Game 2, Mariners at Astros

marc w · July 25, 2020 at 12:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Taijuan Walker vs. Lance McCullers, 1:10pm

Lance McCullers last threw a pitch in a big league game in September of 2018. He tore his UCL in August, but apparently decided to pitch through it, notching some playoff innings for the eventual champs. But in November, he went under the knife, missing all of 2019. It was a big blow for the righty who’s had several injury scares in his career. In fact, McCullers thinks the elbow injury actually stemmed from a shoulder problem that took away half of his 2016 season. He’s been very good when healthy, but seldom healthy.

Taijuan Walker’s nearly got McCullers beat. Aside from a couple of throwaway innings in September of last year, Walker’s last start came in *April* of 2018. After a solid 2017 that heralded his transition from prospect to middle-of-the-rotation workhorse, he too tore his UCL and required surgery. Given the timing of the diagnosis and rehab, it essentially cost him two full years.

Today these two rehab warriors face off in Houston. Walker was a great low-risk pick-up for a club that could use a veteran presence, especially one that has a modicum of upside. I was always a big Walker fan as he came up through the M’s system years ago (debuting in Houston, of all places, a bit over 7 years ago), so I’m hoping Walker can stay healthy and flash some of the promise he had. Walker used to throw a four-seamer at 94 with average-ish movement given his fairly high release point, and he’d mix in a sinker, slider, curve, and split/change. That last pitch was always one to dream on, especially after he struggled to command his curve. The split wasn’t great for him in Seattle, and it was no help in limiting the HRs that sunk his 2016 campaign, his final one in Seattle. In Arizona, though, his HR problems eased (which is amazing, considering the HR explosion of 2017 and the fact that his home park was *Arizona*), but it wasn’t so much his command of his split or breaking balls – it was his four-seam. He gave up 16 HRs on the heater his last year in Seattle, but just 9 in his Arizona tenure, despite throwing more of them. Let’s hope he learned something in Arizona he can bring with him into 2020.

Lance McCullers famously threw 50% of his death-dealing slurve, and used it to rack up strikeouts and grounders. In his career, batters are hitting just .174 off of the slurve, and that’s over 3,600+ pitches, with hundreds of balls in play. He’s used it more than his four-seam and sinker combined, and why not? Despite its tilt, it’s been extremely effective against lefties as well as righties. The only reason to ease up on it may be his injury history. I don’t really know if the old pitching coach truism is actually accurate that a ton of breaking balls are harder on the arm, but McCullers arm certainly has not responded well.

Yesterday’s game features abysmal defense (someone get Perry Hill on a Zoom call) and equally poor relief work, but I didn’t feel too bad about thanks to Kyle Lewis moon shot off of Justin Verlander. I think we’re going to get pretty used to focusing on individual players or even plays when we attempt to take joy and entertainment from a season like that, but that’s ok. As M’s fans, we’ve been doing that off and on for decades.

1: Long, 2B
2: White, 1B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Lewis, CF
5: Nola, C
6: Vogelbach, DH
7: Gordon, LF
8: Crawford, SS
9: Smith, RF
SP: Walker, woooooo

Mmmm, Mallex Smith and Dee Gordon starting in OF corners together. Can’t say I like/understand that, but the M’s did say they’d be showing this look a lot.


4 Responses to “Game 2, Mariners at Astros”

  1. Stevemotivateir on July 26th, 2020 9:57 am

    I have no idea why they had Gordon AND Smith in the corners at the same time either, but I’m perfectly okay with giving Lewis starts in CF.

  2. nvn8vbryce on July 26th, 2020 12:49 pm

    Ughhhhh… kinda concerned about Servais‘ pitching decisions…

  3. WTF_Ms on July 26th, 2020 4:10 pm

    I wonder how long it takes before Mallex Smith is traded. He’s not good.

  4. Stevemotivateir on July 27th, 2020 1:36 pm

    If Smith isn’t good, how can they trade him?

    He’s probably a non-tender candidate in the off-season.

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