Game 56, Mariners at Rangers
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Derek Holland, 12:05
The M’s could really use a win here, having dropped the first two of the series and thus two games back of the first place Rangers. The M’s are still the division favorite according to Fangraphs, but it’s narrowing. The projected final standings show the M’s a game up on Texas, at 86-76, and thus the M’s have a lead in playoff odds. But as you can see from this chart, their lead has narrowed considerably in the past few days.
Today the M’s face Derek Holland, the veteran lefty who’ll be making his 11th start of the year, or one more than he made in his injury-plagued 2015. He’s always had sizable platoon splits, kind of like Martin Perez, thanks to a so-so change-up and better breaking stuff. It’s not only a pitch mix problem, either: his fastballs have been crushed by righties, while his sinker in particular has remained very effective against lefties. At this point in his career – and in his recovery from injury – Holland’s not missing many bats, so he’s trying to get by getting lazy fly balls and infield pop-ups. He’s been successful in inducing pop ups, and thus his FIP looks okay, but he’s had a tough time stranding runners, and his BABIP isn’t as low as you might assume given his batted ball profile.
Of course, nothing that Holland does matters if the M’s keep getting disastrous starts from their starters. Hisashi Iwakuma was decent in his last appearance, or at least as decent as a starter can be while giving up 4 dingers. In context, it was probably better than the line looks: the M’s scored a million runs, and Iwakuma needed to just throw strikes. But Arlington isn’t a place to just throw strikes and hope for the best, so he’ll need to be a bit sharper than he’s been in recent starts.
Iwakuma’s slider has never quite rounded into form, so this year he’s throwing more of the cutter he developed in 2014 and showed very occasionally last year. It’s thrown at 85-86, so very near his four-seam fastball’s speed, but has none of the armside run. Unfortunately, it too seems to be a work in progress, as batters have hit it fairly hard. We’ll see if it’s something he continues to go to, or if he’ll go back to his curve…or just stick to the splitter.
1: Aoki, CF
2: Gutierrez, DH
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Lee, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Romero, LF
9: Sardinas, SS