Game 137, Rangers at Mariners
King Felix vs. Cole Hamels, 1:10pm
Happy Felix Day to you, as well as a very happy Labor Day. It’s nice to have a day off to really enjoy a Felix start properly – with mid-afternoon beers and grilled meats. Of course, the last few Felix Days haven’t felt too celebratory. We’ve seen Felix scuffle before, and we’ve seen him make minor tweaks and resume his reign, but it’s pretty obvious that the bad patches are getting closer and closer together. The M’s aren’t going to the playoffs this year, so what I’d like to see is clear, unambiguous improvement from their ace. Felix is still just 30, and while there are a lot of miles on his right arm, he’s still King Felix, and if the M’s have any chance at contention next year, they’ll need a big year from him. Even if the M’s take a different tack and see what they could get for Nelson Cruz, we’ll still need a full year from Hernandez both as a mentor to younger starters and as someone capable of leading the staff if everything breaks right and the M’s make an improbable run at the wild card next year.
Cole Hamels is having an excellent year despite a walk-driven spike in his fielding-independent stats. A career-worst 9% walk rate seems like a bad omen, especially while pitching half your games in Arlington, but Hamels has pitched around it thus far. It’s hard to know how much of his insanely high strand rate is luck and how much is the Rangers’ defense, but whatever it is, Hamels has been tough to score on this season. Like his teammates, Hamels has been unusually good in high-leverage situations, with 30% of the balls in play against him in crunch time classified as softly hit, compared with just 18% in low-leverage situations. While he’ll pitch around tough hitters in high-stakes plate appearances (fewer Ks, more walks), his BABIP plummets. This is either more of that weird Rangers devil magic that produces actual win totals 10+ games above their pythagorean or base runs total, or it’s luck plus planning.
One example of the M’s poor base-running is that the M’s have hit into 23 more double plays than the Rangers despite having an essentially even on base percentage. The M’s are 5th in MLB with 121, while the Rangers are down in 23rd with only 98. That’s all factored in to base runs and stuff, but part of being “clutch” is giving yourself a CHANCE by avoiding silly or costly mistakes.
1: Heredia, LF
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lee, 1B
7: Martin, CF
8: Sucre, C
9: Marte, SS
SP: El Cartelua
Like everyone who saw yesterday’s game, I’m keeping Matt Shoemaker in my thoughts today. After taking a Kyle Seager liner off his head, Shoemaker suffered a skull fracture and needed an emergency surgery last night when doctors discovered more bleeding between his brain and skull. The LA Times Pedro Moura reports he’s awake and speaking now, but he’s not out of the woods. The whole thing reminds me a bit of Brandon McCarthy’s injury several years ago – and after a long time, McCarthy returned pitching as well as ever. Hope Shoemaker can do the same.
The minor league season wraps up today, and the Rainiers are at home taking on Reno. With a big crowd, they can set their all-time attendance record. Mike Curto also notes that the club’s been really tough at home: they’re 45-26 at Cheney on the year. With Ryan Strausborger out, the Rainiers grabbed Eric Filia from Everett. Lots of moving around as the M’s affiliates prepare for the postseason.
Newcomer (and extravagantly bearded) Bryan Evans starts for Jackson, while Joe Wieland takes the hill in Tacoma.