eusebio added 2 including a HR, and catcher James Alfonso had two doubles. Art Warren starts for Clinton tonight against A’s prospect Dustin Driver. In researching the draft in 2013, Driver turned up as one of the better prospects from the state of Washington. The big righty out of a Wenatchee HS fell to the 3rd round due to signability concerns (I think he’d committed to UCLA), but the A’s gave him an over-slot bonus and sent him to the short-season NYPL. Driver, who apparently touched the high-90s at times, pitched all of 11 1/3 IP before being shut down with a back injury. Not sure if anyone knew how serious it was at the time, but Driver missed all of 2014, and came back late in 2015, and looked predictably rusty. He’s still young, but that’s a lot of development time to miss.