Game 147, Astros at Mariners

marc w · September 16, 2016 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Collin McHugh, 7:10pm

In September of 2014, the M’s returned home following an inordinately successful road trip. Their record was 78-64 as they prepared to host the Houston Astros, and they had King Felix on the hill. Their wildcard odds at that point were right about 50%. While Felix won that one, the Astros and then the Blue Jays conspired to ruin what had been an out-of-nowhere playoff push. As late as the final week of the season, the M’s still had playoff odds of better than 1/3, but Collin McHugh and the Astros held the M’s at bay, and then a disastrous series in Toronto put an end to the M’s hopes. I recount all of this not to revel in pessimism, but to point out the almost eerie parallels between this year and 2014, and how nice it is to have another shot at this.

It’s also to point that Houston’s played a remarkably outsized role in two AL playoff races in the last three years. In 2014, the M’s lost 4 of 6 critical games to the Astros, who’d go on to finish 70-92. This year, the Astros are much better, so it’s less of a surprise that they’re 8-5 against the M’s, but it’s a key reason why the M’s trail Toronto in the Wild Card race. The Astros themselves are in 3rd in large part because of their complete inability to compete with Texas, who’s an astonishing 15-4 against them. Houston and Seattle are normal, in that they have much better records against worse-than-.500 clubs, while Texas, perhaps the oddest team in recent memory, is actually better against .500+ teams, largely because that group includes the Astros (and Mariners).

Collin McHugh came out of nowhere to post a great 2014 season, but he’s struggled to regain that form. While the Astros’ improvement helped his record, he declined quite a bit in 2015 thanks to a much higher BABIP and a decline in his K-BB%. While his K-BB% has rebounded some this year, it’s been more than offset by a spike in home runs – the problem that got him waived by New York and Colorado before his Houston renaissance. As fortunate as his 2014 was, his 2016 is Chris Snelling-level cursed. His BABIP is now a about 100 points higher than it was in 2014, and coupled with his HR trouble, he’s been a mediocre starter by fielding-dependent metrics.

For a guy who uses a roughly equal mix of fastballs, slider/cutters, and curves, he’s got surprisingly little in the way of platoon splits. In the past, his success against lefties was a key component of his value. Now, his LACK of success against *righties* is driving his slide into back-of-the-rotation status. I’ve said that many times this year (this’ll be McHugh’s 4th start of the year against Seattle) and it hasn’t mattered; McHugh is 3-0 against the M’s, who’ve managed just a .640 OPS against him. In his last start against the M’s back in July, McHugh K’d 10 in 6 IP. That’s surprising, given just how bad McHugh’s struggled against everyone else. Righties have teed off on McHugh’s underpowered four-seam fastball; they’re slugging .727 off of it. Meanwhile, lefties are feasting on his cutter, against which they’ve slugged .713.

The key to this game, though, is Felix. In 2014, Felix had a rough ending to the year, culminating in a 10-1 loss in Toronto that was essentially the M’s death knell. He recently suffered through back-to-back disaster starts, and he’s had some pretty bad Septembers in recent years. That said, I think this is the outcome every M’s fan wanted: Felix starting the first game of a crucial homestand, with the M’s riding an 8 game win streak. I don’t want to take too much comfort in these “playoff-like” substitutes that Felix has had to settle for, but it’s pretty awesome to see meaningful baseball in September again. Like Larry Stone, I have no idea how this team is in this position all of the sudden, but I’ll take it.*

1: Aoki, LF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Zunino, C
7: Martin, CF
8: Vogelbach, 1B
9: Marte, SS

The M’s get a bit of a break, as new Astros 3B Alex Bregman’s not making the trip after injuring his hamstring. After starting off his MLB career with an absymal 2-38 slump, Bregman’s hit .310/.353/.582 in 37 games. Of course, he’s not the only addition the Astros have made since the last time these two clubs met back in July. The Astros now feature Yuliesky Gurriel, the Cuban corner IF/OF, who’s off to a great start in MLB – the 32 year old has played 21 games, and he’s hitting .338/.360/.521.

The Jackson Generals won the Southern League Championship last night in Mississippi with a dominant 11-3. Jackson knocked out the opposing starter after 2/3 of an inning. Tyler O’Neill was named the series MVP after winning the season MVP. Jackson had the league’s best record as well. Really can’t see how this season could’ve gone any better except for maybe avoiding that weird late-season slide that kept them from having the best record in both halves. It’s going to be fun to see Tyler O’Neill in Seattle next year (figure he’ll get a call-up at some point).

The last club still playing is Clinton, who’ll start Kevin Gadea in Game 3 of the MWL championship series on Saturday. Great Lakes counters with Caleb Ferguson, a 38th rounder out of an Ohio HS who’s been a nice surprise for the Dodgers org this year. He began the year in Rookie Ball, but moved up to make 10 starts for Great Lakes. In 50+ innings, he’s walked just *3* and struck out 41. Over 3 levels in the low minors, Ferguson’s K:BB ratio is 63:5. Mind you, Gadea’s no slouch either. He’s at 95:14 on the year, and he misses a lot more bats than Ferguson. Gadea’s struck out 31 more batters than Ferguson in the exact same number of innings at this level.

* The Astros facing Texas for 2 series while the M’s dealt with LA and Oakland certainly helped, of course.


30 Responses to “Game 147, Astros at Mariners”

  1. djw on September 16th, 2016 6:00 pm

    Happy outcomes in progress in Boston, Baltimore, and Cleveland. If all three leads hold, what does our 29.5% jump to? 33-34%?

  2. djw on September 16th, 2016 6:02 pm

    although Farquhar is about to blow it…

  3. djw on September 16th, 2016 6:39 pm

    Curse the Rays bullpen.

  4. themojoworkin on September 16th, 2016 7:13 pm

    So ready for this. Felix day, meaningful September baseball.

  5. JMB on September 16th, 2016 7:18 pm

    Dear M’s,
    I know you’re going to let me down, because that’s what you do every year. I’ve been a fan far too long to expect anything different. But gosh darn it I’ll be watching these last 16 games all the same. All I ask is that King Felix gets to pitch in the post-season before he’s done. He deserves it more than anyone in team history. Please and thank you. #allhailtheking

  6. mrakbaseball on September 16th, 2016 7:38 pm

    Ed Vande Berg was very deserving of pitching playoff baseball

  7. Westside guy on September 16th, 2016 8:19 pm

    I’m surprised Nori made such a good throw. I didn’t think it would even be close.

  8. Westside guy on September 16th, 2016 8:19 pm

    Then Kyle gets ahead of himself…

  9. JMB on September 16th, 2016 8:19 pm


  10. mrakbaseball on September 16th, 2016 8:34 pm

    Shades of that 2014 Blue Jays game where Felix laid an egg.

  11. Sowulo on September 16th, 2016 8:37 pm

    Felix isn’t the king anymore….no more than a prince.

  12. marc w on September 16th, 2016 8:47 pm

    Damn it, Felix.

  13. JMB on September 16th, 2016 8:47 pm

    There’s nothing more disheartening than a bad Felix start.

  14. Sowulo on September 16th, 2016 8:57 pm

    of which there have been a lot the last few years

  15. WTF_Ms on September 16th, 2016 9:12 pm

    So, ignored the game for a variety of reasons, and it looks like it was a good idea. This one went to hell in a hand basket early. Felix has had a bunch of “bad” starts this year. Maybe time to shut him down?

  16. eponymous coward on September 16th, 2016 10:26 pm

    This one went to hell in a hand basket early. Felix has had a bunch of “bad” starts this year. Maybe time to shut him down?

    What are you saving him for, a pennant race? “Yeah, let’s totally start Vidal Nuño instead of our ace. That wouldn’t be the least bit insulting to a guy who’s pitched his heart out for crappy Mariner teams. Shut him down even if he’s not injured, just getting mileage on his arm.”

    Might as well DFA him if you want to give him the finger that badly…

  17. WTF_Ms on September 16th, 2016 11:54 pm

    I’m thinking he might be injured? Not an insult, just protect Fi the future? This is why I’m not a manager. 🙂

  18. JMB on September 17th, 2016 12:16 pm

    Assuming he’s not injured, and we haven’t heard/seen anything to suggest he is, you gotta let him pitch. He’s the heart and soul of the team. He wants to be out there.

  19. Notfromboise on September 17th, 2016 7:26 pm

    Game 148:

    Paxton came to pitch. Now we need to find someone who came to hit. It’s like the script for a King Felix start arrived a day late.

    Lots of good things for Seattle going on in the boxscores, this could be a really good night.

  20. Westside guy on September 17th, 2016 7:33 pm

    Paxton has been pitching really well tonight… but it’s hard to win with no run support at all.

  21. JMB on September 17th, 2016 7:39 pm


  22. WTF_Ms on September 17th, 2016 7:56 pm

    What is it against Houston??? Bats can show up any time now.

  23. JMB on September 17th, 2016 8:07 pm

    This is infuriating.

  24. Grayfox3d on September 17th, 2016 8:08 pm

    All of a sudden no one can hit the broad side of a damn barn!!!!!! way to “keep fighting” sure looks like the fight got left in California.

  25. JMB on September 17th, 2016 8:18 pm

    Aoki on base… picked off or caught stealing?

  26. JMB on September 17th, 2016 8:22 pm


  27. JMB on September 17th, 2016 8:25 pm

    That was a garbage at-bat, Cano.

  28. JMB on September 17th, 2016 8:43 pm

    Is it weird that I was actually wishing Lind could PH for Lee?

  29. JMB on September 17th, 2016 8:44 pm


  30. Grayfox3d on September 17th, 2016 8:50 pm

    This is the reason I can’t get excited about a wild card spot, or playoffs for that matter. Laying eggs is a natural part of the season for this Team.

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