Game 125, Yankees at Mariners
Taijuan Walker vs. CC Sabathia, 7:10pm
Welcome back, Taijuan. Walker’s banishment to AAA lasted all of 2 starts, though he’s made 3 this month, if you include his rehab start against Albuquerque on the 1st. While Walker shut out the Nashville Sounds over 6 1/3 IP in his last start, there are still some warning signs: in every one of Walker’s starts this month, 3 in AAA and 1 in MLB, he’s walked or plunked more batters than he’s struck out. Walker’s vanishing K rate is a worrying sign, and it’s directly related to his problem with big innings; nothing helps a pitcher out of a jam like a big strikeout.
In his last game in the bigs, Walker was almost comically reliant on his four-seam fastball, throwing it on 50 out of 64 total pitches. It sounds like the M’s forced Walker to work on his secondary stuff in Tacoma, and that’ll be something to look for today. This will actually be his first game of the year with Mike Zunino as his battery mate. I don’t think Iannetta’s to blame for Walker’s poor start against the Angels, but if the M’s had a huge problem with his pitch selection, they need to make sure the M’s catchers are hearing that message as well. To be fair to both Walker and Iannetta – Walker’s curve didn’t look so good recently. He’s not getting the spin and thus the drop on it that he needs, and if it just didn’t feel right/wasn’t working, that may have played into their heater-centric game plan.
To make room for Walker, the M’s optioned Cody Martin to AAA. To bolster their bullpen, the M’s also activated Tony Zych from the 60-day DL today, with Stefen Romero surrendering his 25-man slot. They didn’t need to make a move on the 40-man, as they had an open slot in anticipation of either Zych or Evan Scribner being activated. Apparently Zych was further along.
1: Heredia, LF
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Zunino, C
7: Lind, 1B
8: Martin, CF
9: Marte, SS
Glad to see Zunino slide up a position in the batting order. Not a huge deal by any stretch, but the man simply deserves more at bats at this point.
Bob Dutton’s notebook article mentions that Hisashi Iwakuma’s about to trigger the vesting option in his contract for 2017. While Iwakuma’s looked shaky at times in the past year or two, that’s still good news for M’s fans. He, like Felix, has made a number of adjustments, and Iwakuma’s been a big part of the M’s recent surge.
The M’s 3 HRs last night take them to 92 home dingers on the year. That took them past last season’s total of 90 HRs hit at Safeco, and shockingly, ties them with the 92 they hit over 2010 and 2011…*combined.* In 2010, the M’s hit all of 35 home runs at home, which is one of the many stats about that club that is both horrifying and impossible to turn away from. If you’re wondering, the M’s allowed 69 HRs at home in 2010 and 77 in 2011, both far lower than this year’s 87, but the comparison isn’t as bonkers as it is for batters. The M’s allowed 90 last season at home, so they’ll certainly surpass that, but this year marks the continuation of an upward trend thanks both to the league-wide dinger uptick as well as the park-specific dimension changes a few years back. The offense, though…that’s harder to explain. I’ve certainly tried, but I think there’s still a lot of ground to plow in figuring out why Safeco’s suddenly playing so differently.