Game 99, Mariners at Athletics

marc w · July 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Erik Swanson/Tommy Milone vs. Homer Bailey, 12:00pm

Last year around the break, the surging A’s swapped prospects to bolster their jury-rigged rotation by acquiring Mike Fiers from Detroit. Fiers was on a one year deal with the Tigers, paying him $6 million for his age-33 season. After he became a free agent this off-season, the A’s re-signed him to a two-year deal paying around $15 million. The A’s needed some stability, but they didn’t go out and get a big name or pay big dollars in free agency.

Last week, the A’s again found themselves in the playoff hunt despite a rotation with a big hole to fill following Frankie Montas PED suspension and the delayed arrival of AJ Puk and Jesus Luzardo. Fiers has been his dependable self, and Brett Anderson is somehow 2nd on the team in IP despite posting the lowest K/9 of any starter in the game…one spot ahead of Fiers. So, the A’s again went to the bargain bin, picking up the Royals Homer Bailey, who was basically free to the Royals, as the Dodgers are paying his lofty salary. Bailey was once one of the brightest stars in the prospect universe, a heralded high school arm who tantalized with his potential, but took a very long time to get comfortable at the big league level. He first did so around 2010, but it was his 2012-2014 heyday that led the Reds to give him a 6-year, $105 million deal. Almost immediately, Bailey’s health faltered, and he was hurt or abysmal or both for the Reds from 2015 to 2018. That final year was his nadir, a 1-14 campaign with a 6.09 ERA, a FIP over 5.5, and a DRA well over 7. He was projected for a sub-replacement level season by PECOTA, but he’s rebounded with his best K rate in years, and he’s avoided HRs better than he did last year, which is saying something with the new nearly-drag-free baseball. It was a very Fiers-y acquisition, and it cost the A’s a AA shortstop who’d been scuffling at the plate. This is not the A’s ace, and it’s not the kind of pick-up that’s done with an eye to a short postseason series. It’s just a modest upgrade at low to essentially no cost. The key is: can the A’s maintain whatever mechanical tweaks or pitch mix changes the Royals made to unlock any remaining ability in Bailey?

Erik Swanson returns today to be the opener for Tommy Milone. Swanson seemed like a good bet to be the 4th or 5th starter at this point, but a disastrous May and then some injury issues mean that he hasn’t been able to make the leap to dependable MLB pitcher yet. He’ll get another shot in this lost season, but it’s imperative that the M’s help him unlock his potential, kind of the way the Royals did with Bailey at a very different point in his career. The pieces are there, he’s just got to reconfigure them a bit. Milone pitched a bit in the Angels no-hit win the other day, so even though pitching with an opener has been standard practice with him, it’s an even better idea today. I’m somewhat surprised that the A’s didn’t ask about him, as he came up with the A’s initially and fits a certain pitching archetype that the A’s seem drawn to. Hell, it could happen later on this month, especially if Milone keeps up his remarkable results.

1: Smith, CF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Santana, RF
4: Narvaez, DH
5: Beckham, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Murphy, C
8: Moore, LF
9: Gordon, 2B
SP: Swanson/Milone

Marco Gonzales was really, really pissed off at HP umpire Brian O’Nora’s ball 4 call in the 5th inning last night. He’s got a case, of course: the pitch looked to be a strike, and O’Nora had his bell rung after being hit on Domingo Santana’s follow-through. He’d end up relinquishing home plate duties later in the game. Marco was getting roasted a bit for this on talk radio this morning, but it seems like it’s part and parcel of his nature as an extremely competitive guy. The problem is that he seemed to let it affect him. There’s no real way to know what would’ve happened if O’Nora had made the correct call, but essentially every path would still lead to an M’s loss.

AJ Puk was sharp in his 2-IP start for Midland, helping the Rockhounds blank Arkansas, 2-0. Kyle Lewis doubled. Andrew Moore shook off being outrighted and tossed 6 great IP as the Rainiers shut out Las Vegas by the same 2-0 score. Moore was matched frame for frame by ex-M’s farmhand Paul Blackburn who went 7 scoreless, but the R’s got 2 runs off of rehabbing Oakland SP Jharel Cotton in the 8th. The story of the day in the minors is the first AA start for Logan Gilbert. He’ll lead Arkansas against Midland this evening, while Sean Nolin looks to continue his remarkable run in the PCL after coming over from Independent ball.


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