Game 99, Athletics at Mariners

marc w · July 24, 2021 at 6:35 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Logan Gilbert vs. Chris Bassitt, 7:10pm

The M’s got a great team win last night, taking the lead on a hustle single, stolen base, and two wild pitches. But the night really belonged to Yusei Kikuchi who stopped his mini-slump with a career high in strikeouts. But he’s had great games before – was there anything noteworthy about this one? Yes.

Since he came over to MLB, Kikuchi’s been a fastball/slider guy, and then developed a third pitch – his cutter – that’s literally half-way in between the other two. He’s had a curve, but he hasn’t thrown it much at all recently. What does he throw to righties? In the past, the answer’s been the cutter, but he’s needed something else to get them off of his fastball, which, for all of its velocity, has had a worrying tendency to get drilled if batters guess it’s coming.

For years, he’s had a change, but he’s used it very, very sparingly, and essentially never to left-handed batters. Earlier this year, ex-M’s pitcher and current team coach (and Kevin Mather annoyer, somehow) Hisashi Iwakuma taught Kikuchi his split-change grip. The results have been…subtle. It doesn’t move a whole lot differently from his old change, and neither version got a ton of horizontal movement anyway. It wasn’t a 12-6 style splitter the way ‘Kuma’s was, and it wasn’t an arm-side running swerveball the way, say, Pablo Lopez’s is. It’s been in the middle.

Last night, something seemed to change: he threw a staggering 29 of them, and got 9 of his 12 strikeouts on the pitch. He threw it to lefties and righties alike, and it helped him rack up swinging strikes and grounders. He’d never thrown 20 of them in a game before; his high was 18 set back in his rookie year. Moreover, the spin rate was down by 400 RPM, leading to very little horizontal run. I think he’s changed something, either setting the ball deeper in his fingers, or adapting the grip a bit. It wasn’t a perfect pitch; Matt Olson deposited one deep in the seats. But the fact that he threw one to Matt Olson at all would be noteworthy, and that he did so in a game in which the pitch looked different and helped him set a strikeout mark…this is worth keeping an eye on.

You know who’s fastball looks a bit like Kikuchi’s, albeit from the right side? Logan Gilbert’s. You know who’s used his change sparingly thus far? Yeah, Gilbert. Gilbert hasn’t really needed something else, as his fastball’s been quite effective in combination with that slider. But he’s had recent games where he’s throws zero curve balls. If he can get some confidence in his change, it could really help him develop.

1: Crawford, SS
2: Haniger, RF
3: Seager, 3B
4: France, 1B
5: Raleigh, C
6: Torrens, DH
7: Kelenic, CF
8: Moore, 2B
9: Bauers, LF
SP: Gilbert

Congrats to Cal Raleigh on his first big league HR, a 444’ shot to right. He’s looked much more comfortable at the plate recently. Hopefully some of that can rub off on Jarred Kelenic, who hit a few balls hard recently, but is still mired in a brutal slump.

Tacoma blanked Sacramento 4-0 behind David Huff’s great start and 9 hits from the bats. Dillon Thomas had an inside-the-park dinger called back for failing to touch a base or some BS. They’ll play tonight at Cheney; game time’s 7:05 if you’re local….

Arkansas walked off Wichita last night, 4-3. Austin Shenton had two hits and is solidifying as one of the better bats on a promotion-weakened Travs line-up. Devin Sweet starts tonight’s game.

Everett beat Vancouver 8-3, getting all 8 runs in the first two innings. Jake Anchia hit his 5th home run. Tim Elliot got the win, going 6 1/3 IP, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits (but 4 walks).

Fresno beat Modesto 6-3, and Noelvi Marte went 0-4, so enough about that.


2 Responses to “Game 99, Athletics at Mariners”

  1. turin07 on July 25th, 2021 1:55 am

    This Haniger trade is gonna be a windfall. But Dipoto will suffer. Short term.

  2. turin07 on July 25th, 2021 2:24 am

    ps. Shannon was refreshing. Natural – and not trying so hard.
    Let’s Go M’s!!!!

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