Game 119, Rays at Mariners

marc w · August 11, 2019 at 12:21 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Sam Tuivailala/Wade LeBlanc vs. Ryan Yarbrough, 1:10pm

The M’s have played two excellent games in the first contests in this series, with an excellent performance from Marco Gonzales on Friday and the offense putting a lot of pressure on Charlie Morton last night. It wasn’t enough to, you know, get a win in either game, but they’re good signs all the same. This club has gone stretches where they’re utterly blown out and playing sloppy baseball. This current stretch is an awful one from a win/loss standpoint, but at least they’re mostly competitive.

That’s cold comfort, but we have to take solace where we can find it, and just tracking Jarred Kelenic’s minor league box scores isn’t enough. That’s why it’s cool to see signs of life from Marco Gonzales. He’s been rough this year, despite a decent enough FIP. He’s been far too hittable, and missing a lot fewer bats than last year, and that’s why DRA and RA/9 are so down on his season. A big part of that was his loss of a tick or more in velocity. As a lower-velo guy, he didn’t have a big margin for error in that department, and despite mixing in cutters and sinkers and four-seamers, the lower velo made it very hard to miss bats. In April, he was succeeding by sneaking fastballs past hitters who were looking breaking ball; that is, he was successful when batters didn’t swing. On Friday, he averaged 90 MPH with his four-seam, which he used more than he has in recent games. He broke 91 a few times, which isn’t saying much, but it’s a big change from where he’s been. Was that the reason he K’d 9 in 6 1/3 against a good offense? I don’t know, but it seems like it’s got to be part of it.

The other story of that game, besides the welcome return of 90+ MPH fastballs, was Marco’s change-up. It was always a frustrating pitch; the pitch that got him drafted and shot him through the minors was never all that effective in the big leagues. It was great on Friday, and I’m not exactly sure what changed. Maybe using more four-seamers than sinkers? Something to watch as we get towards September.

Today, the M’s face one-time draft pick and prospect Ryan Yarbrough, who became a thing after a remarkable run for Everett with 53 Ks and 4 BBs in 38 2/3 IP in 2014. A lefty, Yarbrough’s sinking four-seam fastball averages just under 89, so he’s working with the velo Marco had this April/May, which is to say: not much. He has a very Marco-esque change-up, with 10″ of armside run, and a slow, slurvey slider and a harder cutter. He got off to an abysmal start this year, but since the calendar hit May, he’s been on a very solid run. The reason for his success is that he’s more than capable of holding right-handed batters in check. His change is surprisingly effective despite a fairly minimal gap in vertical movement between it and his fastball. His slider, too, shows signs of promise, but he doesn’t throw it much.

His four-seam fastball got tattooed in April, and since then, he’s done something you don’t really associate with the Rays all that much: he’s de-emphasized it, essentially replacing it with his cutter. He’s now thrown more cutters on the year than four-seamers, and while batters were slugging nearly .600 off the latter, they’re at .309 off of the former. He’ll still throw lefties plenty of four-seamers, but he’s gone almost completely to a cutter/change mix to righties. Those two pitches have the same vertical movement, but differ by about a foot in how they break horizontally. That’s produced some weak contact, and it’s helped keep the ball in play for Yarbrough; his HR/9 is under 1 this year, which is pretty hard to do. All in all, he’s having Marco Gonzales’ 2018 for the second straight campaign. Not bad for a cheap senior sign.

1: Smith, CF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Santana, DH
4: Seager, 3B
5: Nola, 1B
6: Murphy, C
7: Gordon, 2B
8: Lopes, LF
9: Moore, RF
SP: TuivailaLeBlanc

All eyes on Arkansas today in the minors, as Justus Sheffield looks to continue his dominant roll through the Texas League, and as Jarred Kelenic may make his AA debut. The Springfield Cardinals start Angel Rondon, a 21-year old righty who’s had a great season split between the Florida State League and Texas League.
West Virginia’s dominating Lakewood late, and Tacoma’s beating up on the New Orleans Baby Cakes. Juan Then starts for Everett a little later on.


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