Game 76, Astros at Mariners

marc w · June 23, 2017 at 5:53 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Joe Musgrove, 7:10pm

A very, very happy Felix Day to you and yours. This is as excited as I’ve seen Mariners fans in some time; you’ve got the return of Felix Hernandez to the line-up (and coming off two very encouraging rehab starts) coinciding with a 5 game win streak and the M’s getting above .500 for the first time. This fortuitous alignment also occurs on a gorgeous summer evening, with temperatures expected to hit the low 80s a few hours before first pitch. This is a good day, people.

That confidence that the M’s (and their fans) are feeling may be helpful as they welcome baseball’s best team, the Houston Astros, to Safeco. The Astros are one of four pitching staffs bunched together in FIP and thus fWAR, and they’ve got the highest K rate of any of them. Not only does Dallas Keuchel appear to be fully back from his down year in 2016, but they’ve developed an amazing bullpen full of swing-and-miss pitchers who can pitch multiple innings, headlined by the bizarre and wonderful Chris Devenski. We’ll miss Keuchel in this series (thankfully), but may get to see their latest transformed hurler, Brad Peacock. With Peacock fitting in for an injured Charlie Morton, the Astros continue to pair a K-heavy bullpen with a K-heavy rotation. They are, frustratingly, an equally potent offense, with the highest ISO in the game, and one of the best batting lines. If they have a weakness, it’s their fielding, which pushes their position player fWAR below the Yankees, but the pitchers minimize the impact of team defense by striking everyone out. Just as their pitching staff gets contributions from guys like Peacock who’d pretty clearly demonstrated their own replacement-level abilities, their long-standing problem finding a 1B has been solved by turning Marwin Gonzalez, a light-hitting SS/UTIL, into a mashing 1B. Gonzalez, who had an ISO of around .100 in his first 750 PAs and who posted an 87 wRC+ last year, is now slashing .312/.400/.590. Great.

If their rotation has a weak spot, it’s Joe Musgrove. Musgrove came up through the Jays and then Astros systems as a strike throwing machine, allowing absurdly low walk totals that made up for so-so K rates and pure stuff. He’s got a four-seam fastball at 92-93, a weird one-seam sinker at 91, and a slider he’s relying on heavily these days. Despite a very over-the-top delivery and high spin rates, he doesn’t get much vertical rise on his pitches. His best trait is his control; he routinely ran walk rates in the 3% range in the minors, but while still better than league average, they’re creeping up of late: it’s 7.4% at the moment. His K%’s fallen below 20%, and combined with normal HR rates for a guy with grounder rates in the low 40s, it’s not a shock to see his FIP up at 4.74. His ERA’s even worse, as he’s allowed a .316 BABIP – it’s tempting to lay the blame for that on Houston’s subpar defense, but he’s a guy without an out pitch, and thus needs to share some of the blame. Not all of it, though; by xwOBA, he’s been very unlucky. One final odd tidbit: he’s shown reverse splits in his career, with righties racking up XBHs against him. It’s not just BABIP, at least not at this point, and it probably shouldn’t sway the M’s line-up decisions, but this is not a game where I worry about Cruz/Valencia.

Felix’s last two starts in AAA covered 11 IP. In those innings, he allowed 1 R on just 5 hits, with 1 walk allowed against 13 K’s. It was vintage Felix, and while I think everyone’s coming to terms with the fact that Felix isn’t royalty on the field anymore, and may not be again, I was going to lose my $^&% if Felix kind of faded away after this year and 2016. I don’t need him to carry the team on his back anymore. I just need to see flashes of the guy we all went crazy for. This M’s resurgence is compellingly watchable, thanks to a batting order that has several ways to beat you. Add that to Felix’s own charisma, talent and drive, and you have the makings of a really, really fun summer, whatever ends up happening with the playoff chase.

Speaking of the chase, it’s nice that the M’s have again leapfrogged Texas and Anaheim and are set up to play meaningful games again. My only concern is that those three AL West clubs are still essentially tied. The M’s have been great, and the Angels haven’t had Mike Trout…what are they still doing here? Texas lost to Christian Bergman the other day, and their pitching staff’s about as bad as the Felix-/Paxton-/Smyly-less Mariners’. That’s why this series is so big. All three of these teams are playing top-shelf opposition. Texas is in the Bronx, Anaheim’s in Boston, while the M’s host Houston. This might be a good opportunity to actually carve out a bit of space, if the M’s can find a way to beat these Astros.

1: Segura, SS
2: Gamel, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Haniger, RF
7: Valencia, 1B
8: Dyson, CF
9: Zunino, C
SP: El Rey

Tacoma lost a walk-off in Reno last night despite HRs from Boog Powell and Leonys Martin. Jean Machi had a rare off-night to take the loss, which came on a rare walk-off missed catch error by Martin. Casey Lawrences matches up with ex-Mariner Aaron Laffey tonight in Reno.

Springfield beat Arkansas 4-2 behind a great game from 2016 1st rounder and good sinkerballer Dakota Hudson. Not sure who’s starting tonight.

Modesto got smashed 11-1 in Stockton, as Pablo Lopez and Lukas Schiraldi had outings to forget. Braden Bishop doubled and singled, though. There’s that. Anthony Misiewicz starts tonight’s game.

Clinton scored 4 in the 4th, highlighted by a Luis Rengifo HR, to beat Clinton 6-2. Ronald Dominguez K’d 4 in 2 scoreless IP. Ljay Newsome takes the hill tonight.

Everett beat Vancouver 5-1 as Brayan Hernandez’s bat awakened, hitting his 1st HR, and reaching base 3 times. SP Jose Santiago kept the Canadians off the board for 4 1/3, but walked 5. Andres Torres starts for the AquaSox tonight.


7 Responses to “Game 76, Astros at Mariners”

  1. mrakbaseball on June 23rd, 2017 8:25 pm

    A laugher at the 50-24 Astros expense? Nothing wrong with that.

  2. Sowulo on June 23rd, 2017 8:35 pm

    With their offense, no game can be a laugher.

  3. Grayfox3d on June 23rd, 2017 8:37 pm

    Gamel just soooo good.

  4. Kazinski on June 23rd, 2017 8:52 pm

    The fact the Mariners could be around .500 and in 2nd place with their top 4 starters spending significant time on the DL is very encouraging.

    They’ve got some upside to them. I haven’t seen an outfield this good since Ichiro, Cameron, Winn.

  5. Westside guy on June 23rd, 2017 8:55 pm

    Just coming in… it does my heart good to see the Mariners giving Felix actual run support!

  6. Westside guy on June 23rd, 2017 9:09 pm

    Wow, they called that first pitch a ball?

  7. Westside guy on June 23rd, 2017 9:52 pm

    I love Dyson.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.