Game 55, Astros at Mariners

marc w · September 22, 2020 at 5:33 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Ljay Newsome vs. Framber Valdez, 6:10pm

After an absolute gem from Marco Gonzales, the M’s beat the Astros to pull back to three-or-really-four games behind Houston. The Blue Jays won, so reaching the wild card is probably out of the running, but for now, the AL is providing us something of a race for the 2nd spot in the West. Whether that’s a good thing or not is, perhaps, up for debate. MLB will apparently try to convince the players to keep this playoff system next year and down the road, under the theory that more playoff spots will attract a new generation of fans and provide more revenue to more teams/cities.

I’m not convinced about that. We’re in this situation because expanding the playoffs *this* much allows for a couple of pretty flawed teams to make the postseason. This happens in other sports, but none of them have baseball’s long regular season, which allows good teams to overcome variance/luck and show that they’re better than their rivals. Playoffs don’t do this, and that’s sort of a bug and a feature at the same time.

Personally, I liked the old system, but this isn’t just random old-person-yelling-at-cloud stuff. I was skeptical about the second wild card and the new one-game playoff for the two WC teams. Traditionalists were aghast at picking a winner without even a short playoff series. But it’s done what it was designed to do, which was to simultaneously expand the playoffs while also providing a powerful incentive to win the division. In this new system, there is zero benefit to winning a division. The A’s won the west last night, but it doesn’t matter. They’ll be treated just the same as the Astros whom they easily outpaced during the season. In many divisions, there are two teams that are head and shoulders above the other three. Why would either of those two frontrunners spend any money under this new system? Why would youngsters flock to a sport with this format – a long tournament appended uneasily on a bloated, over-long, questionably-meaningful regular season?

If there’s a benefit this year (when fans can’t reciprocate the excitement of a playoff push by actually, you know, attending games), it has to be to the players, who now have experience in sort-of-meaningful games. Of course, you can now argue that for more than half the league. But hey, I’m damned impressed by what Marco Gonzales has shown this year, and last night, and Justus Sheffield has gotten stronger as the year’s moved on as well.

But beyond that, beyond the probably-illusory gains that they’ve made in this odd “race,” there’s something big that they can take from this series. The Astros are still going to win more than they lose against Seattle, but this is now a much fairer fight. The M’s do not appear intimidated by the Astros, and they should no. Perhaps the most important thing to come to light this season wasn’t Kyle Lewis’ ability or Justus Sheffield’s vastly improved game. It may have been seeing that the Astros have come back to the pack, and are now just a good-but-flawed team. The M’s are slowly improving, but as I’ve said too many times on this blog, that’s not enough. They need to get better *than their rivals.* The zero-sum nature of this competition can be maddening, but it’s just a fact. If the M’s get better and the Astros get better, the M’s are screwed. Thankfully, the Astros came crashing back to earth this season, and they have some hard decisions on the horizon.

Framber Valdez may be what passes for a good story on the Astros this year. He’s missing bats, has a sky-high ground ball rate, and he took a massive leap forward in his control. He’s even avoiding home runs. What he hasn’t done is strand runners or produce consistent results. Some of this is not his fault; he’s been unlucky with BABIP at times. He’s also faded a bit after a very strong start, so we’ll see what he’s like tonight. When he’s on, he features a very tough three-pitch mix of a sinker, a hard change-up, and a great curve with two-plane break.

1: Crawford, SS
2: France, 2B
3: Lewis, CF
4: Seager, 3B
5: Torrens, C
6: White, 1B
7: Lopes, DH
8: Fraley, LF
9: Ervin, RF
SP: Newsome

Dylan Moore’s on the IL for the concussion protocol after taking yet another fastball off of his head late last night. He stayed in the game, just as he did a week or so ago, but his season’s now over after the 7-day IL stint. He’s obviously been one of the bright lights in the line-up, and seems like he’s made a case for regular duty even when players like Shed Long and Mitch Haniger return. Jake Fraley’s up from Tacoma to fill his spot, and he’ll start tonight in LF.


2 Responses to “Game 55, Astros at Mariners”

  1. Stevemotivateir on September 22nd, 2020 8:20 pm

    Teams half-assing roster construction; low-balling free agents wouldn’t be good for baseball. I’d be perfectly okay with the system we’ve had in place if they would just extend the wild card game to a 3 or 5 game series. But of course MLB will desperately try to boost profits after this bizarre year.

    6-1 in the 7th. This is season is over for Seattle.

  2. eponymous coward on September 24th, 2020 8:59 pm

    Aaaaand they’re eliminated by the Jays and the Astros winning on their day off.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.