Game 44, Athletics at Mariners

marc w · May 13, 2019 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Mike Fiers, 7:10pm

Ok. So the M’s came back to earth following their amazing start, but at this point, it feels more like they’ve hit the ground and are stuck several feet below the surface. Their offense’s season line is still quite good, but it’s amazing how bad the team looks when they stop scoring 7-8 runs per game.

Of course, even at 7-8 runs, it wouldn’t have helped in that Boston series. That was about as ugly as I’ve seen the M’s in quite a while, and I covered the 2010-2012 M’s. Their starting pitching has regressed, but it’s worth noting that today’s starter, Yusei Kikuchi, may present a small ray of hope.

Here’s a fact that is not fun, but incredibly illuminating: after giving up a few more unearned runs yesterday, Marco Gonzales has now given up more unearned runs on the year than the Angels, Astros, Rays, Reds and Rockies. Like, the entire teams. There’s been a lot written already about the M’s poor defense, and at this rate, there’ll be a lot more as they make their run at history. But maaaaan, is it hard to watch. It was kind of funny when Beckham would hit a HR or two for every error. It’s…it’s less funny now.

The defense *deserves* the blame here, but it’s important to note that the M’s pitching style magnifies the impact of their allergic-to-leather position-player teammates. The M’s allow the most balls in play out of any team, just fractionally ahead of tonight’s opponents, the A’s. As in recent years, the M’s are built around allowing defenders to make plays, it’s just that Jarrod Dyson isn’t here anymore, and they don’t really HAVE defenders. With a staff who missed more bats, the M’s would give their fielders less opportunities for embarrassment, though of course that’d cost more money.

It hasn’t all been a waste. Omar Narvaez was available in part because of a bad defensive reputation that seems pretty well earned, but at this point, I don’t care. I believe he’s cost the staff with poor framing, but again, I wonder if that matters less to teams whose pitchers are just going to give up contact anyway. It would still matter, of course, but I can’t think it would be the same for teams whose pitchers strike people out. But beyond that, he’s hitting so well that I’ll look past suspect defense. The M’s needed to upgrade their batting line at the position, and they’ve done so in spades. Narvaez is one reason why the catching position – lambasted in recent years for low and declining offensive production – is enjoying a bit of a recovery this year. Of course, like everything involving the M’s, that’s a double-edged sword. It’s awesome to see the M’s get an under-the-radar C and watch him go nuts on opposing pitchers, but then you see that hey, so did the Astros, and wait, what the hell’s going on with the Twins?.

The M’s face Mike Fiers, who’s coming off of his second no-hitter, a 130+ pitch effort against Cincinnati. It was a strange game, as it didn’t start until 9pm or so due to problems with the lights at the Oakland coliseum. But it was a reminder of what can happen when you have a pitcher whose true-talent BABIP is one of the lowest in the league, and you play an April game in Oakland. It’s still incredibly rare, but if you’re gonna get a no-hitter, Mike Fiers-in-Oakland has a better chance than most. Which is kind of funny to say about a pitcher who’s been hit really hard this year, but that’s baseball for you.

We’ll have to see if the A’s ask the umps to check Kikuchi’s hat or glove for pine tar…

1: Haniger, CF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Encarnacion, 1B
4: Vogelbach, DH
5: Santana, LF
6: Narvaez, C
7: Bruce, RF
8: Healy, 3B
9: Long, 2B
SP: Kikuchi

Sounds like Kyle Seager is joining the Rainiers in Las Vegas to start his rehab assignment, and that he’ll be ready to come off the IL on schedule later in the month. This club could really, really use him.


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