Game 45, Tigers at Mariners

marc w · May 19, 2018 at 4:41 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Mike Fiers, 6:10pm

James Paxton makes his first home start since his no-hitter back in Toronto, and the M’s hope to get another series win against the Tigers. To do that, it might be nice if the offense started hitting again. Last night’s big rally was incredible, and it saved what looked like a sure loss, but despite Robinson Cano’s suspension, the team needs to rack up runs against a poor pitching club like Detroit.

Fangraphs’ playoff odds give the M’s a 16.6% chance at winning a wildcard, the same exact percentage as the surprising A’s, who just swept the Jays in Toronto. BaseballProspectus has been a bit more bullish on the M’s this year, and thus the M’s have a 27% shot at either the WC or the division (uhhhh, I’m gonna take the under on 3%). The Angels are good, no one can hit Astros pitching, the M’s rotation has been poor, and their bullpen unreliable…and they’re still, somehow, in this thing. The odds are obviously not great, and they’ll have another stretch of poor play at some point, but the team’s remarkably…decent.

James Paxton’s a big part of that, as is Mitch Haniger. They got an insane couple of weeks from Ryon Healy, and will get another big Kyle Seager surge at some point. While they’ve had some good fortune, it’s worth remembering that they’ve done this despite Nelson Cruz being injured and mediocre and with Juan Nicasio being one of the league’s least effective relievers (despite a stellar K:BB ratio). They’ve had tons of bad luck, as well.

If they’re going to make another big 8-of-10 or better run, the guy who needs to get a bit more consistent is Mike Zunino. The club’s catchers haven’t been great, and Zunino’s collapsed plate discipline has been a big part of that. We all understand by this point that Zunino’s one of the game’s streakiest hitters, alternating months of slugging tons of HRs and hits, and months where it seems like he only leaves the batters box to walk back to the dugout.

Zunino seems like the kind of hitter who’d be susceptible to off-speed and breaking pitches, but that’s not exactly the case. Mike’s hit sliders and cutters pretty well last year, and he did even better on curveballs. That’s been a big driver of his improvement – he’s learned to recognize breaking pitches a bit better, and his natural uppercut does really well against any kind of pitch that sinks: he’s always feasted on sinkers. He’s starting to see a few more four-seamers, a pitch that – perhaps because of its trajectory – he’s struggled with.

The Tigers’ Mike Fiers’ bread and butter is a rising four-seam fastball, thrown up in the zone, but at a surprisingly gentle velocity. This isn’t a perfect match-up for Zunino, but I’m hoping he’s been working with Edgar on recognizing and driving these pitches. The league’s shift towards breaking balls may be really tough for, say, Ben Gamel, but it shouldn’t be as big of an issue for Zunino. Tracking four-seamers with good spin should be a part of the M’s training (I have no idea if it is), and if so, it’d really help in a game like tonight’s.

The M’s don’t *need* Zunino to carry the offense, and he doesn’t need to hit for average. But as we saw when Healy went off, having a bottom-of-the-order hitter who can punish mistakes makes the entire line-up much more dangerous. Rallies don’t need to fizzle out in a volley of strikeouts.

1: Gordon, 2B
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Healy, 1B
7: Gamel, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Heredia, CF
SP: PAXTON wooooo

Rob Whalen, Anthony Misiewicz, Reggie McClain and Raymond Kerr start in the minors today.

Kyle Lewis is off to a bit of a slow start, but it’s great to see him playing every day in Modesto. He’s 4 for 20 in the early going, with 10 Ks and a walk.
Evan White’s hitting .267/.347/.349 in 146 ABs.


2 Responses to “Game 45, Tigers at Mariners”

  1. mrakbaseball on May 19th, 2018 6:46 pm

    Well, give him credit, Gamel is showing signs of life recently.

  2. Grayfox3d on May 19th, 2018 10:09 pm

    Good win tonight, really hope Cruz remembers how to hit soon, gonna need it bad.

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