Game 41, Mariners at Red Sox

marc w · May 10, 2019 at 3:45 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Erik Swanson vs. Eduardo Rodriguez, 4:10pm

The M’s dropped the final game of their 4-game set with the Yankees, dropping them back to .500 on the year. They head to Boston now, the final stop on this 10-game trek, to face the same Sox team they dominated in their home-opening series. Can the M’s demolish Boston pitching as comprehensively as they did in Seattle? The M’s knocked today’s starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, out of the game in the 5th back in late March, and while he’s improved since a very rough opening week, he’s still been maddeningly inconsistent.

Meanwhile, Erik Swanson is coming off of his best start, another dismantling of the brittle and easily-dismantled Indians. Swanson has now pitched 12 IP of 1 run ball against the Clevelanders, yielding a total of 3 hits. It’s the whole rest-of-the-league thing that’s been a bit trickier, as he’s gone 11 2/3 IP against non-Cleveland teams, giving up 16 runs on 22 hits in that span. Is he one of the M’s more intriguing young starters, or has he just beat up on one of the league’s worst line-ups twice? Today’s game should help us resolve that question.

Swanson features a solid, rising fastball that, when it’s on, seems to sneak up on batters. It’s got solid rise despite average to a bit-below average spin, and he pairs it with a slider and change. Depending on the game, he’ll feature one or the other of those secondaries, largely due to the handedness of the opposing hitters. They had similar grades from talent evaluators, but I suppose I’m a bit partial to his change, which was a revelation in his last start. It doesn’t have the great movement separation from his fastball that I’d like to see, and its velocity separation is, if anything, even worse. That means it’s not going to be a swing-and-miss pitch, and it’s not. But it HAS been a reliable source of ground balls, which is nice when his fastball and slider tend to produce elevated contact.

Rodriguez’s best pitch is a change-up, and that’s more or less the unanimous judgment of scouts. It’s got Swanson-like velocity separation, but it moves more like Marco Gonzales’ version, with lots of horizontal/arm-side run, as opposed to Swanson’s, which tracks his four-seamer. He throws a slider-like cutter at 87, but the change is his best swing-and-miss pitch and the source of his strikeouts. Rodriguez has had injury issues, but put together a very fine season in about 3/4 of a full campaign, setting the stage for what many hoped might be a 3-4-5 WAR year in 2019. So far, that hasn’t really materialized, as a high BABIP and poor strand rate have left his runs-allowed worryingly high. FIP isn’t concerned, and sees him as continuing last year’s mini-breakout. Baseball Prospectus’ DRA thinks he’s been manifestly worse than he was last year, with a 4.62 mark that’s a touch worse than average, and a far cry from the mid-3s that FIP has him at.

1: Haniger, RF
2: Santana, LF
3: Encarnacion, DH
4: Healy, 3B
5: Bruce, 1B
6: Beckham, 2B
7: Crawford, SS
8: Murphy, C
9: Bishop, CF
SP: Swanson

After Dee Gordon injured his hand after being struck by a JA Happ pitch, the M’s were forced to use Edwin Encarnacion at 2B. Today, the M’s rectified this lack of MI depth by calling up both Shed Long and JP Crawford from Tacoma. Long, who came over from the Yankees in a deal for Josh Stowers, has had a solid start to 2019 in Tacoma, leading the team with 5 HRs and posting a SLG% over .500. He’s played lots of 2B with the Rainiers, but has also played 3B. The R’s had scratched JP Crawford last night, leading to speculation that the M’s top SS prospect may be heading up, too. Today, that was confirmed, as Crawford will start today’s game at SS, shifting Tim Beckham back over to 2B, where his defense might play a bit better. Crawford’s the superior defender at SS, but lacks Beckham’s present power.

Long should get a start or two this weekend, and may be available off of the bench. He and Crawford had very similar overall production lines at Tacoma, but they got there differently. Long, who’s struggled a bit with strikeouts, had a lower average and OBP but hit for much more power. Crawford shook off a rough opening week to hit for average and post a well-above .400 OBP thanks to a good walk rate and low strikeouts. That said, his ISO is low for the league (though not for a SS). He’s been a very streaky hitter in his young career, and I hope he gets some help making adjustments to big league pitching. Long may struggle initially with Ks, but he opened some eyes in the Spring, and quite frankly doesn’t need to post a really high average if he can maintain a decent walk rate and knock some extra-base hits.

Arkansas is playing a twin bill with Tulsa today, with Justin Dunn and Reggie McClain starting games 1 and 2, respectively. Tacoma hosts Reno, as Tommy Milone looks to continue a streak of 14+ innings without allowing a run.

Clay Chandler tossed 7 innings of 1-run ball for West Virginia last night. That pushed his ERA *up* to 0.84. Teenager Deivi Florido tossed the 2nd game of a double header for WV and got his first stateside win with 5 Ks in 5 1/3 of 1 run ball. This is the kid who filled in for 2 IP in Tacoma back in April, meaning his very first US-based assignment after playing in the Dominican League last year was at AAA. He’ll be one to watch.

Penn Murfee continues to dominate down in the Cal League, going 4 IP without allowing any runs in a bullpen day game for Modesto. He’s now pitched 13 IP for Modesto with 21 Ks and 2 BBs. He had an up-and-down stint in Tacoma early in the year too, but he can be tough for righties especially to pick up given his low 3/4 or sidearm delivery. Sam Tuivailala pitched in the game last night too as part of his rehab assignment.


One Response to “Game 41, Mariners at Red Sox”

  1. LongDistance on May 11th, 2019 12:42 am

    Stuck in the middle with…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.