Game 134, Angels at Mariners
Ariel Miranda vs. Brett Oberholtzer, 7:10pm
We’ve been through some lean times, haven’t we? Bleak seasons, followed by recriminations, firings, and ho-hum transactions, followed by irrational exuberance about some prospect, followed by another bleak season. It hasn’t all been bad, of course – the M’s have fielded some quality teams, and while some free agent signings have been Brad Wilkerson-level, some have brought us Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. It’s been a mixed bag, and it’s only looking back, taking it all in, that it really feels disastrous.
And hey, that’s the past. That’s WHY the team made a change at GM (and many other positions), and when you look at the minors, you see the stirrings of a player development revolution. There’s plenty to look forward to, I think. But it’s September 2016, and today the M’s play the long-eliminated Angels, and the pitching match-up is Ariel Miranda – a recent unheralded pick-up by the M’s – against Brett Oberholtzer, a recent pick-up by the Angels off the waiver wire.
We’ve seen bad match-ups before. Hell, we’ve seen bad match-ups involving Mr. Oberholtzer, given that the majority of his big-league tenure came in Houston. He remains left-handed, unremarkable in stuff and bat-missing ability, and plagued by a surfeit of home runs. He’s allowed 3 thus far in his 9 IP with LA, and tonight in the suddenly homer-prone Safeco Field, he could give up plenty more. There’s just the matter of his left-handedness; the M’s are still scuffling against southpaws, and while the got to Cole Hamels, he’s traditionally been a reverse-split guy, thanks to his change-up. But if Hamels relies on his change, Oberholtzer is utterly dependent upon it. He throws it far more than any other pitch besides his fastball, though he’s belatedly learned a slider that he’s trying to work in more and more. The cambio’s been his best pitch, but that isn’t saying much. Oberholtzer had moved from the Astros to the Phillies as part of the Ken Giles trade, which made sense considering how bereft of talent the Phillies looked in the offseason. But with Vincent Velasquez (the headliner in that same deal) and Jerad Eickhoff (part of the Cole Hamels trade) and Aaron Nola stepping up, the Phillies didn’t actually *need* a replacement level starter. That the Angels clearly do tells you all you need to know about how 2016 has gone in Anaheim.
1: Gamel, RF
2: Heredia, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lee, 1B
7: Martin, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: Marte, SS
Welcome, Ben Gamel! Starting/batting lead off in his first Mariner appearance.
And welcome BACK to Nelson Cruz, who’s been missed as he recovered from a minor injury.
The Rainiers completed the organizational sweep last night, beating Fresno 2-1 in 14 innings on a Ryan Strausborger walk-off single. Mind you, they’d actually made the playoffs a few hours before, when Reno lost their game 3-1. The Rainiers announced to their fans (and the teams) that the Rainiers were division champs, but credit to the R’s for going out and actually winning the game, though it took them far longer than it should’ve – they left the bases loaded a few times in the late innings, and the game ended up taking about 5 hours despite the low score. But: all seven affiliates of the M’s have qualified for their league’s postseason tournament.
I mentioned it on Twitter, but the team with the biggest year-over-year turnaround has been Clinton, the M’s Midwest League team. Thanks to a biblical-plague-level 2nd half of 2015, Clinton lost over 90 games in a 144 game schedule, winning just 46 and posting an abysmal winning percentage. This year, they’re sitting on 83 wins, and have a shot at improving their win total by 40 games. In a year. In a short, 144-game season. This is mind-blowing to me; the biggest year-on-year turnaround at the big league level that I can find (and remember, that’s in 162 games) is 35, by the 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks. That club brought in some lanky left-handed pitcher named Randy Johnson as part of a big influx of talent and ended up winning 100 games. And Clinton’s already surpassed that with a few more games to play, and, sad to say, without any Randy Johnson-level talents in sight.
Speaking of Clinton, the players to be named later in the M’s acquisition of Arquimedes Caminero were announced: Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez. I’ll admit – that was a bit steeper a price than I’d expected, as Vasquez has shined for Clinton. He’s not a big strikeout guy, so it’s not a huge loss, but he showed very good command. Brentz is a lefty wild card; he’d looked like a diamond in the rough last year when he was picked up from Toronto in the Mark Lowe deal, but regressed a bit this year. Still, a lefty with a big fastball is a nice second piece in exchange for a faltering (if talented) bullpen arm.